Monday, July 25, 2016

Film Review: The Vatican Tapes (2015)

The Vatican Tapes (Review)
United States/2015
Format Viewed For Review: Amazon Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: Yes

"It offers some unique elements to the possession genre, but it never fully embraces any of its ideas."

After slicing her finger at a birthday party, Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley) begins to exhibit symptoms of possession...

The Vatican Tapes is another possession horror film. The film follows Angela, a young woman who is reunited with her father (Dougray Scott) on her birthday. She slices her finger while cutting the cake, which forces her to visit the hospital. Oh! And, this is where we meet Father Lozano (Michael Pena). Anyway, Angela begins to exhibit erratic behavior. Apparently, when you're possessed, you begin to act like a dehydrated teenage girl with bipolar disorder. The plot continues to follow the basics of the possession formula – mental evaluations, strange happenings, and, of course, an exorcism. The ending was certainly interesting and different, but it did feel a bit cheesy.

Actually, The Vatican Tapes often felt cheesy. I applaud it for (occasionally) trying something new, but the mood was often inconsistent. During some scenes it feels like a 'serious' horror movie, during others it feels like a cheesy 'bad vs evil' action flick. Now, bad vs evil isn't necessarily bad – Constantine was solid – but, like I said, it's wildly inconsistent so it never really embraces that cheese-factor. The Vatican Tapes offers some unique elements to the sub-genre, too, but not quite enough. It constantly falls back to the same ol' tricks – weak jump scares, a cheesy change in voice, and, of course, bone-popping. (Are all possession-victims contortionists or are all demons contortionists? Something to think about.) It has a few moments where it shines and it's not the worst possession film out there, but it was disappointing.

The acting was just okay, too. I think the bigger problem was the poor dialogue. Again, we're faced with characters who don't talk like regular people. Olivia Taylor Dudley is the leading lady. She was a bit overdone here and there, but she got the job done. Dougray Scott was good, though. Michael Pena doesn't really get the time to shine, but he's also decent. His perpetually laid-back demeanor felt a little out-of-character, though. The screenplay was written by Christopher Borrelli and directed by Mark Neveldine. The writing's biggest issue was the lack of character and odd pacing. There are moments the film could have used to add depth to its characters, but it instead adds more of the same – some cheese and some jump-scares. Neveldine competently crafts the movie, but he doesn't take many risks, which ultimately leaves the direction feeling bland and uninspired.

Overall, The Vatican Tapes is a mediocre film. It offers some unique elements to the possession genre, but it never fully embraces any of its ideas. Even the whole concept behind the film – the Vatican gathering these tapes to record and fight evil – feels like an afterthought. Still, I was able to finish the movie without absolutely hating it, which is something. Hell, I was even entertained at times. Some good, more bad, but not the worst. At least it's better than The Exorcism of Molly Hartley, right?

Score: 4/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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