W(12A) ITH SPECTRE on the landscape, only the bravest of distributors was prepared to take on the might of James Bond this week. But if the latest 007 is sold out, there’s The Vatican Tapes.
Signature Entertainment, which was founded four years ago by Marc Goldberg, has been brave enough to go up against Bond and provide the horror-fix for Halloween. Age has withered my love of scary movies as 21st-century horror is too bloody for my taste, but Mark Neveldine’s The Vatican Tapes is old school.
Fusing The Exorcist (1973) and Stigmata (1999) with the video evidence construct of The Blair Witch Project and Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, this is horror for audiences who can’t stomach gore, but still like to hide behind a popcorn carton. And you will soon after Angela (Olivia Taylor Dudley) slices her finger cutting a birthday cake and then gets bitten by a loose raven on a bus. Such is the abstract nature of demonic possession that it can strike anywhere and these incidents lead to horrible changes in Angela’s personality. Her boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) and military father Roger (Dougray Scott) can only stand by and watch as the girl they love grows insatiably thirsty, blacks out suddenly and starts to look terrible.
But when Angela goes to hospital and tries to kill a baby, it’s time for the kindly priest (Michael Pena) to take charge along with a far more intimidating Vatican-based Cardinal (Peter Andersson) who knows more than he should about Satan. Olivia Taylor Dudley, who looks like an Arquette sister, is excellent as the possessed girl, relying entirely on facial expressions to convey the demonic force within and her own personal terror. Granted the theme is not original, but the ending is smart and, much like Bond, the devil has enduring appeal at the cinema.