The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)



There are those who think the whole found footage/hand held trend in horror films has run its course. For the most part I agree with them. Not because the idea of found footage/hand held can't be scary. But my biggest gripe with the genre is the constant and ridiculous ways film makers are forcing what could be effective "straight" horror films into the sub-genre. How many times can one of the cast members just happen to be video taping something when scary shit happens? Why would they keep filming while their friends die? Personally, it really takes me out of the "reality" of the situation when it makes no sense for a camera there. Forcing found footage/hand held into a non-found footage/hand held situation is what is killing the movement.

However, there are times when the use of hand held shooting devices that result in the found footage
feel can be still extremely effective. Using the "documentary" angle not only lets the film sit in the meaty part of the "found footage" curve. But, more importantly in my book, give a reason for the fucking cameras to be there in the first place! Now, this plot device doesn't always work. Ti West used in his disappointing film The Sacrament (review HERE), a film that relied way too much on the source material and far too little on inspired narrative. Conversely, The Taking of Deborah Logan elevates the "found footage/documentary" to a level not seen since it' infant state with The Blair Witch Project. Yes, it's that good....and yes, Blair Witch was scary. I know it's become the cool, hipster, thing to deny that Blair Witch was any good, but the folks that say that are idiots. Sorry, I digress...

What The Taking of Deborah Logan (I know the title is far too long) does is, much like all really effective horror films do, is take something rooted in real life fear, in this case Alzheimers disease, and turn it on its head. In doing so it realizes a level of realistic fear that most films can't even come close to. But rather than staying true to it's straight documentary roots, The Taking of Deborah Logan turns everything on it's ear and becomes something much more sinister than a film documenting the horrors of Alzheimer disease.

Briefly, the plot centers around a university student, Mia and her crew, who are filming Deborah Logan and her decent into the madness that is Alzheimers. They are guided through the experience by Deborahs daughter, Sarah, who invites the crew in with mixed emotions. She is not too enthused about the project, but needs the grant money to save her mothers house. As Deborahs condition begins to worsen, certain peculiar things start to happen. Things that cannot be attributed to Deborahs condition and can only explained through much more nefarious means.

Co-Written and directed by Adam Robitel, who you might remember as Lester from the 2001 Maniacs series, ...Deborah Logan feels different from 90 percent of the other types of independent "reality based" horror films. Adam and co-writer Gavin Heffernan craft a story that, unlike a lot of these types of films, isn't just a bunch of actors waiting for shadows to scare them or floors to creak. Instead the actors are actually given things to do. These are well written, meaty, roles. Roles created by actors.

Of course that means shit of you don't cast people who can handle the weight of the material. Luckily ...Deborah Logan has great acting in spades. I mentioned it on Twitter, but it bears repeating here, I watch a lot of independent films and simply put, the performances in The Taking of Deborah Logan are some of the best I've seen in a very long time. You know Ann Ramsay from 'Mad About You' - but what she does here as Deborahs daughter Sarah will make you forget Paul Reiser ever existed. But the real star of the the film is Deborah herself, Jill Larson. The veteran film and television star puts on a virtual acting clinic. She's empathetical and terrifying. She's sad and powerful. You're scared to death of her, but all you can think of doing is saving her. It's her performance that stays with you, buried in your brain for days after you see the film.

A bit of hyperbole? Yes. But for a film that most folks are just starting to take notice of now that it's on Netflix, it's warranted. The Taking of Deborah Logan is simply one of the best straight horror films that I've seen, not just this year, but in a long time. It's chocked full of wonderful performances, deftly directed, and extremely well written, but most of all it's fucking terrifying.

**** stars out of *****

That's it for me. As always, thanks for reading and "enjoy every sandwich."

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