For a found footage horror movie, this one isn’t bad. It has some delightful jump scares, some fun use of the format, and a great central performance. If you’re looking for a solid jolt or two, this is a good choice.
Full disclosure, I don’t like found footage. I avoid it in most cases. It’s supposed to feel more real and immediate, but it typically ends up coming off forced and hokey. The artificiality of the medium usually overpowers any authenticity the film is striving for. That said, I have enjoyed a couple of found footage horror movies immensely. I’m happy to add this one to that list.
Released in 2014, The Taking of Deborah Logan follows a documentary film crew as they attempt to make a movie about Deborah Logan, a woman with Alzheimer’s disease, played by superbly by Jill Larson. However, as their time with Deborah goes on, the crew begins to realize that something more sinister is going on under the surface. They uncover secrets from Deborah’s past and possibly something evil lurking within.
We’re going to start with the positives. Jill Larson. She is astounding. She plays a severe elderly woman who is slowly succumbing to a horrible disease. The moments when her memory slips away from her and she struggles against those around her are truly fantastic. She brings a real strength yet also a vulnerability to these moments that is utterly convincing. She is also brilliant in the big horror moments. She contorts her body and writhes in such a way that you’d believe she was possessed for real. To top off this great performance, she has a dead eyed stare that is truly chilling every time she looks over her shoulder and into the camera. It’s fantastic.
The movie is full of jump scares. So far this month, I’ve talked jump scares down quite a bit. They are not inherently bad. They can and often are used brilliantly. However, most of the time, they are just a cheap scare trying to bolster a bad movie. Here they are done very nicely, and they play into the found footage format. There is a scene in which the camera man enters a room. It’s very creepy. We think he’s alone in the room, then he sees Deborah, then another character speaks. We jump. We didn’t know that other person was in the room with the camera man. It works really well. It’s well crafted and utilizes found footage the way it’s supposed to be used. It’s not what we see, but what we don’t see that is the most frightening. This is often just frustrating and annoying, but here it pays off well.
That said, this doesn’t feel real. It feels so artificial because they’re trying so hard to make it feel real. Every found footage movie has the same problem. Why are you still recording????? What person in their right mind would continue filming during the situations these characters find themselves in? It’s just silly to think that in a life or death situation a person would step back and get a good shot. This movie does this throughout. From quiet conversations that no one would film, to big scary moments that no one would film, the movie is full of silly moments like this.
The other big problem is how many cameras this micro-budget film crew has. They have multiple documentary cameras, plus hidden static cameras to monitor every corner of the house, plus a night vision cam to record Deborah while she sleeps. Why would a tiny budget documentary crew have these cameras? Why would they set them up? If you’re making a documentary about a person’s journey with Alzheimer’s why would you record them while they’re sleeping? This is also a problem in certain scenes where they apparently put up three or four cameras in a hospital room to monitor Deborah when she goes to the hospital. As the scene progressed and they kept cutting to new angles it just felt absurd. How many camera’s do they need in there? Is the hospital okay with that many cameras in a patient’s room? When did they set all those up? How did they know they’d need all those angles? Questions like these pulled me right out of the reality of the movie.
I’m going to end on a positive note, there are some truly disturbing images here. There are some horrific moments that play out in very understated ways to chilling effect. When the movie is focused on Deborah, it really rocks. When it ventures off into found footage cliches it feels super tedious. Luckily there is enough good to really outweigh the bad. I enjoyed it quite a bit in the end in spite of my complaints with the genre.
A bit of a mixed review, but it is my cup of tea. B