Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have likely watched a least a handful of paranormal horror movies. We’ve been stuck in this cycle of horror now for over 10 years. The popularity of the genre really got going with the release of Paranormal Activity in 2007. Sadly it’s not ending anytime soon with upcoming high profile release of Annabelle: Creation.
A big scope of these types of horror movies tend to focus on possession & the religious implications of these scenarios. The Vatican Tapes is no different. In fact it uses every tired trope in possession horror, only attempting to separate itself from the pack in its finale.
Starring Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Peter Andersson, Dougray Scott & John Patrick Amedori, The Vatican Tapes opens in the Vatican, unsurprisingly. We see two priests watching a short video tape of Angela Holmes (Dudley) who is suspected of being possessed.
Three months prior to this tape Angela is thrown a surprise birthday party by her father (Scott) & boyfriend (Amedori). They two men don’t exactly get along but put aside their differences for her big day. While cutting the cake Angela accidentally cuts herself. Bad enough to warrant a trip to the hospital where she ends up getting an infection that keeps her there longer.
When she is eventually released she forcibly crashes the car with her father & boyfriend in it. The accident puts her in a coma for 40 days (the number of days is important later) & just before her life support is switched off she comes around.
While seemingly healthy, she begins to exhibit strange behaviour. People who come into contact with her commit suicide or become extremely violent.
Father Lozano (Peña) having met Angela before the coma, begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems. Cardinal Bruun (Andersson) travels to America & the pair deduce that Angela isn’t just possessed by any old demon. She is possessed by the Satan himself.
Cue an exorcism.
That’s The Vatican Tapes in a nutshell. You’ll have read that & thought…I’ve seen a hundred movies like this & you’d be right, mostly. The one major difference here is that Angela’s possession is a big one. The devil & exorcising that bugger is no easy a task. A task that ends in failure & leaving him free to walk the earth.
It makes a nice change of pace even if how we got there was uninspired & boring. The scares are minimal & the attempts to shock lack impact.
The characters are bland & the backstory surrounding Angela & her father is pretty uninteresting. The plot feels jagged. It seems as though it was edited heavily with a few too many big jumps in time. A bit more effort fleshing out Angela before her possession would have gone a long way. It would have made her a much more sympathetic person.
Even the acting comes across tired & coming from a decent cast is the most disappointing thing of all.
It’s not the worst possession movie you’ll ever see. Which at this stage of an exhausted sub-genre of horror is high praise indeed.
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The Vatican Tapes