With those iconic words, cartoon starlet Jessica Rabbit wove her thread into the forever tapestry of pop culture. That was way back in 1988, as she defended her actions to human flatfoot Eddie Valiant in the innovative comedy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.
Fast forward nearly 30 years and horror takes a stab at the same moral quandary with the much creepier possession-flick, The Vatican Tapes. The villain is just as attractive—and, perhaps just as “innocent.”
This time, the “I’m not bad girl” is Angela Holmes (Olivia Taylor Dudley), who becomes possessed by evil forces through no fault of her own. In fact, the Vatican priests who document such cases (and vow to take up the charge to deliver her) say as much. The opening five minutes (styled more as a the now overused found-footage documentary) shows the two Holy Men, Cardinal Bruun (Peter Andersson) and Vicar Imani (Djimon Hounsou) espousing that there is no rhyme or reason for demonic possession. The Devil is much alive and well, they say, and his minions are constantly on the prowl, waiting to invade the human hosts that will best serve their needs.
True to that theory, there is no reason given as to why Angela becomes possessed. In fact, there’s relatively no lead up to her transformation from “perfectly normal” to “acting a little weird” to “trying to drown a baby, speaking Aramaic and compound fracturing her own arm to go after the priests trying to exorcise her.”
As the story begins, she’s treated to a surprise birthday party courtesy of her boyfriend, Pete (John Patrick Amedori). Pete even manages to get her oft-absent Army General Father Roger (Dougray Scott) to attend. As she’s cutting her cake, butterfingers Angela nearly slices off her finger. When she goes to the hospital to get stitched up, she meets Father Oscar Lozano (Michael Pena, who was much better utilized in End of Watch and Ant-Man), a hospital chaplain who passes her in the parking lot. Lozano, a former soldier, works up a conversation with Roger, admitting that he chose the cloth after seeing too much death in battle.
Lozano meets up with all of them again after Angela nearly kills herself and the rest of the group when she freaks out during a cab ride, grabs the wheel and plows them into a parked car. She’s admitted to the hospital and soon begins to pace the hallways, trance-like, and nearly drowns a newborn in the delivery wing. The entire incident is caught on security tape and the hospital’s psychiatrist takes note. She makes sure that Angela is kept onsite and begins to counsel her, much to Angela’s chagrin.
As her behavior continues to become more erratic, Roger insists that exorcism is the only way to bring Angela back. Cardinal Brunn takes the case; his angry-bully style coming off as nearly as evil as the demons he’s trying to defeat (as is often the case with Hollywood exorcists). Lozano joins in, but nearly comes to blows with Bruun when the elder priest threatens to kill Angela in order to thwart the evil inside her. And then she strikes back with a power, the likes of which neither of them—or the world—has ever seen before…
Though there are many better exorcism films out there, The Vatican Tapes does raise the aforementioned Kobayashi Maru-like quandary of whether we, as humans, are the architects of evil or rather, merely, its puppets. Peter warns the churches in Asia to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Luke writes that Satan himself “entered Judas,” spurring him to conspire with the Pharisees to kill Jesus (Luke 22:3). But were these writers giving the Devil too much due? Do we?
When Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness, he also responds by quoting a few pieces of scripture, but ones that recount God’s sovereignty, strength and protection. When at his weakest, when near defeat at the hands of the Tempter, instead of giving in and succumbing to the powers of darkness, he relied on God to deliver him.
But of course, he’s Jesus. It may seem like it should be a little easier for him to have faith that God will deliver him. But it shouldn’t be that way. He’s our model for living and promises that if we have faith in him, we’ll be able to do even greater works than he did.
But is faith enough? Can it stave off the evil of this world or prevent demonic possession? It can certainly better equip us to withstand the powers of darkness. But a life of prayer, worship, study, service and yes—faith—best arm against the Enemy. By setting our course on Christ, we make it harder for Satan to set stumbling blocks or lay traps. And each piece of his Holy word—his Gospel armor—adorned makes us that much stronger for the battle.
If we truly want to turn from sin, we must make the conscious effort to do so. We must take responsibility for our own mistakes, seek forgiveness for our sins and pray for strength to resist evil.
We can’t blame the Devil for all our misdeeds.
The only thing he should make us do is love Christ that much more.