The Vatican Tapes is the latest of the poorly made exorcism/possession films. Is it the worst of the bunch? Not quite but considering at least a respectable enough cast, and a lead actress who could have a future, it was still in some sense disappointing.
The Vatican Tapes
Genre(s): Supernatural Horror
Lionsgate | PG13 – 91 min. – $19.99 | October 20, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.0/5
Outside of The Exorcist, the exorcism subgenre has been done and tried numerous times and more often than not, and this includes Exorcist sequels, they tend to, pardon my French, suck. The Vatican Tapes is no exception though there are some decent ideas though by the time we get them, the closing credits begin to roll.
The story centers on generic good-girl Angela (OLIVIA TAYLOR DUDLEY) has a live-in boyfriend, Pete (JOHN PATRICK AMEDORI), whom her military father, Roger (DOUGRAY SCOTT), vehemently disapproves of. But life in general is good until she cuts her finger while cutting the cake, thanks to a balloon bursting (caused by the devil?) and she goes to the hospital to receive stitches. When she returns, I guess something came with her. Eventually, after she suffers serious attacks and even stops breathing briefly, is taken in for examination at a psychiatric hospital.
Meanwhile, at Vatican City, Cardinal Bruun (PETER ANDERSSON) and Vicar Imani (DJIMON HOUNSOU), keep tabs on devilish activities around the world and come upon a taped session between Angela and Dr. Richards (KATHLEEN ROBERTSON). Bruun, upon seeing the tape where the demon appears in a split second, travels to the U.S. fearing she may be the Anti-Christ. Don’t ask me how he knows, they probably did explain, but considering two-thirds of this film was dreadfully boring, or at best laughable, it’s hard to remember what was what.
Stateside, Father Lozano (MICHAEL PENA) keeps an eye on Angela as stranger and deadlier activities begin to occur including, just one of a few outlandish moments, a scene where a detective is questioning Angela. She gestures him toward a window where he is faced with a raven, leaves the room and comes back to the hallway with two light bulbs and begins to gauge his eyes out, right in front of his partner played by Michael Paré in a small and insignificant role (he disappears after this scene).
From here, the film, not that there’s much originality that came beforehand, delves into what other exorcism movies do in the third act with the priest commanding the demon to show itself, girl (most of the time) cursing or trashing about, etc. Where it does deviate, and I kind of wish the film started at this point, involves the Book of Revelations and the Anti-Christ, unfortunately this portion only takes up a few minutes of quick clips before the end credits.
The performances aren’t all bad considering the material they had to work with. Olivia Taylor Dudley, whom I most recently saw in The Barber, does well in what is a thankless role and for the most part looks kind of creepy; Dougray Scott continues his skid in his career following Taken 3 playing the overprotective father while Michael Pena as one of the priests say a few lines but like the others, doesn’t really have much depth to his character. Oh, and Djimon Hounsou? He’s completely underutilized in what is a throwaway role.
Outside of the script, written by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin, from a story by Borrelli and Chris Morgan (5 of the Fast and the Furious movies), The Vatican Tapes was helmed by Mark Neveldine who is branching out on his own away from Brian Taylor (the two co-directed the two Crank films and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance) doesn’t seem to know what style he wants. At times he goes traditional filmmaking with different angles before stealing a few shots via cameras found footage style.
Beyond that, and this still goes to the script, there are many moments where this film is utterly dull and when we do get any kind supposed suspense, it comes off cartoony and (darkly) hilarious from the aforementioned eyes gauge, PG-13-ified, to a piece of ceiling falling onto somebody in Looney Tunes fashion.
The Vatican Tapes isn’t awful, unlike The Gallows or Muck, but it’s so indistinguishable from all of the other exorcism flicks that have come before. Perhaps if you like the cast it might be worth a rental or viewing on Netflix otherwise you can probably wait for it to air on SyFy or Spike.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a matted slip cover. There is also a redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
Audio Commentary – Director Mark Neveldine, Cinematographer Gerardo Madrazo and Actress Olivia Taylor Dudley sit down for an informative but light-hearted track. I like ensemble tracks as each give their own perspective and tell stories about the production.
Tale of the Tapes (29:19; HD) is a surprisingly extensive making-of featurette with on-set interviews with members of the cast and crew as they discuss the story, how the script was sold and the characters.
Deleted Scenes (13:24; HD) and Extended Scenes (14:38; HD) are decent enough but there’s a reason they were nixed; none of them would’ve made the movie any better, however.
VIDEO – 4.25/5
Lionsgate exorcises The Vatican Tapes onto Blu-ray shown in its original 1.78 widescreen aspect ratio and given a 1080p high-definition transfer. Detail levels are at least half decent when considering the changing styles and colors tend to lean more toward darker tones een during the daylight scenes. There is some film noise in those dark shots and even a little artifacting, though nothing heavy. Although not bad, this is not the type of film to show off one’s entertainment system.
AUDIO – 3.25/5
In line with that, the DTS-HD Master Audi 5.1 track was very disappointing. I’m not sure if it was an issue with the sound recording in post or with the transfer, but this didn’t exactly provide much depth where dialogue was on the quieter side, albeit one can still understand what was being said, and even the more action/suspense-oriented scenes, such as the one at the end, didn’t have much impact either.
OVERALL – 2.5/5
Overall, The Vatican Tapes is the latest of the poorly made exorcism/possession films. Is it the worst of the bunch? Not quite but considering at least a respectable enough cast, and a lead actress who could have a future, it was still in some sense disappointing. That said, the final scene wasn’t half bad although not nearly enough to save from the dull and silly moments that came before. The Blu-ray released by Lionsgate has good video, so-so audio and a decent bonus material.
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.