The Vatican Tapes full movie review - Slow Burn to Evil
Exorcist movies have lost its freshness over the years due to the fact that almost every single one of them is exactly the same and trying to be "realistic", but it's just a nonsensical excuse that these filmmakers lack creativity to be scary.
But not all of them, of course, suffers with that case. The Vatican Tapes is ought to be one them, however it is taken with a spin from director Mark Neveldine, by using his trademark camera-work and other sorts of insanity. Conceptually, this could have been one of the silliest horror movies ever made, but the movie puts its story together effectively by building the heat of its main villain until it becomes a weapon of mass destruction. The Vatican Tapes isn't quite scary or original, but its cold, cruel atmosphere is what strangely made it work.
The movie opens with a series of exorcism footage indicating that evil truly exists and then we cut to two Vatican exorcists who are studying a young woman, who happens to be possessed, in a video tape that were sent from a priest in Los Angeles. The story went back few months earlier and telling the complete story of how this victim, Angela, is slowly consumed by this demonic spirit. At this point, the movie is quite standard. We see this woman acting strange whenever she is visited by a mysterious raven, she often gets an excess of thirst and does horrible things to people, like blinding themselves to death or make them kill each other. It all seems ridiculous than scary, but with its aspect, it kind of works. It gives this demon a vast freedom to its menacing abilities, no matter how silly these actions get.
And "big shock", they realized that they need to exorcise Angela. People may brag about how long it took for the exorcism to come, but it was made up for building a strange atmosphere to result to this climax. The dread of the music score, the frenzy of its cinematography, the intensity of the tone; it may not be evidently scary, but the movie has established that this spirit is destructive and also could lead to the apocalypse. The movie ends with an uneasy ambiguity and there is supposed to be a concluded epic battle between the devil inside of her and the exorcists of the Vatican. But again, that's just the cliffhanger.
The craft is interesting for a rather generic exorcist storyline. The camera-work may put people off for being just another shaky cam mess, but it's actually not quite a mess. The cinematography and editing are decently put together and it instead brings momentum within the chaos happening on screen. It's more action movie aesthetic than horror, but it's the tone that breathes the anxiety. The acting is decent, as well, though Michael Peña is mostly a studying witness to get his character fully fleshed out, but he does a solid job as the supposed protagonist, anyway. Dougray Scott makes for an effective concern father of Angela. Djimon Hounsou and Peter Andersson spices up the screen whenever they're around in their very small roles. But who really impresses among this cast is Olivia Taylor Dudley, who gives creepy glares and intense paranoia as the ticking bomb of all possessed victims.
The Vatican Tapes is meant to be absurd, but in an intriguing way. The real terror definitely happens in the ending which is left for a sequel or ambiguity, but what came from that effect is a rather unfeeling tone that establishes how mercilessly evil this entity is, that even the priests are seriously preparing themselves to stop it. The exorcism climax is also enjoyably ultimate, if not too ridiculous. The story is still standard when it comes to this genre, but The Vatican Tapes at least tried something a little bit different and a little too outlandish that can be rather fascinating. Even with its silliness and clichés, you can still be invested by how they never underestimate this villain.