I was not feeling very fulfilled with the equilibrium I had achieved after yesterday’s round of Neftlix Roulette… a zero sum can be extremely boring. Therefore, I decided to settle it by taking another spin (and, yes, I realize that if I broke even again (like yesterday) I’d still be at zero… if that happened I feel like you may have gotten as many reviews as it took for me to officially win or lose). After watching today’s movie, I think I’ll be leaving this week in the plus column. It’s not that The Taking of Deborah Logan is an amazing film… but, it does something different with the found-footage sub-genre, and that, in and of itself is enough to chalk it up as a win.
The Taking of Deborah Logan revolves around a documentary crew making a film about a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s (the titular Deborah Logan)… they soon discover that something more sinister may be going on. This movie finds a way to elevate itself above the rather banal sub-genre of found-footage horror movies. Don’t get me wrong, it falls prey to some of the most common trappings of this sub-genre (I haven’t forgotten about you Devil’s Pass or Alien Abduction (still the laziest title ever)) but all-in-all, while, not very scary, it is a very engrossing film. Its success rests on three interconnected tent poles that are all cemented in the disease slowly crippling Deborah. First, while I’ve been fortunate enough not to witness the real-life horrors of Alzheimer’s first-hand, there is a deep cultural awareness and dread of this disease. I know it has touched many of my friends’ and loved one’s lives. Therefore, this movie starts from a very real and terrifying place. It is something all of us hope never to have to battle. As a quick aside, since I (fortunately) do not have any experience with this disease, it is difficult for me to speak on how the filmmakers (the directorial debut of Adam Robitel, who co-wrote the film with Gavin Heffernan) handled the portrayal of the disease… what I can say is that it did not feel exploitive. Second, the film takes it time. At first, this may come across of tedious or boring, but it quickly turns into an engrossing ride. This is due, in large part, to the solid acting of the two main leads, Jill Larson as Deborah and Anne Ramsey as her daughter, Sarah (they are both veteran television actors who I am sure viewers will recognize (especially Anne Ramsey)). At times the movie feels more like a mystery than a traditional horror movie. You are left wonder (for nearly two-thirds of the movie) whether what is happening is simply the disease or if something else is occurring all together. This is especially interesting since many of the characters in the film are faster to jump to supernatural explanation than will most viewers. This acceptance, though, doesn’t come across as naïve or the product of sloppy writing… instead, it seems almost logical… it makes sense that the daughter would latch onto an explanation that potential provides a cure for what is happening to her mother. Finally, for the most part (just wait for it), the movie takes care to make the premise (i.e. a group of students trying to create a documentary on Alzheimer’s) believable. The first third of the movie (the set-up phase of any horror movie) feels almost completely like a documentary. There are scenes with computer animation and diagrams that explain the progression of the disease, interviews with doctors, and introductory interviews with the participants. All of these elements combine to make the viewer buy into the film more than most found-footage horror movies.
I think a good place to end on would be with a brief (at least, my version of brief) examination of one thing the filmmakers got right and one thing they got wrong in the found-footage film sub-genre. I think I’ll start with the miss in order to end on a more positive note. The only major misstep of this film is also one of the most common problems with found-footage horror movies. Specifically, they do an exceptionally subpar job of explaining why the camera is still running… this is especially disappointing considering the care the filmmakers take in the first half of the film to create a sense of realism. It’s a bit ironic; this sense of realism may actually be why this problem stands out more than it does in most found-footage films. The students are there simply to document a case of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense why they are filming certain things and why they stick around after one specific event in the film. This could have easily been taken care of with a simple discussion or debate between the students (and, yes, while this may have come across as exposition… sometimes (no matter how much I hate it) exposition is necessary)… but it never happens… so, the film feels like it goes off the rails once they are clearly investigating a paranormal case… for. no. reason. whatsoever. One thing I did appreciate though was how they dealt with getting conversations on film that most people would not allowed to be filmed. Specifically, there are several scenes that are shot from far way, from outside a window, or from around a corner. This means that many of the key plot points and developments are revealed via subtitles since the characters are too far away to heard clearly by the camera’s microphone… while this may frustrate some, I felt that it added even more realism to the film.
In the end, if you want a horror movie that is not overly scary (well, more scary in a real-life way and less so in a horror-movie way) but is very engrossing, you should check this out. Also, in a weird way, this movie may be more for people who hate found-footage horror movies than those who love it. Finally, one word of warning… if you suffer from ophidiophobia (look it up… I had to) this movie is not for you!
I’ll be back with a short post tomorrow, a weekly roundup on Sunday, and then a full post on Monday. Have a great weekend!