A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Vatican Tapes is a demon-possession horror movie. It has lots of jump-scares and spooky images, with some bloody cuts and wounds and dislocated limbs. Birds attack, and people fight with one another and try to hurt themselves (a man smashes light bulbs into his own eyes, his back to the camera). A couple kisses, and he grabs her bottom; there are also references to oral sex and to a call girl. Language is minimal, with a few exclamations and the use of "ass." Director Mark Neveldine has a cult following, which could draw in cinema-savvy teens, but the movie could also spark discussions about the danger of false idols.
What's the story?
Angela (Olivia Dudley) is an ordinary girl with a loving boyfriend (John Patrick Amedori) and a loving dad (Dougray Scott). When they throw her a surprise birthday party, she couldn't be happier -- until she cuts her hand with the cake knife and has to go to the hospital for stitches. After the incident, she starts acting strangely, and unusual, frightening things happen around her. A crow smashes through a bus window and pecks at her wound. She deliberately crashes a car. In the hospital, other patients become frighteningly violent. Friendly priest Father Lozano (Michael Pena) begins to suspect that demonic forces are at work, and a cardinal (Peter Andersson) from the Vatican arrives to perform an exorcism. But no one can possibly suspect the monster's true identity.
Is it any good?
Director Mark Neveldine is known for his loony, kinetic cult movies, but this film, despite its shock ending, can't quite get past the limitations of a genre that peaked with The Exorcist (1973). THE VATICAN TAPES begins with the idea that the Vatican has recorded proof of dozens of possessions, but then settles in on a rather dull example.
Aside from the usual plot mechanics, Neveldine -- working for the first time without his creative partner, Brian Taylor -- throws in a few small, new ideas (like eggs appearing in the victim's mouth), but his usual, enthusiastic style is gone, replaced by a static, grayish approach. The actors appear equally stuck. Poor Dougray Scott, especially, can only repeat the same exasperated lines over and over again, though Pena brings the movie a down-to-earth quality. The ending actually is unexpected, and may win over some horror fans, but the path to get there is sadly worn out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Vatican Tapes' violence. What does the movie show/not show? How does it use violence to tell its story? Do you think all of it is necessary to the storytelling? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
Is the movie scary? What's the appeal of this subgenre (demon possession) of horror films? How does it compare to other demon possession films?
According to the movie, what does it mean to worship a false idol? Does that happen in everyday life? If so, how?
- In theaters: July 24, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: October 20, 2015
- Cast: Olivia Dudley, Michael Pena, Dougray Scott
- Director: Mark Neveldine
- Studios: Lionsgate, Pantelion Films
- Genre: Horror
- Topics: Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Run time: 91 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: disturbing violent content, and some sexual references
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.