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Chris Kavan's Movie Reviews (3248)

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The Vatican Tapes 
They Say Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Soul
2.5/4 stars

If you've seen on exorcism movies, you've seen them all (unless it's The Exorcist - which still has no peer). The Vatican Tapes has a few things going for it that distinguishes itself from the herd and makes it rise slightly above the typical exorcism tropes. One, it has a good cast balance between newcomers and established actors that works, for the most part. Two, it uses aspects of found footage (like security cameras and taped interviews) but doesn't over-rely on them and thus doesn't feel like a burden. Three, while most of the film follows a prescribed route, I really liked the ending (unlike, say, Devil Inside where the ending was the worst part). Taken together, The Vatican Tapes may not break any new ground, but it does at least rise above the standard to provide a decent night of horror.

The film stars as many do - a young woman, following a series of strange events, seems to possessed by a demonic spirit. As played by relative newcomer Olivia Taylor Dudley, Angela manifest powers, including the ability to make people do terrible things to themselves. But her change is noticed, local priest Father Lozano (Michael Peña) gets in contact with the Vatican authorities, who, of course, have a secret division that deals with this kind of thing. Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) is assigned by Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) to handle things. Meanwhile, the most important people in Angela's life, her father (Dougray Scott) and boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) can only watch and hope the church can save her.

There is plenty you have seen before - things moving on their own power, bones that don't bend the right way, weird voices, holy water that burns - you know, your standard possession tropes. Lucky for us that Taylor Dudley is really into the role - she really throws herself into the role, both at innocent victim and spawn of Satan. Andersson is likewise good as the seasoned cardinal and his battle is quite fascinating to watch. The only questionable choice is Peña. I'm so used to seeing him a comedic second-fiddle, it's just strange to see him so serious (and an ex-marine to boot). Hounsou adds gravatis in what amounts to a pretty small role while supporting cast Kathleen Robertson and Michael Paré turn in small but important turns as a psychologist and detective respectively.

While most of the film follows the standard possession route, I do have to say the ending was a welcome change. Films either leave you hanging or wrap things up too nicely. The Vatican Tapes doesn't take the easy way out and presents a somewhat chilling ending - maybe a bit overdramatic, but still, I really liked it. Even the credits were pretty awesome. That made up for the somewhat predictable nature of the rest of the film. The Vatican Tapes may not change the way you see possession or exorcism movies, but it is still worth checking out for fans of horror.


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