Review: The Vatican Tapes (2015)

Director: Mark Neveldine

Starring: Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Peña, Peter Andersson, Djimon Hounsou

Release Date: 30th October 2015

On the face of it, the premise of The Vatican Tapes is an eminently intriguing one – all the signs of a demonic possession taking hold of Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley) in LA turn the heads of two senior exorcists in the Vatican: Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) and Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) who are alerted by local priest Father Lozano (Michael Peña). Her symptoms include fainting within a moment’s notice, gaining an insatiable thirst and being followed and attacked by a raven aka the bird of ill omen.

Unfortunately hope for this film is short-lived, as it soon becomes apparent that this is a concoction of ingredients from a wealth of previous demonic possession films.

Angela’s family treads the well-trodden path of initial skepticism and disbelieving. There are fundamental concerns regarding the fractious relationship between Angela’s staunch Catholic father and her bohemian, shaggy-haired boyfriend. The early animosity between the two sadly doesn’t really lead anywhere of note.

I was interested to see Michael Peña (fresh from his hilarious role as Luis in Ant Man earlier this year) take the role of priest Lozano, and therefore a man with authority and knowledge over the other characters on-screen. He acts as a vague shoulder to rely on for Angela’s father in the first half of the film, and once Cardinal Bruun lands in America, becomes a backseat – almost literally – in the heat of the action. It doesn’t feel like his heart is totally in this project and in turn he comes across as lethargic at times.

**SPOILER ALERT** The Vatican Tales sets itself up nicely for a sequel, and with Father Lozano the last man standing i’m hoping we will see a more hardened, ferocious edition of Peña in this next role. As for Olivia Taylor Dudley, her vacant stare that becomes so familiar is particularly unnerving. Dudley switches between polite Angela who “wouldn’t say a bad thing about anybody” to the demon within instinctively and – more importantly – believably. There is certainly scope to find out more about her character Angela’s background if a sequel were to ever come about.

I’m always enticed by films about exorcism, and the genre has exploded in the last 10 years with vastly varying results: The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2006), The Last Exorcism (2010), The Rite (2011) and The Devil Inside (2012) to name but a few. I firmly believe that this anachronistic ‘good vs evil’ genre of film still has a place in modern cinema (or more accurately I should say avant-garde cinema), if only someone would cut the umbilical cord that continues to throw this genre back to the upper echelon that is still The Exorcist – few have tried, fewer have succeeded.