The Vatican Tapes Blu-ray review
Opening text reads, “For two thousand years, the Vatican has investigated occurrences of unexplained evil. Since the early 1900s these cases have been captured on film and video and the evidence catalogued.” From there, it’s a montage of footage of exorcisms and interviews with experts, as well as possessed individuals screaming, hovering over their beds, contorting in painful ways.
In Vatican City, an exorcist named Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou, FURIOUS 7) approaches Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson, who appeared in the first two entries of THE MILLENNIUM TRILOGY) stating he is troubled and that “it’s time to take action.” One case in particular gets their attention. It is of a girl named Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley, PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: THE GHOST DIMENSION), who is believed to be possessed by the devil.
The story jumps to Angela’s 25th birthday party, hosted by her boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori, VH1’s HINDSIGHT) and attended by several friends and her colonel father (Dougray Scott, who appeared on the Netflix series HEMLOCK GROVE). After slicing her finger while cutting the cake, Angela starts displaying unusual behavior—losing control of her behavior, waking up convulsing, attracting ravens…
Angela’s behavior turns more erratic, which lands her in a psychiatric hospital and gets the attention of Father Oscar Lozano (Michael Peña, Marvel adaptation ANT-MAN), who knows a thing or two about the torment Angela is facing. This helps set up the inevitable exorcism, which of course will play out in the final act.
There have been a number of exorcism movies to come out in recent years, but what makes THE VATICAN TAPES work (to a degree) is that it offers a collection of scenes that are creepy without feeling forced. So many of these movies accidentally come off as goofy in how overdone they are, but THE VATICAN TAPES has a human element to it that makes it seem like there is actually something on the line (courtesy of a sympathetic turn from Dudley). Although far from being top tier for the subgenre (the exorcism vault at the Vatican is a silly addition) and featuring some lackluster performances (Andersson speaks solely in throaty whispers so we know he’s serious; Scott is downright stiff), considering all of the junk that came before it (THE LAST EXORCISM II, THE POSSESSION, etc.), THE VATICAN TAPES is actually tolerable. At times, it’s even quite effective.
THE VATICAN TAPES is the solo feature debut of Mark Neveldine, who previously collaborated with Brian Taylor on 2006’s CRANK (and its sequel), 2009’s GAMER and 2012’s GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE. Neveldine, working with a screenplay by Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin, makes a number of good decisions in the delivery, chiefly keeping the found footage (hence the title) to a minimum, allowing for the elimination of just the sort of distractions that those movies have and letting the scarier scenes seem a bit more earned.
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Details are strong throughout and the darker scenes aid the intended atmosphere.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The sound effects come through the speakers nicely to support the feel of the movie.
Audio commentary with director Mark Neveldine, cinematographer Gerardo Madrazo and actress Olivia Taylor Dudley: The trio offer a decent commentary that will be of interest to more devoted fans.
Tales of the Tapes (29:19): This featurette uses interviews (with Dudley, writers Christopher Borrelli and Michael C. Martin and more) and clips to offer an overview of the movie and its production.
Deleted Scenes (13:24): There are 10 here, which can only be viewed together.
Extended Scenes (14:38): There are five here, which can only be viewed together.