July 26, 2015

Movie Review: The Vatican Tapes

A few weeks ago I saw a trailer for something called The Vatican Tapes. I had not heard of it before, but it looked like another found footage type movie. I filed the information away in the back if my brain and figured I would check it out if/when it came around. As luck would have it, the movie did come to the local multiplex, so off I went as a good little horror fan. Opening night, I sat in that theater with two other people. That was not a good sign. I mean, I know there was not a lot of advertising, but usually horror fans find out about these things and at least make some sort of showing. Anecdotal evidence, but I suspect the results were similar elsewhere.

Never say I've never done anything for you. Much like The Gallows a couple of weeks ago, it turned out I was willing to jump in front and take that bullet for you, so you don't have to. If you were on the fence about it, you would be better served looking elsewhere. I would never try to completely dissuade you from seeing a movie, I believe the more you see the better, but this really is not good. It is a movie that never gets going, doesn't really go anywhere, and just as it might be getting interested, it ends. It was almost like someone forgot the final reel.

The man behind the camera is Mark Neveldine, working for the first time without frequent collaborator Brian Taylor. If that name sounds familiar, he was behind the two Crank films, Gamer, and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (which I love). This time he is working with a screenplay that was on the 2009 Blacklist (a list of the best scripts circulating Hollywood that were not produced that year). The story was written by Chris Morgan (Fast and Furious series, 47 Ronin) and Christopher Borrelli (The Marine 2), and the screenplay was by Borrelli and Michael C. Martin (Brooklyn's Finest).

The Vatican Tapes is part found footage movie, part exorcism movie, and none of it is good. The isn't anything you haven't seen before. The first half of the movie sets up our characters, as any good movie should. We are introduced to Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) and Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson). They work in the Vatican and are in charge of all the documentation, videos, and other materials relating to exorcisms performed by the Church. They learn of some strange happenings in the US, where we see some video footage of a young woman named Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley of The Chernobyl Diaries). We then jump back to when her issues began.

The second half of the movie features the exorcism attempt by Cardinal Bruun, assisted by a local priest (Michael Pena). It is a nasty little affair as these things usually are. However, it is nothing we haven't seen before, and better. Also, to get the obvious comparison out of the way, this is no The Exorcist, it is not even The Rite or Exorcismus. It never really develops anything of interest, the characters are rather dull and considering the decent cast, they do not have much to work with.

In an attempt to say anything positive, I did like the direction they started to go with at the end. Now, I really don't want to give it away for those still interested, but it is a little different. The bad part is that the development leading up to it saps it of its impact and then it just stops. It is almost like this is a prelude to the story they want to tell. This is none more evident than when it begins to get somewhat interesting and it goes to the credits. They either forgot a reel or are really intent on having a sequel.

With that little bit of positive, the rest is negative. It is just eye rollingly bad. Michael Pena looks bored the whole time, Dougray Scott looks like he is forcing it, Djimon Hounsou never has anything to do, the list goes on. I think there could be a good story here, the execution just fails to work. There are many other better exorcism movies out there.

Not Recommended.

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