Director Mark Neveldine is most commonly known for his choppy, twitchy action flicks like Crank and Gamer. When he dipped his toe in horror with the Ghost Rider sequel, he decided the water was a good temperature and dove in with The Vatican Tapes. And the result was a mixed bag that eventually fell short of what Neveldine's style could offer.
The Vatican Tapes follows Angela (Olivia Dudley) as she is possessed by an evil spirit. Her boyfriend (John Amedori) and father (Dougray Scott) get the help of a couple of priests (Michael Pena, Djimon Hounsou) to try and exorcise the demon. What ensues is your conventional possession film that doesn't stray too far from the usual tropes.
Neveldine's filming style is present throughout the film, but it doesn't particularly fit the script. Neveldine tends to be a bit more fast-paced and likes sharp, jagged camera movements and quick cuts. That isn't exactly the norm for a slow-burning possession film. And while I think introducing a different perspective on an aging craft could have been interesting, instead the two conflicted because the plot and cinematography was uneven and inconsistent. Neveldine seemed to get fidgety and wanted to apply his usual style, but in random and unnecessary moments, so he ended up hurting the film rather than helping it.
The acting was mediocre at best. Pena and Hounsou, who are traditionally underrated, felt uninspired. Dudley had her moments of creepiness as the possessed girl, but then seemed awkwardly out of place when she was "normal". And the boyfriend and father were neverminds.
The plot was riddled with the usual material and delivered its "twist" in the climax with a lack of significant emotion or impact. You never felt connected or driven to the conclusion. It just happens. And you go along with it, like Pena and Hounsou.