THE VATICAN TAPES – Story Beats

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The Vatican Tapes is a good example of padding the story with fluff to get through it. There really isn’t anything original or unique here worth noting other than trying to take a lesson in what NOT to do when crafting your stories. Let’s see how they could possibly have improved upon this half baked mix tape of every other possession movie.

First off – all of the flaws here are in the writing and the lazy use of cliché and shallow one dimensional characters. The filmmaking – while nothing special – is stock for this level and budget and what you expect for this kind of horror flick. That said – nearly everything about this story feels forced and half baked if not totally ripped from other movies. If you compare this to a better movie of similar theme like Omen or Exorcist – you can easily see where Vatican Tapes falls flat. Mostly it is character and story, all stuff that costs nothing to improve.

First off – the bookend open and closings are completely useless here and serve no dramatic story points whatsoever except to set up a cheap sequel. So there is a good ten minutes of the film that have no dramatic point, no build of tension and no reason to be there other than to pad out the run time and be pretentious un-cinematic story set ups and closers.

The story is essentially about Angela becoming possessed by the Devil, dying and coming back to life as the Antichrist. So the characters of her hard ass military dad and the doofus boyfriend are fairly pointless to any of that. They are there to basically shuttle Angela around and gawk at her as confused bystanders and serve no actual dramatic story points. They provide no dramatic tension other than between each other – as protective male rivals – and that is not what this story is about – so the drama is entry level soap opera papp that becomes boring to watch and has the effect of disengaging the viewer – no matter how hard it tries to be “dramatic”. For a feature film this is lazy uninspired writing and poor character development. Every character in your movie must serve the story and behave to move the narrative forward – and these characters do not. They are reactive. Then they die as bystanders. Big whoop. We didn’t give a shit about them anyway. So who cares what happens to them.

The multiple Clergy of varying levels of power also tend to diffuse the tension. Again – why not give us ONE Priest guy who is important – flawed – has something in his life directly related to the plot of Angela becoming the Antichrist – and have these two rival stories collide in a give and take – attack and counter attack manner – so that we can get some dramatic build going on. Without that dynamic or something close to it – the whole story seems contrived and pointless hitting the same beat over and over – a series of SFX episodes that never really builds to a crescendo. Since there is no real dramatic action of significance in most of act 2 – what we get are contrived “this is what possessed people do in a movie” scenes strung together in obvious chronological order. Dramatic tension has to be built – one scene at a time – where stakes are raised and characters that we care about are forced to act – which causes reactions – which raises the stakes again – and the cycle repeats – etc… until dramatic conclusion. There are no real stakes here other than what we are told – which… who cares? Because we are not invested in the story or characters. Angela is just a cute blonde chick that blogs about Satan. Then cuts her finger – bleeds- dies, pukes out eggs, screams and then finally becomes immortal and plans to deceive people of earth with her miracles. Then end bit is the most interesting concept here – too bad it lasts all of one minute before the movie is over.

The conclusion here is that Angela wins – deus ex machina and kills the Cardinal from The Vatican using his own sacred knife – that we know nothing about – and The Antichrist is here on earth perfectly set up for a warehouse full of half baked Twilight Zone rip off sequels with characters that we don’t really give a shit about. A marketing team’s wet dream.

Since I know nothing of the filmmakers and their struggle to get this baby in the can – who can say if this was even the film they intended to make. A lot of shit happens from script to screen, and not all of it is good. Clearly they had enough to make it look and sound great in post – which is more than most people get. And the marketing team certainly knew how to polish the turd to get it released theatrically. We’re talking millions of dollars here for what amounts to a mixtape of movie cliches. But more time spent in the writing, better characters – creating dramatic tension through action – and reimagining all of the tired tropes of the genre are the things to fix in a movie like this. Not more money in post for that great third act special effects set piece. Write harder.

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Writer, director, editor, musician, teacher, blogger, lover of surfing, trashy movies, loud guitars and golf.

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