ARROW IN THE HEAD REVIEWS

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Stigmata (1999)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Rupus Wainwright

Starring:
The Byrne/Father Keegan
Patricia Arquette/Frankie
Jonathan Pryce/Cardinal Houseman
Nia Long/Donna
6 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
Atheist, club-hopping hairdresser Frankie (Arquette) sees her world go to hell when she begins to be violently afflicted by “stigmata” upon her body; namely wounds that Christ suffered. It’s up to Father “The Byrne” to save her life.
THE LOWDOWN
Most of the boogying that I did on "Stigmata" came from its coating, its way of communicating information and emoting via slick images, sound and music. This flick was an assault on all the senses (except smell and touch of course, unless you be on acid) and being the style-tramp that I am, I was deeply reeled in by the images and the tunes unfolding before me.

Muted colors, quick cuts, brilliant scene transitions, polished cinematography, awesome shot compositions, bluish hues…the flick simply looked astounding and yes...it was akin to a heavy-handed music video, but sue me...I like music videos and the energy behind the eye-candy here kept me engaged throughout. The same can be said about the insanely good music backing everything up. Billy Corgan (of the Smashing Pumpkins) served up some of the gripping score and the multitude of hot tracks filling this film also had me foaming. During the opening, I felt like I was at a dance club or something. I actually got up and started dancing at one point, and then I remembered that I was at home all by my lonesome, so I sat my ass down and continued watching the film.

On a deeper level, the story had a solid initial premise with an “original” twist tossed in there in regards to its sub-genre. The possession here is actually not from the “devil” or an "evil entity", it’s from a…well, see the film to find out. I also appreciated the religious themes brought up throughout the narrative, the shroud of mystery floating about and how they addressed the always-gripping subject matter of individual faith vs organized religion. It left me with some food for thought. Character-wise, Frankie (Arquette) and Andrew (The Byrne) definitely kept me in the game on a human level. I particularly enjoyed their attraction and the nature of their relationship. The chemistry between the two actors and their talent elevated the “somewhat thin” characters to a higher level for me. Also, I don’t know about you, but seeing a certain The Byrne walking across the frame in slow motion, wearing slick ass sunglasses amplifies any film’s worth 10 fold for me.

On the sinning side, I would’ve given it a higher rating if the important “meat” of the storyline was handled more in depth. Everything was lightly touched upon here and was often drowned out by the excessive aesthetics slapped our way. Following the story to enjoy this flick is NOT a requirement. The director also overplayed a few cards to the point of annoyance. There are just so many times you can see a drop of water or blood fall in backward motion before you start killing your entourage. LET IT GO, DUDE! I also didn’t particularly care for the “conspiracy” angle that imminently came with the plot, the token one dimensional "villain” or the underwhelming ending that left me wanting more. I would’ve liked more "oomph" behind the reasons for all the madness, more scares throughout and more pizzazz for my finale (although those CGI flames ROCKED…I never thought I’d say that).

Having said all that, "Stigmata" was still a fun watch, but mostly on a cosmetic level. It tossed everything at me audio/visual wise and I being the easy horror lay that I was upon viewing it, gladly ran with it and got from it...some easy strokes. So the question is: how is your faith these days?
GORE
We get LOTS of blood all over the freaking map; from wrist wounds, forehead wounds, lashes wounds…it’s a red mess!
ACTING
The Byrne (Father Keegan) can do no wrong in my book and this film was no exception. He handled his part with passion and skills. I LOVE THAT GUY! Patricia Arquette (Frankie) also came through on many levels; she was vulnerable, tough and most importantly...credible in the role. She’s also a cutie. Jonathan Pryce (Cardinal Houseman) and Nia Long (Donna) both did what they could with their flimsily written roles.
T & A
Don’t blink and you might get a peek at Patricia’s “Arquettes”. The ladies get The Byrne…just his presence is TNA enough.
DIRECTING
Wainwright tosses every MTV trick in the book at us for better and for worse. His visual approach tagged with the often religious imagery gave way to a hypnotizing show although he did overdo it at times, tossing the story aside in the process. He also displayed some very impressive shots with my favorite being the underwater pan of Frankie in the bathtub. GREAT SHOT!
SOUNDTRACK
Lots of hot acts here, the likes of Chumbawamba (their only other good song), Remy Zero and Bjork. The score (some of it by Billy Corgan) also whooped my arse and gave the images more strength.
BOTTOM LINE
"Stigmata" had a gripping premise and two leads (Arquette and The Byrne) who created magic onscreen, but in the end, it was really its excessive visual and audio presentations which enraptured me. I felt like I was at a horror rave or something, enjoying one hell of a bloody party. Are you feeling like some addictive "style over substance" yourself? Swallow this pill!
BULL'S EYE
An alternate opening exists that has Father Almeida committing suicide by jumping off the roof of his church.

Director Wainwright went on to direct “Wolf Lake” for TV after "Stigmata" and hasn’t done anything since. WHAT'S GOING ON! Give this guy another theatrical chance, but make sure that there’s a solid script to back him up this time, as well as a good AD to tell him to chill on the visuals when needed! I like this quote from the film: “The kingdom of God is within you and all around you. It is not within buildings of wood or stone. Split a piece of wood and you will find me. Look beneath a stone and I am there”. No wonder The Church attacked the film upon its theatrical release. Amen.
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