The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) Movie Review – 31 Days of Halloween
What starts as a poignant medical documentary about Deborah Logan's descent into Alzheimer's disease and her daughter's struggles as caregiver degenerates into a maddening portrayal of dementia at its most frightening, as hair-raising events begin to plague the family and crew and an unspeakable malevolence threatens to tear the very fabric of sanity from them all.
It’s the 16th of October and we are past the half way point of our K-O-Ween 31 Days of Halloween feature. We are checking out another supernatural found footage today in Adam Robitel’s The Taking of Deborah Logan. We often harp on about movies featuring metaphorical monsters on this site. A good example being the similarly themed Relic that also focuses on a sufferer of Alzheimer’s. But The Taking of Deborah Logan takes that formula and turns it on its head into something altogether more sinister.
This is Robitel’s first feature length movie. He would go on to direct Insidious: The Last Key a few years later followed up by the Escape Room series. Robitel teamed up with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension writer Gavin Heffernan to pen the story and script. And the result is a movie that gained wide spread popularity a number of years ago and a fair amount of critical acclaim. Except Dread Central.. Dread Central hated it.
A Touching Topic
Following the story of an elderly woman called Deborah Logan who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and group of students making a documentary about the condition. The movie sees our students spend an extended period of time living alongside, and filming, her as her condition becomes increasingly worse. As the bizarre incidents and strange behaviour begin to build up. It is clear that there may be something else at hand causing the issues here.
Like the aforementioned Australian horror movie Relic. The Taking of Deborah Logan is, for much of its length, a touching exploration into the realities of living with somebody who suffers from Alzheimer’s. As well as the tragic struggles that the sufferer themselves faces each and every day. Deborah Logan is a person who is extremely keen on manners and properness. The continual forgetfulness and strange behaviour that she is now exhibiting is deeply at odds with her typical personality.
For the first 30 minutes or so, this is a movie that seems to be squarely focused in reality. We see Deborah living her life and the complications she experiences. We see her daughter’s turmoil as she attempts to help her and the problems the pair have financially. It’s not exactly mundane as it is a genuinely interesting presentation of life with a serious illness. But the horror seems to be far away at this point.
Effective Possession Horror
But things are fairly quick to change. The odd behaviour starts becoming increasingly aggressive and everything is turned up to extremes. The movie goes from a slow, methodical, story about someone suffering an illness. To a full blown supernatural horror in a matter of minutes. Naturally this is going to throw some people off base. The change is quite sudden and a bit jarring. But once the horror gets going the movie has some genuinely tense moments.
Naturally, some people are probably wondering whether The Taking of Deborah Logan was real or based on a true story? And the answer to that, thankfully, is no but its depiction of the effects of Alzheimer’s are frighteningly accurate. The movie could be, I suppose, classed as something of a mockumentary.
It’s fast paced and takes place in a number of different locations which helps to keep things fresh. And the story is ever developing adding layer upon layer of exposition to push things along at a consistent pace. Sure, Robitel doesn’t exactly do anything particularly new with the old possession formula. But what is here does work rather well. This is one of those movies that is almost a palette cleanser after watching a bunch of slower movies or classics. It’s just high energy horror that never really stops and never asks too much of the viewer.
Not a Perfect Movie
There is a distinct Hollywood Horror feeling to The Taking of Deborah Logan. Meaning you should expect some of the more recent trends in horror to rear their ugly heads. There are a lot of jump scares here and the volume disparity is used often to shock the viewer. While the movie isn’t particularly gory. It can be quite rough in parts. The continually frenetic pace makes for some horrendously obnoxious camera work, as well. With shaky cam everywhere and constant zooming in and out of the shot like a 90’s video game console commercial.
It’s pretty awful in parts and the last 15 minutes or so can be a bit of a chore for how silly they look. I would argue that this is a relic of this era of Found Footage. Zoom ins and fast moving shots used to illustrated chaos are all well and good. But they are massively overused here and when you combine that with the constant screaming, it’s a bit frustrating. My fiancee always points out how dark the movie is, as well. Nobody in this house ever even gives an iota of thought to switching on a light and it is very annoying.
Some Excellent Body Horror
You may be wondering how scary is The Taking of Deborah Logan? And I would say the answer to that is actually surprisingly scary. It mixes up a few different elements to keep the scares going and most of them are pretty effective. Some of the body horror here more than makes up for the jump scares and overall cheapness of some of the presentation.
Some of the most violent scenes in The Taking of Deborah Logan, where Deborah rips at her skin, are positively wince inducing and Jill Larson’s slender physique only adds to this. Deborah feels frail and this makes you really buy in to the horror of what is happening to her. Some dodgy effects later on deserve pointing out for how silly they are. But this is a movie that manages some decent tension.
Although I complained about the overuse of darkness. Some of the scenes that take place in attics and out in the woods are seriously effective. The claustrophobic view of the camera keeps you guessing as to just what is lurking outside of shot and you are always waiting for the next scare. It’s done really well and I was a particularly big fan of the slow build towards things getting weird. It doesn’t just happen, it is subtle and develops gradually.
Acting is strong throughout. I loved seeing Michelle Ang. She played Lori in Aussie soap opera Neighbours so I remember seeing her on television a lot years ago. She does great here and is a legitimately fantastic actor. She is also doing some producing and directing now, I believe, which is pretty awesome. Jill Larson is brilliant as Deborah. She is utterly believable as a prim and proper elderly lady but equally effective in later parts of the movie where she manages to be simply terrifying. Anne Ramsay is equally as convincing as Deborah’s daughter Sarah and really does a great job relating her character’s fear and terror in the later parts of the movie.
Camera work, as mentioned above, will piss a few people off. It’s just so chaotic and the continual zooming in and out of shots is obnoxious. Found Footage is divisive as it is and this is no exception. The Taking of Deborah Logan is a bit of a strange movie in a lot of ways. It looks like it is Hollywood’s take on found footage. It uses all of the same tricks of this type of horror and then applies extra flavouring and spice to the typically bland handheld camera format. I am not sure whether it works all that well to be honest. The vast majority of the movie doesn’t use these techniques, however. They are reserved for the last act.
Final Thoughts and Score
I don’t want to confuse anyone into thinking this is one of my all time favourite movies. It really isn’t. I am including it as something a little different and something a little more frenetic to break things up. If you are looking for some fantastic performances, some great scares, a decent story and some brilliant body horror. You could do a lot worse than The Taking of Deborah Logan. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch but it’s an easy watch and something that would please a lot of people as a sleepover horror. ]