The Vatican Tapes Movie Review
Written by Simret Cheema-Innis
Released by Signature Entertainment
Directed by Mark Neveldine
Written by Chris Morgan and Christopher Borrelli
2015, 91 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
Released on 30th October 2015
Kathleen Robertson as Dr. Richards
Michael Peña as Father Lozano
Djimon Hounsou as Vicar Imani
Alison Lohman as Psych Patient
Dougray Scott as Roger Holmes
Michael Paré as Det. Harris
The end of days is near, the rapture is looming and the Antichrist is making his way to earth in a modern-day tale of good versus evil.
The Vatican Tapes tells the story of the second coming, the day when the Antichrist will appear and attract followers by his extraordinary presence. Luckily for the world, the Vatican has been expecting his evilness for centuries and keeping a record of his work in a vault. God’s keepers come in the form of Vicar Imani and Cardinal Bruun who have a centuries-old archive laden with evidence, but a recent video sent to them from California catches their attention.
Angela is victim to a potential possession after cutting her finger, followed by an accident which spurs on erratic behaviour resulting in her getting admitted to a psychiatric ward. Her father and boyfriend are beside themselves with grief, unable to understand what is going on. The hospital priest, Father Lorenzo, is conveniently with them throughout her time at both hospital and mental ward, and soon realises that Angela’s behaviour might be a little more than just a psychological issue. In a specific video recording sent to Vicar Imani and Cardinal Bruun, they discover that this ordinary girl just may have the Antichrist inside her.
Perhaps this is what is a touch unbelievable; that a random ordinary girl from across the waters was chosen to be the vehicle of the Antichrist and the reasoning for her being champion to his wicked business isn’t outlined until later in the film which by this time is too late for us to care.
Although Cardinal Bruun and Vicar Imani are expecting the rapture, it feels like the Vatican’s involvement isn’t as grandiose an affair as it should be, with minimal conversation between Father Lorenzo in California and the Italian connection. If the Antichrist is coming, a phone conversation, brief testimonial monologues here and there aren’t enough to convince anyone that the devil is on his way. All of the drama appears to be crammed in the final act which makes me think ‘not another exorcism movie.’
And The Vatican Tapes had the potential to be anything but this. In order for any exorcism movie to be spectacular, the exorcism needs to be... spectacular. This film could have actually been very clever and avoided the whole exorcism scene. There was enough in the concept to have done without the ‘big scene,’ at the end. You have a modern day Vatican, with centuries worth of evidence, records of powerful people including Pope Benedict XVI (who was allegedly the devil incarnate), along with loads of other shocking facts. Enough to carry the whole idea of the Antichrist’s coming. This in itself is terrifying, how will he reveal himself and how will he deceive the world?! Unfortunately we only get a sense of this in the last five minutes of the movie.
The film is underwhelming and you’d hope to walk away feeling affected, infected even, with angst that this could actually be happening in the world right now especially with the war on terror, ISIS and the immigrant crisis, it would make sense that the Antichrist had landed. But this movie doesn’t do enough to instill the beliefs and theories it has set out to deliver. Although the cast has been carefully chosen, there isn’t enough gravitas in the underplayed performances between the characters. With strong actors such as Djimon Hounsou and Peter Andersson, you’d hope to have them feature in the film more and with better dialogue. Michael Peña is another brilliant cast choice, but his character is underrepresented, his past not well-defined which would have given his role more punch. It does make you wonder whether an all-star cast would’ve bought this film to life.
The Vatican Tapes isn’t a bad film, it isn’t even overtly ambitious, but it disappoints in being a film that will disappear amongst all of the other middle of the road exorcism films. The concept is believable, but the result is ineffective.