I saw a screening of The Vatican Tapes this week. It’s Pantelion’s new horror film starring Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott, Djimon Hounsou, Peter Andersson, Kathleen Robertson, John Patrick Amedori.
Oddly enough, my very first thought about the film? When did Dougray Scott get so OLD? I mean he still looks good, but when I think of him, I still think of the young dashing man who played Prince Henry in Ever After opposite Drew Barrymore!
The official synopsis, while extremely intriguing, I found to be misleading after viewing the film:
THE VATICAN TAPES follows the ultimate battle between good and evil – God versus Satan. Angela Holmes (OLIVIA TAYLOR DUDLEY) is an ordinary 27-year-old until she begins to have a devastating effect on anyone close, causing serious injury and death. Holmes is examined and possession is suspected, but when the Vatican is called upon to exorcise the demon, the possession proves to be an ancient satanic force more powerful than ever imagined. It’s all up to Father Lozano (MICHAEL PEÑA) to wage war for more than just Angela’s soul, but for the world as we know it.
It sounds like this is not your mother’s exorcism film, right? Well, not quite. Overall, this is a good film and I think the target audience will really like it. It had several surprise “gotcha” moments that made me jump a bit, but when you compare it to the ultimate and classic possession film, The Exorcist, it falls completely short.
The movie starts out with Angela having her 27th birthday, being surprised by her father, Roger, (played by Dougray Scott) being there instead of flying to a military meeting as he said he was. He’s not a huge fan of Angela’s live-in boyfriend, Pete (played by John Patrick Amedori). Pete seems to be the absolute best boyfriend in the world, from his actions in the film: He cooks, he cleans, and he takes care of Angela like a pro. He even calls her “perfect” later in the film when asked by Cardinal Bruun (played by Peter Andersson), the head of the two-man exorcism team, what Angela was like. After it’s made clear to the audience that Angela is possessed, but not revealed to the characters yet, Pete is the only character that Angela will talk to or even acknowledge unless she’s in extreme distress, at which point, she calls for “daddy.” And I don’t blame her for that! I would call for my dad, too!
A large chunk of the film is spent in hospitals and the psych ward of an institution where Angela is confined. Now, I find mental institutions to be quite creepy, which is good for a horror film, obviously. And yet, it still felt a little flat to me.
Throughout the film, it cuts back and forth to The Vatican, where Cardinal Bruun (played by Peter Andersson) and Vicar Imani (played by Djimon Hounsou) are looking at the tapes of Angela that one assumes they acquired from the hospitals she attends throughout the movie. This is where “the tapes” come in. The two clergymen are conspiring about something, but we do not know what at this point.
To me, it felt like the “tapes” aspect of the movie was just added on, to create the title, which suggests that there have been many recordings of exorcisms and that we will get to see a number of them. This is not so. This story is strictly about Angela.
Cardinal Bruun flies to the States from The Vatican to perform the exorcism. Except, he doesn’t actually DO an exorcism. He does some kind of ritual, but it’s not an exorcism. He informs Pete that he was possessed at the age of 12 for 6 days, and that he doesn’t believe that the body can be saved when someone is possessed. Which seems odd considering he’s there and not possessed. At least, we assume. He’s awful creepy. So is Vicar Imani.
Bruun fails to kill Angela, she kills him instead after revealing that she was the demon who had possessed him when he was 12, and she becomes the Anti-Christ. First, I saw that one coming a mile a way. Very predictable.
But my other issue is that a woman is the Anti-Christ? Really? Why pick a woman? Why not a man? Was this intentional? Is it subliminal messaging that women shouldn’t be worshiped over God? Is it subliminal messaging that women are evil? I thought that was kind of offensive.
I also felt the use of ravens as “the messengers of Satan” was highly cliché, and kind of unnecessary. It would have been much creepier if people just stared at Angela and they did crazy shit.
At the end of the film, Father Lozano is the only one who survives the failed/non-attempted exorcism. Roger Holmes and Pete are both killed in a huge fire blast, which Angela of course, walks away from, and then goes and performs miracles all over the country and becomes beloved by many all over the world. This brings up Revelations, from the Bible about a false prophet being the Anti-Christ.
Lozano goes to The Vatican. Vicar Imani tells us that the father has been in the hospital recovering for several months. Imani takes Lozano down to the archives room. But not the archives we see in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. No, this is a different archives; this is the archives of the devil’s work on Earth. We’re shown video of Angela doing miracles, looking beautiful and getting ready to go to a stadium full of people as a miracle healer.
Where’s the epic battle for good an evil? Where is that whole thing in the synopsis about Father Lozano fighting for good and evil to save the whole world?
There isn’t one. That’s it. Angela becomes the Anti-Christ. Evil wins. Credits roll.
If that was a set up for a sequel, I’d be torn about wanting to see it.
Overall, this is an okay date night movie. It has scares and moments where you might hide your eyes. But if you’re looking for a serious, keep you up all night, creeptastic horror film? Stay home and watch The Exorcist.