Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Vatican Tapes

1.5/4

Starring: Olivia Dudley, Dougary Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Michael Pena. Djimon Hounsou, Peter Andersson

Rated PG-13 for Disturbing Violent Content, and Some Sexual References

Ever since "The Exorcist" terrified audiences in 1973, the subject has come up in horror movies at regular intervals.  Few of them have been any good (the only one that leaps to mind is "The Exorcism of Emily Rose," which I have realized that I underrated it in my original review).  "The Exorcist" has not aged well.  I've seen it twice, and both times found it silly and dull rather than spooky.  But it was at least better than "The Vatican Tapes," which is a shoo-in for my Bottom 10 list this year.

After receiving a cut on her hand, Angela (Dudley) is starting to behave strangely.  Her sunny personality is turning sour, and she's looking more and more worn out.  It isn't long before she starts hearing things and speaking in tongues.  Her hipster boyfriend Pete (Amedori) and father Roger (Scott) are worried, but unfortunately for them, the helpful priest nearby (they're everywhere in movies like this), Father Lozano (Pena), is a complete boob.  It's months before two guys from the Vatican, Vicar Imani (Hounsou) and Cardinal Bruun (Andersson) tell him that poor Angela has been possessed by the Antichrist.

In a rarity for a horror movie, particularly one with such a low budget, the acting is effective.  Olivia Dudley has genuine appeal even among all the cheese, and Dougary Scott, who lost out on the star-making role of Wolverine in the first "X-Men" movie (shooting for "Mission Impossible 2" ran longer than anticipated and he was forced to decline the role), is solid as the anxious father.  John Patrick Amedori, who was good in the thoughtful romantic comedy "TiMER," blends into the background, but he's not too bad.  The three of them have a nice rapport and believable chemistry.  The other actors aren't so lucky.  Michael Pena, an actor with significant range, is saddled with the unenviable task of playing the dumbest priest in cinema history, and Djimon Hounsou has little more than a totally pointless role.  But hey, a paycheck is a paycheck.

Unfortunately they're all caught in a screenplay that appears to have been written using a "Dial-an-Exorcism-Movie-Cliché" program.  Everything that happens in this movie has been done before, often in a better movie.  Angela looks more disheveled with each passing minute, she speaks in tongues, and spews bodily fluids at people.  And there's a lovely scene where she hypnotizes a group of people into attack themselves and each other.  Yawn...

I'm surprised that this was directed by Mark Neveldine of the writing/directing duo Neveldine/Taylor (they were responsible for the "Crank" movies and "Gamer").  They may not be known names, but they have style (even if it's totally kinetic and off-the-wall...not very appropriate for a horror movie).  But this is pedestrian filmmaking, pure and simple.

Forget Angela.  It's the movie that should have been exorcised.

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