Synopsis: An elderly woman battling Alzheimer’s disease agrees to let a film crew document her condition, but what they discover is something far more sinister going on.
Stars: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang, Brett Gentile, Jeremy DeCarlos
Director: Adam Robitel
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (8.5/10)
Where to Watch: Netflix (but only until October 21!)
Review: In my younger days when I worked at Mr. Movies, my wise old manager would put his feet up in the backroom, light up his pipe, and tell me all I needed to know about the home video rental business. His first lesson was about box covers. “Joe, I tell ya, a movie can be total garbage but if it has a good box cover we won’t be able to keep it on the shelf.” And he was right. Plenty of movies would arrive every week with cleverly designed covers that seemed to have more thought put into them than the movies themselves. With the days of store rentals long gone (RIP Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Video Update, Mr. Movies, Good Neighbor Video, etc) and the selections available for consumption reaching overwhelming proportions, a good cover still has a way to entice you to at least give something a shot.
Which brings me to The Taking of Deborah Logan. I remember seeing it’s striking cover image on the Netflix homepage and putting it in my queue right away but it took me several months to give it a go and only after I had noticed the star rating stayed overwhelmingly high. On Netflix, it’s rare for horror films to ever eek above 3 stars and that’s really only for the true genre classics. So on a crisp fall Sunday morning in 2015 I fired it up with every intention of giving it a good fifteen minute college try before I switched to another episode of Friends. 90 minutes later, I was genuinely spooked.
I mention the year I watched this because it should tell you how, 12 months later, the movie has stuck with me…no small feat considering the volume of films I take in each year. No, The Taking of Deborah Logan is that rare diamond in the rough (queue), that genre unicorn, that once in a blue moon kinda film…one that’s actually delivers on its promise to scare you and scare you good.
Skeptical on the outset because it was another entry in a long dreary line of “found footage” horror films, this one is far above average not only in quality but in story and performance. What begins as a documentary on an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s (Jill Larson) and the way her downward spiral affects her daughter (Anne Ramsay, A League of Their Own) turns into something quite unexpected that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling. Where it winds up is something not even the most seasoned horror aficionado would be able to easily predict and director Adam Robitel (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) packs the film with enough twists, turns, and solid jump-out-of-your-seat moments to make this one something to seek out.
Robitel has cast the film well (mountains of kudos to Larson for her brave and bold work) and set much of it in the daytime so you can easily track what’s going on. When it does descend into darkness (literally) it’s never hard to follow the action and those that get motion sickness from handheld camera work can proceed with ease because the shakiness is kept to a minimum. Robitel and co-screenwriter Gavin Heffernan have taken the time to think through their finale and not just set it up to be one big scare after another. That would have lessened the overall effect so instead of slow-burning their way through 80 minutes for a small 10 minute pay-off, the film is peppered with jolts that actually propel the action forward (and propel you to hide further under your blanket) instead of introducing a scare for the hell of it. This is a smart film…a smart horror film. How often does that happen>?
If The Taking of Deborah Logan had found its way to the shelves of my Mr. Movies store, I know it would have been a hot item…not just because the artwork catches your eye but because the film itself is equally as striking. It should be high on the list of anyone that likes a convincing narrative and knockout performances to go with their scares.