‘The Vatican Tapes’ Review: To the Devil a Dodderer
I’ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is the apocalypse is coming. The good news is you’ll be too sleepy to care.
There are many horror movies that focus on the End of Days, but The Vatican Tapes is one of the very few that aren’t even as good as that Arnold Schwarzenegger movie End of Days. Say what you will about that god awful, helicopter falling, Gabriel Byrne exploding, absolute nonsense fest from 1999, but at least stuff happened in it. There was movement and noise and it didn’t spend half the movie watching the Antichrist stare into the middle distance, waiting for someone else to jumpstart the plot.
That plot, such as it is: Angela (Olivia Dudley) has no interests of her own beyond hoping that her father (Dougray Scott) and live-in boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) start getting along. Then Angela develops some medical problems and freaks out and they all get in a car crash, and then she’s in a coma for a while, and then she wakes up all spooky.
The Vatican Tapes dwells on that last part for a very, very, very long time, and does little else except foreshadow that she’s actually the Antichrist. The audience picks up on that little chestnut right away, because the prologue tells us she is. Whatever suspense might have been milked from the audience knowing more than the protagonists runs dry fast, forcing us to twiddle our thumbs for the majority of the film until Father Lozano (Michael Peña) finally puts six and six and six together and decides to do something about it.
Although The Vatican Tapes offers little in the way of terror (or dread, or boo scares, or anything even remotely horrifying), it does at least try to end on a mother of a blow out. Certainly the film’s climax won’t go down as one of the better exorcisms ever caught on camera, but there are a few creepy moments and ideas that sneak in about an hour after we all forgot to look for them.
It’s a one note movie, and it’s flat. The pacing appears to have been stolen from a funeral dirge, so that even the scenes that should theoretically frighten us play out with sullen determination. Director Mark Neveldine made a name for himself co-directing the manic entertainments Crank, Gamer and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, but he seems to have been eager to step outside his comfort zone for this, his first solo feature. Sadly, he moved too far in the opposite direction, got lost, and never found a new way to recapture our interest.
The Vatican Tapes cannot be recommended except as an insomnia medication, and considering the talent involved, that’s easily the most disturbing thing about it.