Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Disturbing Violent Content, Language and brief Nudity
Directed by: Adam Robitel
Written by: Adam Robitel & Gavin Heffernan
Starring: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Ryan Cutrona & Anne Bedian
Last October saw a huge influx of demonic possession films. There was INNER DEMONS (a rehab reality show takes a satanic twist), ASMODEXIA (a Spanish possession flick), THE DAMNED, GRACE: THE POSSESSION (a first-person possession flick), and THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING (the only one that I actually bothered to review last year). One of these included THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, a film that I had heard some positive word-of-mouth for and never actually got around to watching. Seeing as this is the perfect time of year for horror, I decided to give this handheld possession flick a shot. Seeing as this is a demonic possession movie and a found footage flick, I tried to leave my preconceived notions at the door. That being said, I found DEBORAH LOGAN is be an eerie little film that starts off well and ends with a bang, but gets bogged down in convoluted storytelling midway through.
A documentary crew set out to make a film about Alzheimer’s disease. The subject of their movie is the reluctant, but polite Deborah Logan. This elderly woman has lived an interesting life and is rapidly falling victim to her debilitating disease. As her condition worsens, the documentary crew begin to pick up odd pieces of footage that reveal this might be more than your average case of Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t exactly take a genius to figure out that something is terribly wrong with Deborah and the ensuing mystery will take our documentary crew into dark, disturbing places.
THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN opens like any other found footage movie. However, the key difference here is that there’s clear motivation given as to why the characters are filming to begin with and why there’s automatically tension sprung between Deborah and the crew. The first third of the movie builds things nicely, meaning that we see some freaky imagery as Deborah’s condition begins to get supernatural. Deborah, played by Jill Larson in a bold performance, is an interesting and intimidating old woman. Her age doesn’t make her any less freaky as she displays potential evil hiding under her nice old lady mask. This comes to fruition in an ending that’s interesting, in spite of all the exposition leading up to it, and delivers one nightmarish image that I won’t soon get out of my head.
Seeing as this is a found footage movie, the usual clichés are expected and we do get an annoying amount of shaky cam and static. Honestly, the static annoyed me far more than the shaky-cam. It felt like it compromised a few potentially intense scenes. The director/co-writer also makes the decision to incorporate numerous pieces of outside footage that aren’t being shot by our documentary crew. These come in pieces of a documentary, security camera recordings, and a news broadcast that took me out of the two-camera narrative. While a style of multiple found footage sources may have worked for other films (e.g. THE BAY), it has also been an annoyance to single-camera narratives that didn’t need this sort of distraction (ala CHRONICLE). DEBORAH LOGAN’s biggest problem comes from getting weighed down in its own story that tries to be too complex. There are good ideas here, but the movie keeps delivering big pieces of exposition that feel cheap. It doesn’t help that every character who isn’t Deborah Logan comes off a bit bland.
Overall, THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN is definitely better than your average found footage possession flick (of which there are entirely too many). That doesn’t make it a great film, but there’s some fun to be had here. I appreciated the compelling set-up in the first third and felt that the movie really lost its way before getting to a memorable finale that sports a crazy, horrifying scene. I wish the entire movie had been as scary as its conclusion, then this truly might have been something great. Instead, this is a cool, better-than-expected handheld horror flick. As far as possession thrills from last October go, I actually prefer THE POSSESSION OF MICHAEL KING to this.