Reviewed by: Gabriel Mohler
|Featuring:||Michael Peña … Father Lozano
Dougray Scott … Roger Holmes
Kathleen Robertson … Dr. Richards
Djimon Hounsou … Vicar Imani
John Patrick Amedori … Pete
Olivia Taylor Dudley (Olivia Dudley) … Angela
Michael Paré … Det. Harris
Tehmina Sunny … Reporter
Daniel Bernhardt … Psych Ward Security
Cas Anvar … Dr. Fahti
Noemi Gonzalez … Maria
|Director:||Mark Neveldine—“Crank” (2006), “Crank: High Voltage” (2009)|
This is easily the most thought-provoking horror movie I’ve ever seen. The worthwhile elements of appropriate horror movies are usually things like teamwork, overcoming fear, discernment, and sometimes self-sacrifice. And there are elements of most of those things in this film, as well as some very good thrills. But the ending, which abruptly leaves us hanging, is very spiritually sobering.
Angela is a young, pretty girl. She’s a nice girl, too, and she has a nice family. Her dad gives her a surprise birthday party, but unfortunately, she has to go to the hospital in the middle of it, because she cut herself with a knife. Things become more chaotic—and unnatural—from there. After all else fails, her father calls an exorcist. But this is no ordinary possession, and none of the exorcists have any idea what they’re really up against.
This film almost combines found footage with regular cinema. There are lots of scenes shown from handheld cameras, but most of the film avoids the shaky found footage style. Many secular reviews complained that this movie was slow and clichéd. It does move at a slow pace, but isn’t too bad at keeping attention. At first, it may seem very unoriginal, but just wait. It has one of the most original endings in the history of exorcism movies. Some of the scares are clichéd, but most movies that contain them are inappropriate—this is one of the few films where Christians can experience these thrills.
Of course, there is some violence, but it doesn’t push the PG-13 limits. Angela’s nasty cut is shown bleeding, and demons sometimes move objects or people around, crashing them. There’s also a car crash, and Angela pops some bones out of joint while possessed. The most violent scene is when a man gets light bulbs smashed into his eyes. This is shown from behind, and there is some blood shown on the bulbs, but his bloody face is never shown. We see him again later, and his eyes are fine.
There are very infrequent uses of d**n, h*ll, and God’s name in vain. There are also one or two sexual references. But both the language and sexual content are minimal.
Some of the practices performed by the exorcists will naturally be questioned, since not all Christians agree on everything. There is not as much doctrinally questionable content as there was in “The Exorcism of Emily Rose,” but still, like that movie, I would only recommend it to Christians who have become mature in the faith. Some things are more questionable than others, but also remember that the film is about how demons deceive, and twisting doctrine is one of Satan’s most powerful tools.
Many horror movies give the message that evil forces are inescapable and will always win in the end. But this movie’s ending aligns with Scripture. It reminds us to think about the end times. The antichrist will have many victories, but it will only be a matter of time before God destroys the evil forces.
Even horror movies with Christian themes are often filled with profanity and approving references to sexual immorality. But not this one! Though it does have some flaws, “The Vatican Tapes” is refreshing just because it doesn’t do those things. But it’s also more worthwhile than most horror movies, and, in fact, one of the most worthwhile of any movies this year. The ending leaves it open for a sequel; I hope it happens, and I hope it’s done as well as this.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Mild to Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Minor to Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…Ms. Dudley works up an expressive arsenal of gestural detail and shades of mood that are worth watching amid the film’s rigmarole of satanic possession. …the ending at least is gratifyingly grandiose…
—Nicolas Rapold, The New York Times
…a slapdash of exorcist-movie cliches dressed up as a cautionary tale about the Big “D” slouching toward Bethlehem waiting to be born. …[1/5]
—Steve Davis, The Austin Chronicle
…its opting for a cliffhanger ending cheapens what has preceded it, but does offer genre-based promise should there be a follow-up. …2½/4
—Clayton Dillard, Slant magazine
…The film from director Mark Neveldine is so over the top that one can’t help but imagine how the Wayans brothers might lampoon it…
—Martin Tsai, Los Angeles Times
…a silly, shrieky and eminently watchable exorcism thriller… never becomes anything more than straight-up Catholic exploitation, pure and unapologetic. …
—Justin Chang, Variety
…Somebody needs to exorcize this film from theaters…
—Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter