The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014)
★★ / ★★★★
Deep inside “The Taking of Deborah Logan,” written by Adam Robitel and Gavin Heffernan, is a good film—possibly even a great one—but delivering upon its full potential is severely limited by its choice of storytelling: through the lens of a faux-documentary.
The so-called scares, many of which are jump scares, are plagued with viciously abrupt cuts and edits. Instead of allowing our minds to absorb the eerie and sometimes downright horrifying images, we are alienated and wonder why the filmmakers do not have the confidence to linger on their hard work and creativity, whether it be in terms of cosmetics or computer graphic images. Due to such a lame-brained approach, the work often turns into another forgettable horror film where the camera shakes hard and plenty of screaming is heard in the background.
It begins promisingly as a Ph.D. student (Michelle Ang) and two of her friends (Brett Gentile, Jeremy DeCarlos) begin to film the role of Alzheimer’s Disease in Deborah’s daily life. Jill Larson plays Deborah with such authenticity, we are curious to know more about her not just in terms of her dementia but also who she is a person. Equally watchable is Anne Ramsay, playing Deborah’s only daughter who struggles to watch her mother succumbing to a progressive disease. It is clear that the story has a dramatic core.
The more time spent in the massive home situated right next to the woods, more mysteries are unearthed. Sometimes literally. As her condition worsens, Deborah begins to dig holes in the backyard in the middle of the night. Her paintings hint of a dark figure observing from a distance. Then objects begin to move on their own. Tragic events of the past such as the murder of four girls who were believed to have been involved in human sacrifice move front and center. An anthropologist talks about his experience with a tribe and how a witch doctor has cured a woman’s foreign affliction.
The screenplay is teeming with ideas, but very few are explored in meaningful ways. Instead, priority appears to be on scenes where a noise is heard from upstairs or another room and the camera follows. The scare attempts are cheap in that the thrill is reduced to us considering the possibility of what’s possibly right around the corner. The thesis project is supposed to be led by the Ph.D. student but we never get a feel of her intelligence or knack for investigation. We never even feel that she is a curious person.
Directed by Adam Robitel, “The Taking of Deborah Logan,” though it certainly has its moments, is not a completely effective horror film because, although not afraid to touch upon disparate ideas, it is afraid to explore them deeply and thoroughly. It begins as a scientific investigation of a cunning disease of the mind, but the writing does not play as craftily with the audience. Horror films, in general, must assume we are up for anything.