A visceral terror struck from possession and the terrible scourge of Alzheimer’s disease
The Taking of Deborah Logan is horror of a different stripe. Director Adam Robitel has fashioned a creepy found-footage film out of the terrible problems suffered by Alzheimer’s disease victims. The debilitating disease’s reality is frightening enough as families and caregivers have to cope with loved ones slowly losing their memories and mental faculties. The Taking of Deborah Logan is a strange beast of a film, because it takes that dreaded reality and mixes it with a terrifying case of possession. The result is certainly disturbing, one of the more unique ideas introduced in a genre with limited creativity. Right when the audience gets comfortable thinking the found-footage film is going to be a rote examination of Alzheimer’s disease, it hits you over the head and goes in a wildly different, darker direction.
The entire movie is purportedly footage taken from a documentary made by medical student Mia Medina (Michelle Ang). If The Taking of Deborah Logan does one thing, it unerringly sticks with that narrative device so common to the found-footage genre. Mia is doing her PhD thesis film on Alzheimer’s disease and wants to document its entire progression in a patient. For several months, Mia and a small production crew record the life of Deborah Logan (Jill Larson, known for her role on All My Children). The elderly Deborah lives in rural Exuma, Virginia and beginning to experience the early throes of Alzheimer’s disease. Her adult daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsay) has come home to help take of her mother during the filming of this medical documentary.
It is at Sarah’s behest that the documentary is getting made about her mother. Deborah raised Sarah as a widowed mother by herself, with a job as a private switchboard operator. Deborah has refused to sell the house in her old age, so bills are mounting up. The stipend from the documentary will pay off her medical expenses. During this sluggishly paced first act, I wondered if this movie was really a horror film. The first act is a sober examination of living with Alzheimer’s disease, possibly dwelling too long on the harsh truths involved with the disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, pointed out in the film. Currently there are only treatments to stave off its progression. The serious tone in the beginning feels a little out of place for what ends up being a pure scarefest.
Bizarre stuff starts happening around the confused Deborah as her daughter and the documentary crew keep an eye on the elderly woman. Things are captured on their video feed that may not be physically possible, which begins to freak them out. The movie plays a fine line between whether these events are caused by paranormal explanations, or whether the stress of looking over Deborah for two months has started affecting their mental state. Sarah resorts to alcohol as a way to cope with Deborah’s deterioration. Her case happens to be very aggressive and medical treatments don’t seem to be helping her condition. Deborah repeatedly tries to claw herself, almost ripping out her own throat. Harris, Deborah’s closest friend, warns Sarah the documentary is putting too much stress on the woman.
The narrative takes a huge change in tone when a decades-old mystery comes to light that may involve Deborah’s past. It is a turning point in which The Taking of Deborah Logan becomes much more easily classified as a truly scary film. What had been a slow documentary covering Alzheimer’s disease turns into a dark, eerie film about possession. Director Adam Robitel skillfully handles the transition. Horror fans will welcome the increased pacing as it leads to a chilling, unforgettable ending.
The Taking of Deborah Logan is unusual in its pacing, almost feeling like two different movies welded together. There are some fear-inducing scenes, including a shocking visual near the end. Jill Larson plays a woman suffering from Alzheimer’s disease with magnificent poise. When her character starts acting more unusual as the story develops, the veteran actress becomes the centerpiece of the entire movie, turning in a first-rate horror performance that is effectively creepy. This is one found-footage movie that actually works without resorting to cheap camera tricks and sketchy cinematography.
The 90-minute movie is rated R for disturbing violent content, language and brief nudity.
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.