THE VATICAN TAPES *** USA 2015 Dir: Mark Neveldine. 87 mins

Comely twentysomething Catholic Olivia Taylor Dudley starts hearing voices, experiencing physical changes and shiftily lurking in maternity wards. By the point at which she is influencing strangers to gouge out their own eyes with broken lightbulbs, terrified Dad Dougray Scott brings in Iraq war veteran / man of the cloth Michael Pena to release her from the apparent Satanic possession that has hijacked her body. Although incorporating elements of the over-played found-footage possession movie (CCTV footage, Skype chats,etc.), this unfolds as a stylised, visually flamboyant, unsubtle take on the theme, as you may expect with one half of the team behind CRANK at the directing reins.
It falls back on cheap jump scares and a familiar string-based aural assault courtesy of INSIDIOUS composer Joseph Bishara, but director Neveldine’s unrestrained approach brings a welcome strain of OMEN-style creative death to the proceedings, alongside a lively extended exorcism climax involving physical contortions and multiple egg-regurgitation. Too bad the PG-13 rating restricts his usual cinematic excesses. It’s briskly paced and boosted by a fine cast: Dudley is a convincing, appealing presence as the heroine violated by the ultimate evil. Most satisfying of all, it has the courage of its convictions to leave us with a marvellously sour ending that’s very much in the black hearted spirit of the 70’s occult movie cycle from which it often borrows.

Review by Steven West

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