Stigmata a Forgettable Attempt to Cash In On the Late 90s Millennium Panic

Along with Bless the Child, End of Days, and Lost Souls, Stigmata was a religious-themed horror movie produced in anticipated of the Millennium. In the months proceeding the calendar flipping to the year 2000, there were plenty of Y2K-themed moral panics. Never one to miss a bandwagon, the horror genre obliged by producing a slate of end-of-the-world movies. All these movies shared a few things in common the least of which was that none of them were very good. Despite a strong cast, interesting premise, and decent box office returns, Stigmata bombed with critics and audiences.

Stigmata an Often Incoherent Scare-Fee Religious Horror Movie, Music Video Hybrid

If you’re a bit cynical you likely can see why Stigmata sounds immediately compelling and still ultimately failed. As the Millennium approached and the masses panicked over Y2K fears, studios scrambled to assemble productions revolving around the apocalypse. There’s more than a good chance that many of these productions were too rushed to result in anything that might be compelling. On its surface, Stigmata boasts an interesting premise that narrows its scale from an end-of-the-world scenario to a Vatican-inspired conspiracy. At least in terms of its premise, the Tom Lazurus and Rick Ramage-penned screenplay can’t be faulted for everything.

Like a music video, Wainwright employs frenetic editing that sucks any potential of suspense out of what’s put on screen.

Much of the blame can be dropped onto Rupert Wainwright, the director. This is the same director who also got behind the camera for the dreadful The Fog remake. Before he entered the realm of feature film-making, Wainwright cut his teeth on music videos. And it shows here. Stigmata suffers from a lot of problems, but many of those problems can be traced back to Wainwright. Devout Christians will likely be offended by imagery that recall the five wounds suffered by Jesus Christ. After all, Stigmata is the title of the movie. Everyone else will be only mildly impressed by semi-shocking images of religious-themed wounds. Like a music video, Wainwright employs frenetic editing that sucks any potential of suspense out of what’s put on screen. In those crucial moments, it’s often hard to tell what’s happening in Stigmata.

Stigmata Suffers From Weak Screenplay and Underwhelming Performances

If the execution is flawed, Stigmata also suffers from story and performance problems. Nothing about this screenplay rises above rote material. Expect a generous helping of expository dialogue to ensure you’re in the know for everything that happens. On one hand, you have to credit the smaller scope adopted by this religious horror movie. Unlike every other Y2K-themed movie from 1999, Stigmata adopts a smaller scope as it focuses on Vatican-related scandal rather end-of-the-world drama. If Wainwright opted to tell a more intimate tale of psychological horror, the narrower focus might work. As is it stands, Stigmata feels like a lot of bluster without much substance.

Stigmata also suffers from story and performance problems.

In spite of these problems, you’d think Stigmata could coast on a cast that includes Gabriel Byrne and Patricia Arquette. For some reason, however, the annual Razzies centered out Byrne, nominating him for Worst Supporting Actor. Maybe Byrne looks bored with everything happening around him, but he’s hardly the worst thing happening here. Perhaps one could argue that the scope of this religious horror doesn’t amount to more than standard conspiracy theory. And it doesn’t. Only the most religious audiences will be on the edge of their seats with a story about a missing book of the gospel.

Stigmata Another Forgettable Millennium-Inspired Horror Movie

No, all those Y2K fears never came to fruition, but the end-of-the-world horror movies the millennium inspired certainly were apocalyptic. Maybe Stigmata gets some milage out of its imagery – likely more so for devout Christians than anyone else – but that’s about it. Even if Byrne’s performance wasn’t Razzie’s worthy, the very capable actor looks bored throughout the proceedings. And the material outstretches Arquette – or she’s simply miscast. Everything wrong with the movie is exacerbated by Wainwright’s music video editing approach to horror. The end result is devoid of scares, suspense, and is often just boring.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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