I should let you know from the start that THE VATICAN TAPES is NOT a "found footage" movie. But it apparently wants to be one anyway. Any excuse for a character to be anywhere near a camera is an excuse to show the camera's point of view. Even when a guy steps into an elevator for a brief transition in which absolutely nothing happens, we have to get a shot of him via elevator-cam. Ultimately, however, it's a narrative film and has the luxury of cutting to any character it likes and including close-ups of things it wants you to notice. Oh, and it has music, too.
Notice how I'm avoiding the plot? If I were to say "Stop me if you've heard this one," you'd stop me. And I'm on a roll. The trailers would have you believe that you're getting an unprecedented look into the secret archives of the Vatican as they investigate alleged possessions and Satanic rumors. Dooky. At the beginning, you get a series of vintage possession recordings (most of which you've seen before if you're into documentaries) interspersed with video-doctored clips of the two main Vatican characters (suspiciously labelled "NEWS" without actually identifying a network on screen) telling you what the Pope has to say about all this. Then they look at a video from America featuring young Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley from CHERNOBYL DIARIES). They see a subliminal spooky-face pop up for a freeze-frame and decide it's time for action.
Flashback. Angela's having a surprise birthday party with a ton of friends (glimpsed once and then forgotten completely). Her military colonel father (Dougray Scott) doesn't like her live-in boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) and lets us know this by constantly snarling at him and pointing the cake-cutting knife in his direction. But it's Angela who cuts her finger with that very knife and she's reluctantly off to the emergency room (conveniently catching the attention of Father Michael Pena in the process). Ravens start following her everywhere (and smashing windows) and she starts acting weird and dangerous. She can also inspire other people to commit murder and suicide without actually touching them.
Oh, and she manages to get into a locked ward and snatches a baby, whom she then holds menacingly over a pre-filled bathtub. And we get a close-up of a warning label reading "DROWNING HAZARD" on the tub just in case anyone in the audience can't figure out what they should be afraid might happen to the baby. (It doesn't. Angela gets scared away by an alarm buzzer going off. Sorry for the spoiler.)
MUST we continue? Not really. One of the Vatican reps we saw at the beginning (Peter Andersson) shows up to deal with things and recruits the nervous Father Pena for assistance. And there's a twist that tries to make this more profound than your typical "exorcism" movie. I came up with a better twist earlier but they didn't use it.
From THE EXORCIST to THE RITE, there have been numerous sincere and intelligent explorations of demonology and possession as seen through the eyes of the Catholic Church (and yes, there have been variants like THE POSSESSION to put an effective Jewish spin on things). And THE LAST EXORCISM was a dynamic look at the "huckster" side of the phenomenon. There has also been a lot of out-and-out drivel like... well... like THE LAST EXORCISM PART 2. And you can plop THE VATICAN TAPES right onto that pile. The story only starts getting interesting when it comes to an end (that is NOT a request for a sequel, by the way), but all you get after that is a portentous end-title sequence of glowering Bible verses, leading off with an ominous quote from what's identified on screen as REVELATIONS. For the record, the last book of the Christian Bible is actually entitled REVELATION.
THE VATICAN TAPES represents the first directorial work of Mark Neveldine sans Brian Taylor. I've been a fan of his work. Twice. Then we got GAMER, the GHOST RIDER sequel, and this. Neveldine and Jason Statham both said they still want to do a third CRANK. I hope they do before it's too late.
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