After seeing enough of them, I only have one thing to say: there is nothing special about exorcism movies. Since The Exorcist debuted, filmmakers have tried to copy its magic, to no avail. And then somehow it was decided that exorcism films need to have obnoxious traits like breaking bones and more screaming than actual dialogue. It’s gotten to the point that the entire concept is devoid of any sort of interesting content and relies on the bare bones of the genre. The Vatican Tapes is just another film to add to that pile.
The film is centered around Angela (see what they did there?), a seemingly ordinary twenty-seven-year-old who suddenly brings serious injury and death to those around her. When possession is suspected, someone from the Vatican is called over to exorcise the demon. However, it’s proven to be a more ancient and powerful force that they’re dealing with—the big D-man himself.
Known for Crank and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, this is director Mark Neveldine’s first horror film and it definitely shows. His shots switch from regular to shaky cam, which makes it confusing to figure out what this film is trying to be. Did he want a found footage film and then change his mind? Or did he simply think that going from regular to shaky shots would be effective? It just made me more confused and wonder what he was trying to show the audience.
Everything seemed so wonky and out of place that when the film ended, I still had no idea what I just watched. The basic plot was about demonic possession, but there was no substance to it. The lore was nonexistent and the jump scares were cheap and forced. I know that the setting and gist are simple, but usually there is some kind of interesting lore to go with the demon that they’re fighting. It felt like the writers didn’t even try to come up with something new; they put in every trope that exists and just leave it there without any sort of unique explanation.
And because the script is sub-par, that leaves the actors with crappy material to work with. No one really stood out in this film, which is a damn shame, because I was excited to see Michael Pena take on a horror film. Olivia Taylor Dudley did a decent job in screaming a lot and speaking in Latin, and Pena was tolerable in portraying a concerned and dedicated priest (even though he looks like he regrets doing the film the whole time). The rest of the characters were simply two-dimensional characters paid to look like they cared about Angela. Oh, but I have to mention the sheer comedy of Peter Andersson’s performance. His very serious “Godlike” voice was hilarious to listen to, and his face-off against Demon Angela made me think I was watching Scary Movie 6.
Even with bad horror films, I still like to recommend them due to the comedic or violent traits. However, there is nothing about The Vatican Tapes that I can recommend. It’s a very forgettable film that doesn’t try to be anything different. It wouldn’t surprise me if this got confused with any other film of its kind like The Possession or The Exorcism of Emily Rose.