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I was pretty pumped for THE VATICAN TAPES (watch it here), cool cat Mark Neveldine, who’s bold visual style I esteem directed it, it had a solid cast (Michael Peña, Djimon Hounsou, Dougray Scott) and I personally thought that the trailer looked promising. Alas, the film didn’t get released in my parts when it possessed the big screen so I had to wait till its Blu-ray release (get it here) to tap it. So how did it fare? Toss this one in the “could have been” folder!
Not sure what went wrong here, but before I dissect the film’s ailments, let me focus on some of its positive aspects. Personally, I loved that the story wound up being more than just a mere tale of possession (hint, hint, Revelations 13, hint, hint), the stakes were higher and they made way for a pretty badass ending (one they should have gone much further with). The cast on hand greased me right as well for the most part. Dougray Scott was intense as bleep, Djimon Hounsou always classes up the joint (although he was kind of wasted here), John Patrick Amedori owned it when onscreen, sexy/talented Kathleen Robertson got to take on one solid scene, Michael Pare shined in a small role and although uneven, Michael Peña (he looked bored at times) always makes for an affable presence.
On that, this was Olivia Taylor Dudley’s show through and through and the lass was up to the task and then some! Dudley had a lot to chew on as an actress here; she was kind, cruel, vulnerable, strong, loving and scary. She executed the role with gusto and deserved to be in a better movie. Finally, some of the imagery on hand was striking (lots of Christianity inspired stuff here), the exorcism sequence had its potent moments and the wild camera moves that Neveledine proudly put on display here gave the whole an often energetic and wild vibe! I love the man's eye! PS: The use of surveillance monitors aside, I dug that this wasn’t a found-footage affair. The project actually started off as one...phew! Enough with that crap already!
Unfortunately, something went mucho wrong with this one when it came to story structure and being that the screenplay was part of the 2009 Blacklist (a list of the best unmade scripts of that year), I got to put my money on Monkeys in suits running amuck in the editing room as to WHY that went down. While watching the film that’s EXACTLY what it felt like: a better movie that was chopped up and taped together by apes. I had to double check to see if this was a Weinstein produced picture! How else can you explain the choppy story progression, the skimming over of great ideas or the lack of capitalizing on crucial plot turns (like, I don’t know, realizing your daughter is possessed, I would have spent a beat or two on that one)? It really frustrated me.
Moreover, the film wasn’t scary for half a second and I must admit that the whole “possession – get the priest and lets the tropes run free” thing is a bit tired at this point in the game – but not a big deal– if the flick would have shook its goods rights – it wouldn’t have mattered. As-is THE VATICAN TAPES came off as half a movie i.e. a shadow of what it should have been. It pimped out lots of solid elements that were squandered off in a chop-job edit. A shame really… cause I really dug what it was truly about and where it was going...