If there's one thing worse than a comedy which isn't funny, it's a horror movie which isn't scary. Bloated with Catholic babble and hoping to snap at our collective millennial sweats, Stigmata wants to be a modern-day Exorcist. But this muddled, painfully inept wanna-shocker has to be the least horrific studio horror since William Friedkin's hilarious evil-tree chiller The Guardian.
To be fair, Tom Lazarus' script has a seed of an idea in its exploration of holy possession, but the director plants it in an emotional vacuum. Wain-wright made his name as a pop video helmer, and by the looks of this, he's learned life from a diet of bad adverts and MTV. So what we get is two hours of visual diarrhoea as Wainwright indulges in pointless show-off shots and hopeless religious imagery that, if it ain't clichéd (flickering candles, neon crucifixes), is borderline laughable (pigeons, pigeons and more pigeons).
And just when the central Vatican conspiracy threatens to become interesting, Arquette starts pissing blood like a haemophiliac after a knitting accident. Of course, if these sequences were handled with any subtlety, the physical and psychological strain of a woman slowly transforming into a walking miracle could throb with at least some unsettling resonance.
But under Wainwright's sledge-hammer stylistics, the sequences lapse into bloody, boring repetition. Stigmata looks less like a sinister phenomenon and more like a Nurofen advert shot in a body-piercing parlour.
The biggest mystery here isn't the supernatural source; it's why Arquette opted for such a deeply unflattering role. Yet she's not entirely to blame. Gabriel Byrne's impersonation of a man caught in a crisis of faith is limited to wrinkling his brow while Jonathan Pryce's campy cardinal is total twirly moustache. Avoid.
Imagine The Exorcist shot with relentless pop promo pomposity and you're close to the pretentious yawn that is Stigmata. Less gore, more guffaw, it would be offensive if it wasn't so bloody stupid.