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With: Olivia Dudley, Michael Peña, Dougray Scott, John Patrick Amedori, Peter Andersson, Djimon Hounsou, Kathleen Robertson, Michael Paré
Written by: Christopher Borrelli, Michael C. Martin, based on a story by Christopher Borrelli, Chris Morgan
Directed by: Mark Neveldine
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for disturbing violent content, and some sexual references
Running Time: 91
Date: 07/24/2015

The Vatican Tapes (2015)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Unholy Smoke

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Mark Neveldine is known for his looney, kinetic cult movies (Crank, Gamer, Crank: High Voltage, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance), but his demon-possession movie, despite a shock ending, can't quite get past the limitations of a genre that peaked with The Exorcist (1973). The Vatican Tapes begins with the idea that the Vatican has recorded proof of dozens of possessions, but then settles in on a rather dull example of one particular case.

Angela (Olivia Dudley) is an ordinary girl, with a loving boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) and a loving dad (Dougray Scott). When they throw her a surprise birthday party, she couldn't be happier, until she cuts her hand with the cake knife and must go to the hospital for stitches. After, she begins acting strangely, and strange, frightening things happen around her. A crow smashes through a bus window and pecks at her wound. She deliberately crashes a car. In the hospital, other patients become frighteningly violent. A friendly priest, Father Lozano (Michael Peña) begins to suspect that demonic forces are at work, and a cardinal (Peter Andersson) from the Vatican arrives to perform an exorcism. But no one can possibly suspect the monster's true identity.

Aside from the usual plot mechanics, Neveldine — working for the first time without his creative partner Brian Taylor — throws in a few small, new ideas, like eggs appearing in the victim's mouth, but his usual, enthusiastic style is gone, replaced by a static, grayish approach. The actors appear equally stuck. Poor Scott, especially, can only repeat the same exasperated lines over and over again, though Peña brings a down-to-earth quality to the movie. The ending actually is unexpected, and may win over some horror fans, but the path to get to it is sadly worn out.

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