The Vatican Tapes
dir Mark Neveldine
scr Christopher Borrelli, Michael C Martin
prd Chris Cowles, Gary Lucchesi, Chris Morgan, Tom Rosenberg
with Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Pena, Dougray Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Djimon Hounsou, Peter Andersson, Kathleen Robertson, Cas Anvar, Michael Pare, Jarvis W George, Alex Sparrow, Sam Upton
release US 24.Jul.15, UK 30.Oct.15
15/US Lionsgate 1h31
The Vatican Tapes
She's out of control: Pena and Dudley

scott amedori hounsou
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Vatican Tapes An unusually gritty and realistic exorcism thriller, this movie mixes drama with some big jolts to keep the audience engaged even though the pacing feels rather slow. The complex characters and detailed plot help make the film unexpectedly involving, which is a bit frustrating since the story ends just as things get properly interesting.

As Angela (Dudley) celebrates her 30th birthday with adorable boyfriend Pete (Amedori) and tough-but-caring dad Roger (Scott), she also begins to act a bit strange. Mainly when there are ravens lurking nearby. After a serious injury, she meets Father Lozano (Pena) at the hospital, and he takes an interest in her case. As does Cardinal Bruun (Andersson), who with Vicar Imani (Hounsou) runs a secret Vatican office dealing with demonic possession. And when Bruun travels to America to meet Angela himself, he's unnerved by the thought that she may actually be the Antichrist.

Screenwriters Borrelli and Martin do a great job blending realistic news reports with biblical details, plus plenty of fantastical fiction. It makes the story feel eerily grounded, as does the way director Neveldine delays ramping up the effects-based mayhem. Instead, he uses lots of CCTV imagery from the Vatican vault and focusses on small touches that continually freak out the audience. Some of these are enjoyably ridiculous, such as a video that seems to show a monstrous face emerging from Angela's.

The cast is unusually strong for a movie like this, adding layers of interest. Dudley gives Angela a vivid personality that's darkly eroded by whatever has invaded her soul, and yet there are still glimpses of her in there. Scott undergirds his bullheaded character with emotion, while Amedori quietly becomes the person we sympathise with, watching the events through his observant eyes. Pena, Hounsou and Andersson are kind of coasting in their priestly roles, but effortlessly add edges and depth.

Where all of this stumbles is in the pacing, because Neveldine seems to be telling the story as a serious drama with the odd horror punchline. While there are some terrific scary moments all the way through, the pace is slow and steady, only building up a full head of steam in the final act. This is then followed by a fascinating epilog that ramps everything up, leaving the viewers with the feeling that what comes next would be even more exciting than anything in this movie.

cert 15 themes, violence 15.Sep.15

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