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With: Patricia Arquette, Gabriel Byrne, Jonathan Pryce, Nia Long, Thomas Kopache, Rade Sherbedgia, Enrico Colantoni, Dick Latessa, Portia de Rossi, Patrick Muldoon, Ann Cusack
Written by: Tom Lazarus, Rick Ramage, based on a story by Tom Lazarus
Directed by: Rupert Wainwright
MPAA Rating: R for intense violent sequences, language and some sexuality
Running Time: 103
Date: 09/10/1999

Stigmata (1999)

2 Stars (out of 4)

An Exorcise in Futility

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

If only they had called it Exorcist IV: Stigmata we would have known what we were in for: a cheesy sequel. As is, Stigmata follows all the conventions of the Exorcist movies (especially Parts II and III, made in 1977 and 1990 respectively) and it can be a guilty pleasure for some. But, as a new suspense movie trying to make it on its own, Stigmata is all flash and no life.

Patricia Arquette stars as Frankie, a young hairdresser living in Pittsburgh whose life is turned upside down when, after receiving a rosary in the mail, she begins suffering the wounds of Jesus Christ, even though she is an atheist. The Vatican sends a priest (Gabriel Byrne) to try and help her.

Stigmata asks us to believe that Frankie would be sent home from a hospital even though she never seems to stop bleeding and that the Catholic Church contains evil men who will stop at nothing to cover up dangerous secrets. While neither of these things is completely out of the realm of probability, the triviality of the storytelling won't allow us to suspend our disbelief. The movie is filled with too-obvious religious symbolism, and plenty of flash-cuts so that we know exactly which religious reference we're supposed to be getting. I don't mind that so much -- I appreciate a horror movie trying to be something more than a tale of killer maniacs -- but the characters in Stigmata never really click. This leaves us with a weak story, clich├ęs (such as a hysterical Frankie running out in the rain and traffic and causing accidents -- twice), and slick filmmaking that offer no surprises and no suspense.

I'll watch Patricia Arquette in just about anything, but I hope there is better fare than Stigmata in her future.

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