Movie Review: The Vatican Tapes

Cast: Michael Peña, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Dougray Scott, Djimon Hounsou, John Patrick Amedori, Peter Andersson, Kathleen Robertson

Direction: Mark Neveldine

Duration: 1 hour 31 minutes

Rating: 2.5/5

Story: Young Angela’s (Dudley) life is turned upside down when she’s possessed by an evil entity. As her condition goes from bad to worse, her father Roger (Scott) and boyfriend Pete (Amedori) allow an exorcism to be performed on her.

Review: Loving, cheerful and full of pep, Angela seems the unlikeliest target for demonic possession. Given her normal existence prior to possession, her transformation from mellow to malevolent is all the more disturbing to witness.

In the Vatican, a few priests are aware about various evil forces at play all over the world – forces that result in an increased number of demonic possessions (depicted via found-footage format) and events that could pave way for the Antichrist.

Angela’s strange behavior starts manifesting just before she gets into a car accident. It takes months for her to wake up from a coma. She does so, strangely enough, when Father Lozano (Pena, suitably somber) blesses her with holy water. But all is far from well. Angela can speak in ancient tongues (Aramaic included), summon ravens (considered a symbol of death) and cause people to temporarily lose their minds and fatally injure themselves.

Vatican Tapes now treads down a somewhat familiar exorcism-horror film path. After a disastrous stint in a psychiatric ward, where head shrink Dr Richards (Robertson) is unable to help her, all hopes are pinned on the hard-headed Cardinal Bruun (Andersson, fairly intense), down from the Vatican, to try and perform the said exorcism. But can Angela really be cured? And does Bruun know the magnitude of evil that he is dealing with?

While Hounsou is somewhat underplayed – seen in only a smattering of scenes – Scott and Amedori’s roles are fairly run-of-the-mill. Dudley however, injects her performance with the right shade of eeriness. Neveldine’s effective use of light combined with Joseph Bishara’s creepy score (he’s also scored Insidious and The Conjuring) is also noteworthy. But while there are a few appropriately scary scenes, the overall feeling is that Neveldine could have served up far more terrifying film if he’d pushed the envelope more, given the intense subject matter.

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