Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Film Review: The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)

Copyright: Millennium Entertainment
There is a hint of great filmmaking in the Taking of Deborah Logan, but only when it is observed as a whole. During the film itself, many tropes and plot devices of the horror genre are there. In the movie, there are CCTV cameras that menacingly swivel around while we wait for things to jump into the frame, or analogue telephone switchboards that seem to be present in the film only so some kind of unearthly entity could make a call to it.

But, in spite of them, the film is actually very savvy when it comes to the choice of what should and shouldn’t be exploited in it. Primarily, unlike most found footage horrors, it knows when and who to land a very deep-rooted fright, even though it manages to do it only once in full force and does it right before it ends (which is for me one of the creepiest, did-I-just-saw-that moments in recent horror films).

The Taking of Deborah Logan opens with Sarah, the daughter of the elderly Deborah Logan, who welcomes a documentary film crew into their home. The crew is led by Mia, who desires to focus on Deborah as a sufferer of Alzheimer's disease, which is the main topic of their documentary. The crew sets up in their family house, and starts to film Deborah, who very soon begins to exhibit strange behavior that isn’t explainable by her medical condition.

Adam Robitel, who directed this film as his debut, and even wrote it along with the Gavin Heffernan, very smoothly combined the idea of a scary natural thing (the illness) and then added a layer of supernatural terror to it. This all came to life on the screen because Jill Larson managed to transform into Deborah. There is not much time to set up Deborah as a character, but Larson succeeded in making her terrifying by her sheer physical presence, the way she exchanges looks with other people and other similar non-verbal moments.

These elements really absolve the idea of the found footage genre, because Larson really excels in talking directly to the camera, even if she is just staring at it. This produces an atmosphere of tension and the feeling that something just isn’t right (which works both for her terrible illness and the possibility of her being taken over by something much worse). It is also important to note that, unlike Devil’s Due and similar films which desperately try to seem very modern in their found footage approach, this movie takes its shots steadily and slowly, at least until the very end.

As a film about getting old and getting different in a bad way, The Taking of Deborah Logan is a horror that offers a slow but steady breeze that smells of something new and fresh.