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New Release Review - THE VATICAN TAPES

When an American girl becomes possessed, the Vatican sends one of its top men to exorcise the demon.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Mark Neveldine

Starring: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Pena, Dougray Scott, Kathleen Robertson, Djimon Hounsou, Peter Andersson




"The scariest part of The Vatican Tapes is its ending, which threatens a sequel. But at a mere 80 minutes when you cut the credits off, the filmmakers have clearly struggled to find enough material for one movie, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over that terrifying possibility."





Despite the cultural impact and financial success of William Friedkin's The Exorcist, the sub-genre of religious possession movies boasts a dearth of worthwhile entries. Though we chiefly associate the practice of exorcising demons with the Catholic Church, the two most interesting exorcism flicks have oddly enough been set in the Protestant milieu - B-movie auteur William Girdler's bonkers Abby, a blaxploitation twist on the theme, and The Last Exorcism, a clever little thriller unfairly derided for carrying the Eli Roth brand. The Vatican Tapes returns the genre to its Catholic roots and does absolutely nothing new with the concept.
We open with the Vatican's top demon battlers, Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson, because all the best exorcists are Swedes) and Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) - the seal team six of exorcism - viewing one of the many titular videos, this one featuring a young American girl who seems not only off her rocker but casts the subliminal image of a demon on the tape. Cut to three months earlier and the girl, Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley), has not a care in the world, moving in with her boyfriend, to the disapproval of her uptight father, Roger (Dougray Scott). After a seemingly innocuous accident in which she cuts her finger, Angela begins to display some troubling behaviour. People close to her fall victim to freak accidents, a raven follows her around and her libido goes up to 11. Local priest Oscar (Michael Pena) smells a satanic rat and calls in the crack team of Bruun and Imani to set this young woman right.
With a title like The Vatican Tapes, you'd be forgiven for assuming this a found footage movie. Thankfully it's not, but in the hands of director Mark Neveldine, it may as well be. He opts for some truly puzzling angles; at times the camera seems to have been simply dropped on the floor with no effort made to frame a shot. Every now and then we're presented with CCTV footage bearing the 'Vatican Tapes' logo, as though the Catholic Church is somehow able to control every security camera in the world (okay, maybe that's not so far-fetched).
It's not just the director who sleepwalks through this production; every cast member looks so bored I'm sure I saw a few glances at an offscreen clock; if you could read the actors' minds you'd probably see a laminate of the caterer's lunch menu. To be fair, how can you blame them? The Vatican Tapes isn't a movie worth investing yourself in, though unlike unsuspecting viewers, at least the cast made some money out of the affair. The scariest part of The Vatican Tapes is its ending, simply because it threatens a sequel. But at a mere 80 minutes when you cut the credits off, the filmmakers have clearly struggled to find enough material for one movie, so I wouldn't lose any sleep over that terrifying possibility.



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