The Vatican Tapes, 2015

Lionsgate

hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments“.

Nietzsche

Of anti-climaxes and a pretty, pretty Lord of the Flies incarnate.

The Vatican Tapes stars Michael Pena and Dougray Scott, the rogue IMF agent from fifteen years ago, when things were simpler at the Head Quarters and more complex in the field. He had something to do with spreading a virus off the coast of Australia but ended up in a John Woo style hand-to-hand combat with Agent Hunt. Some mighty fight-scene that was.

Fifteen years later and the Super Villain is graying on the sides and is now a father to a twenty-five year old daughter named Angela. No one calls her Angie, her nick is Ang. However, the genre of the film demands that it be Ang and only two letters short of a German film, Angst, 1983. I am drawing parallels simply to give an idea of the hell that Angela descends into, taking with her, her precious satanic blog.

As stated earlier, Michael Pena (End of Watch, 2012) is here and he has turned to priesthood after his bloody outing in one of the places the Americans have occupied. He tells this to Angela’s dad at a chance encounter with the supervillain/Major Roger Holmes when they meet at the hospital after Ang has met with a minor accident.

Freud says there is no ‘unfall‘, and in this case so does director Mark Neveldine (Crank, 2006), who directs Tapes as if stuffing an exposed nerve during a root canal +. For instance, the flatline making an asystole noise (the lingering, continuous tone of a cardiac failure).
Just when the viewer anticipates and brings forth a past association with the Vital Signs Monitor and the sudden bump it should make, punctuating the flatline with a small mountain peak, a doctor comes forward and turns the monitor off. The suspense starts from zero even though the previous situation was not given closure but rudely turned off; rude and welcome at the same time because the damn life-saving machines would then stop producing the flat and highly maddening sound. 

Pena is close to heart and I have mentioned in my earlier write-ups that he looks best in a cop uniform. Here he dons a clerical collar buttoned to a clergy shirt and jeans and later a red, embroidered stole; the badge of the diaconal and looks perplexed in most scenes. Perhaps it is with intent, for you see Father Lozano has not witnessed something this iniquitous and diabolical, not even with The Exorcist, 1973. Speaking of which, the film borrows certain techniques from Friedkin; the superimposed face of Baal and the Whore of Babylon replacing a young girls face with that of an ancient gargoyle, among other things. 

When all hell breaks loose around the half-time mark, Angela is shifted to an asylum with a ‘marriage-wrecker’ for a psychologist, played by the foxy Kathleen Robertson (Hollywoodland, 2006). 

You lie, hisss…”

Dr. Richards
Fair Use
Courtesy Blu-ray.com

The mad-house is unable to accommodate her for reasons made evident by Neveldine and the ancient knowledge that Angela has access to, now. 

Tapes is presented to us in the conventional narrative way, with the help of surveillance cameras and camcorders stuck to walls to video document a ritual authorized by the Vatican. There is no, I repeat; no shaky-cam nonsense unless Angela goes Carrie on her dad and boyfriend and the no-bullshit Cardinal Bruun, an unsmiling and stern performance by Peter Andersson. 

I WILL TEAR YOUR TONGUE OUT YOU HARLOT DEMON.”

I would be lying if I wrote that the film does not fall for genre trappings every once in a ‘raven crashing on the bus windshield’ while, however, the film feels more sinister. It feels sinister like how numerous other such subgenre outings would make the audience feel, nothing special but what your standard, rote thriller, evil narrative can instill in the audiences’ minds, and quite loudly at that. It could be the arcane and esoteric performance by Olivia Taylor Dudley, which truly sends a shiver down the spine, especially when the filmmakers are insistent on the idea that Angela is not possessed by just any other demon, but something far more evil and prophetic. It could also be the highly potent (again, nothing special or novel, just the routine visit to the dentist, which is a pain, almost horrific, nonetheless, even if the setting and the apparatus is the same every time) visuals that Director Neveldine keeps assaulting our senses with. Or it could be that the film resonates with the prophecies of doom and the so-called elitist propaganda that youtube is filled with. Yup, I love to waste time on those videos, placating myself with the undeniable fact that everything is eventual, even bullshit.

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With innovative camera work, decent DP, wayward direction, and above-average performances and some pretty awesome high-strung moments (cut and dried), Tapes almost wins, since the scares have been already long-established even before the time Father Lozano is being trusted with a message and by the fucking anti-christ herself. 
Almost.

I was hoping that the last scene would not be the last; but Nietzsche said it a long time back: “hope is the worst of all evils, because it prolongs man’s torments“. And what do you know, the credits started rolling just when shit got serious.

This film could bring about a change in the possession genre if a third act is added to it by another team of Ghostbusters.

The Vatican Tapes is available to stream on Netflix

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