“The Vatican Tapes” was directed by Mark Neveldine and tell the story of a young woman being affected by evil forces after cutting her finger, getting the attention of the Catholic Church.
I was kind of juggling three reviews and as a result, I couldn’t focus enough on anyone. So I decided to stop, finish this one first and then focus solely on the others.
One of the main themes of the movie is demonic possession and exorcists, so let’s talk very briefly about it.
Many religions believe that evil spirits, or demons, have the ability to 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 this ritual since the middle ages, but with the recent modernization of the church, what was previously classified as possession, now is explained by the psychiatry and neurology.
Despite being an old ritual, the latest boom of exorcism enthusiasts came in 1973 with the release of the movie “The Exorcist”. There was a huge amount of people claiming to be possessed or have someone possessed in the family.
Two of the most famous cases were the cases of Peggy Hodgson, the inspiration for “The Conjuring 2” and the infamous case of Anneliese Michel, 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.
Among the conditions known to science today, that were considered demonic possession in the past, are aforementioned epilepsy, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome and Huntington’s disease (Source).
Another recurrent element present in the movie is the antichrist. The figure of a false savior, performing amazing deeds, 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 when the goodies go to heaven and the badies go to hell.
I know I said these were recurring elements in this movie but, if I want to be more accurate, it’s a recurring theme of many horror movies after 1973. Originality is not exactly the strong point when we talk about horror movies, unfortunately.
The Vatican Tapes
Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is a beautiful young woman living with the boyfriend Pete (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. Accompanied by Pete and her father Roger (Dougray Scott), she goes to the hospital, where they meet Father Lozano (Michael Peña).
After the hospital visit, some crows start to stalk her and she starts to act weird and the usual possession symptoms. Doctors can’t treat her and Father Lozano is already suspecting.
Angela causes havoc almost everywhere she goes, until Cardinal Mattias Bruun (Peter Andersson), an exorcist, get involved, and with the aid of Father Lozano, they try to cast the demons out of the poor woman’s body.
One thing that I noticed from the start was the number of known actors in a not well-known exorcist film. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, it features Djimon Hounsou and Kathleen Robertson.
As you can expect, the movie is not great. Actually, not great at all. We have all the tropes from every movie about exorcism since the beginning of time with a not surprising twist.
I enjoyed some shots, like some extreme “Dutch angles” after a car accident, causing extreme disorientation, it’s not something new or exclusive, but it’s something I liked. However, I hated other instances, like some shaky shots or unnecessary effects.
With a budget of around 8 million dollars, the only reason I can think of the excessive use of close-up shots: the director’s deliberate stylistic choice. I don’t like it, I like less claustrophobic shots, get the actors out of this tiny box.
There is no way around it, there are jump-scares in almost every horror movie, and I know some people don’t like it and have many arguments about it. I think I might have mentioned it before, but I don’t mind jump-scares if it is well made and have sense.
The jump-scares in “The Vatican Tapes” are, for the most part, good. It’s not like a cat jumping into the camera making a loud noise, but actually, something happening in the movie, like a sudden awake or Satan manifesting him/herself.
I like the cast, especially Michael Peña, and I really wanted to like the movie. Actually, every single time I watch a movie, I want to like it, I never watch it with the previous intention of trashing it.
Sadly, “The Vatican Tapes” are just like many other movies of the same kind, with only a few variations. The ending makes some sense, was better than most (like The Devil Inside), but it still not much different or satisfactory.
With sadness in my heart, I give it only 4 Moons, because is extremely cliché, but still, have much better quality than most in the genre and at least is not “Found Footage”.