Original Title: The Vatican Tapes
Country: United States
Director: Mark Neveldine
Genre: Horror, Thriller
06.03.2020: This review was first published on 13.07.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello There! Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
The Vatican Tapes is the fifth movie directed by Mark Neveldine. It tells the story of a young woman who begins to be influenced by some evil forces, attracting the attention of the Catholic Church.
Many religions believe that evil spirits, or demons, can take over someone’s body in what is known as possession. The ritual of casting the demon out, usually performed by a priest, is called exorcism.
The Catholic Church performs the ritual of Exorcism since the middle ages, but with the modernization of the church, the Vatican chooses psychiatry and neurology as the explanation for what was previously justified as demonic possession.
Although being an old ritual, the latest boom of exorcism enthusiasts came in 1973 with the release of the movie The Exorcist. At that time, several people were claiming to be possessed or have someone in this condition in the family.
Among the most famous cases, were the case of Peggy Hodgson, the inspiration behind The Conjuring 2 and the infamous case of Anneliese Michel, a sad story explored to this day by sensationalist people.
Peggy Hodgson was a case of children’s play going too far and out of their control, while Anneliese Michel was an unfortunate case of negligence in treating her epilepsy, leading to her death.
There are still people who believe in demonic possession, but the scientific community has other explanations. Among the conditions known to science today, that were considered demonic possession in the past, are the already mentioned epilepsy, plus schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome, and Huntington’s disease (Source).
Another element present in the movie is The Antichrist. Not Marilyn Manson, neither someone who dislike Jesus, The Antichrist is a false savior, performing fascinating deeds, miracles even, as if he’s the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The Antichrist is one of the characters in the Christian version of the Apocalypse. Popularly associated with the end of times, the day of reckoning when the goodies go to heaven and the badies go to hell.
These themes are heavily associated with a wave of horror movies since 1973, but recently we had quite a revolution in the genre. I think I already talk about it in some of the other horror films I reviewed here.
The Vatican Tapes
Angela (played by Olivia Taylor Dudley) is a young woman living with her boyfriend Pete (played by John Patrick Amedori), who seems to love and care a lot for her.
During a not-so-surprise birthday party for Angela, she cuts her finger while parting the cake and goes to the hospital with Pete and her father Roger (played by Dougray Scott). They meet Father Lozano (played by Michael Peña), before leaving the hospital, probably with an absurd medical bill, because the USA doesn’t have MedicareForAll.
After the hospital visit, crows start to stalk Angela, and she begins to act weird, with the usual possession symptoms. Doctors can’t treat her, and Father Lozano is already suspicious.
Angela causes havoc almost everywhere she goes, so Cardinal Mattias Bruun (played by Peter Andersson), an exorcist, gets involved. With the aid of Father Lozano, they try to cast the demons out of the poor lady’s body.
The first noticeable thing was the number of known and competent actors in a not well-known exorcism film. There are the ones I mentioned, plus Djimon Hounsou, Kathleen Robertson, and possibly others I forgot.
With all these great professionals, the acting is, not surprisingly, very decent, considering the characters are totally generic. For example, my favorite actor in the movie is Michael Peña, his role is just the nice family priest of exorcism films.
In general, the movie is not great at all. Absolutely generic, it has all the tropes from every film about exorcism since the beginning of time. The twist couldn’t surprise anyone who wasn’t living in a cave for the last 40 years.
With a budget of around 8 million dollars, the only reason I can think for the excessive use of close-up shots is the director’s deliberate stylistic choice. I prefer more open shots unless the close-ups have a purpose in the storytelling, get the actors out of this tiny box.
But there are good things as well. I enjoyed the extreme Dutch angles after a car accident, mimicking the disorientation someone would feel after a crash. It’s not something new or rare, but it’s something I liked.
The cinematography, in general, is very correct. Except for the over-use of close-ups, everything else is good-looking, the colors, the brightness, the establishing shots, so on. It’s one of the enjoyable things I could find in the movie.
The jump-scares in The Vatican Tapes are, in the most part, well done. It’s not stupid and juvenile, but add a level of tension for something relevant happening. For example, the manifestation of Satan him/herself justify a jump-scare.
Also, jump-scares are not the only element of horror or tension, there are creepy imagery, little demonic voices, and other components. My favorite is the possession recordings in the opening of the movie, some eerie scenes.
During the moments of tension I mentioned, there is the musical score of the film to help. Most of the time is minimalistic, and during the action, it increases the menacing tone. It’s not among my favorite scores, but it’s good enough.
Sadly, The Vatican Tapes are just like many other movies of the same subgenre, with very few variations. The ending makes some sense, but being coherent should not be a positive point, it should be the standard.
The Vatican Tapes is better than many movies of the exorcism genre, but that’s not saying much. There are technical qualities and a talented cast but is too generic and cliché, I’ll give The Vatican Tapes 4 Moons.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget to visit reputable doctors before visiting an amateur exorcist (there are no professional ones). Bye!