The antichrist is a woman. This might sound like a belief held by misogynist men's rights activists, but it's also the thesis of the religious horror flick The Vatican Tapes, and a rather clumsily, haphazardly executed one at that. An entry into the demonic possession horror sub-genre, The Exorcist this is not — it's the shoddy, worn-down VHS replica.
Directed by Mark Neveldine, formerly of rollerblading directing duo Neveldine and Taylor (the Crank auteurs), the film is a dark and dingy affair. It's rife with low Dutch angles and skittering pixels; rapid handheld camera work mimics the speed of an otherworldly being in hot pursuit.
Because the film borrows heavily from The Exorcist and The Omen, it begs the unkind comparison to these classics. There's none of the creeping dread of those films, the parental desperation, the true sense of last resort that leads to the exorcism. Distressingly, Vatican Tapes is not the least bit scary.
The possessed in question, the lovely Angela, does some creepy things, but every act of violence is telegraphed from miles away, and there's no suspense or tension hanging in the air.
While The Exorcist exploited collective subconscious anxieties about the female body in pubescent transition, and the violation of innocence, that subtext is lost with a grown woman. It's translated into something far more sinister and disturbing, as a group of older men seeks to drive the devil from her body by any means necessary. One has to wonder why demons are so interested in defiling nubile female bodies. In actuality, it's the filmmakers who cling to this construct without attempting to introduce anything new into the conversation.