Review: THE VATICAN TAPES (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Review: THE VATICAN TAPES (2015)

As generic as the title itself, this demonic-possession horror movie is mostly a shoddy affair except for its unexpectedly thought-provoking finale.

From CRANK (2006) to GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE (2012), the Neveldine/Taylor directing duo is popularly known for their unique brand of gonzo filmmaking style and "roller dolly" technique. After spending almost a decade working together as a team, Mark Neveldine has finally gone solo for the first time to direct THE VATICAN TAPES, which also happens to be his first foray into the horror genre. It's actually nice to see him venture into something different since Neveldine is primarily known as an action filmmaker all this while. But instead of something new or interesting that he could bring to the well-worn demonic possession horror genre, THE VATICAN TAPES comes across as a limp effort.


At the beginning, Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley) is nothing more than just an ordinary 27-year-old with a cute boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) and a loving father (Dougray Scott). Then one day, she accidentally cut her finger really bad during her birthday party and forced to admit to the hospital. From there, she starts to show weird behaviour. After involving in a car crash that put her into a coma, hospital chaplain Father Lozano (Michael Pena) soon suspects she might be possessed by a demonic force.


Best known in CHERNOBYL DIARIES (2012) and also some of her guest-starring roles in the TV series such as CSI: Miami and NCIS, Olivia Taylor Dudley made quite an impression portraying an innocent girl who later suffers from demonic possession. Curiously enough, I can't help it but noticed she's a dead ringer for Patricia Arquette, who in turn, also happens to appear in a similar horror genre called STIGMATA (1999).


Typically for a horror movie about demonic possession and exorcism, I would expect it will always end with the usual "all-hell-breaks-loose" finale. Instead, I was hooked by the surprise twist that I didn't see it coming. No doubt it's a refreshing change-of-pace, and this is the only time where Neveldine is bold enough to break free from the standard genre convention shown prior in this movie.


Despite all the different visual aesthetics including archival footage, security cameras and other bags of cinematic tricks that Neveldine can think of, the movie looks sloppy most of the time. While it's good to see Neveldine is going easy with his over-the-top filmmaking style for a change, there's nothing much to be recommended for. First off, the movie is hardly scary at all. There is little sense of foreboding dread or escalating tension needed for this kind of horror movie. Even Joseph Bishara's creepy music and Gerardo Mateo Madrazo's gloomy cinematography don't help much either.

Another problem here is the uninspired script by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin. With the exception of its ending, the story is so overly familiar with the same old tired cliché to the point you can predict what happens next.

But the most disappointing thing of all is the climactic moment involving Father Lozano and Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) performing exorcism on the heavily-possessed Angela. It is a haphazardly-executed scene that barely raises a pulse.

As for the rest of the cast, Dougray Scott doesn't do much other than acting concern and worried all the time. The less said about John Patrick Amedori the better, while Michael Pena is terribly wasted as Father Lozano. Earlier in the movie, there's a brief scene where Father Lozano reveals about his past. It would be great if Neveldine takes some time to develop his character further, but all we get here is Pena's disappointingly ordinary and personality-free performance.


Like many forgettable demonic-possession horror movies over the recent years (2014's DELIVER US FROM EVIL quickly sprang to mind), THE VATICAN TAPES is another major letdown that needs to be exorcised and cleansed with a better script.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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