The ‘found footage’ horror film “The Taking of Deborah Logan” takes a questionable premise and quickly finds ways to make it even more regrettable.
In this space, I have previously confessed my guilty-pleasure weakness for this style of herky-jerky, “cam-corder in hell” horror film. It’s got a visceral immediacy I find appealing, and it’s an effective way to bolster limited-budget special effects or spotty story-telling. Numerous times, it’s seemed that this trope has been played out, only for some smart-aleck to give it new life with a fresh spin or a twisty intelligence.
But I think I’ve finally been cured of that particular jones. And I’ve got “Deborah Logan” to thank for it. Originally titled “The Taking” in its theatrical release, the story-telling here is SO spotty, the narrative revelations so clumsy and forced that no combination of “what’s over there?” whip pans, clattering off-screen sound effects and tooth-rattling jogger-cam footage can cover it.
Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) is an elderly woman afflicted with the early stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Under financial strain, her daughter and caretaker Sarah makes a deal– a young filmmaker named Mia (Michelle Ang) will film Deborah as the subject for her PhD thesis film on the disease’s progression (how a grad student thesis film is going to magically pay their mortage is never revealed). Along with her two-man crew Luis and Gavin (Jeremy DeCarlos and Brett Gentile), Mia moves in with the two women and begins filming, but events soon spiral into something much darker and terrifying, including revelations about a past multiple murder and the disappearance of the mysterious suspect.
Some viewers may not find this as problematic as I did, but the use of the truly tragic condition of Alzheimer’s as stepping off point for a mediocre genre exercise left a greasy, exploitive taste in my mouth. With that guilty cinder block in tow, even the few things in “Deborah Logan” that work felt more like apologies than narrative progress. This congealed funk, like a two-day old Carl’s Jr., is only heightened by some unappealing supporting performances, a stretch of lazy exposition wedged in like a door stop, and by the mis-guided, unnecessary pieces of faux-documentary footage intended to represent Mia’s PhD strategy.
One of the things that does work is a brave performance by Larson in the lead role, one that is worthy of something a little more rigorous. A long-time fixture on daytime soap operas, fans of Larson’s work on “All My Children” will be startled by her vanity-free transformations here. More startling still is watching her character’s attempt to swallow a small child like a snake. Won’t see THAT on “As The World Turns.”
The DVD of “The Taking of Deborah Logan” is 16×9 full screen. The transfer is adequate for a DVD, despite the deliberate limitations of its found footage style. There are options for English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
The audio track is presented in 5.1 Surround, and works quite well, with the expected levels of atmospheric background noise and jumpy, gotcha sound cues. There are no audio set-up options.
a brief, nothing special making-of featurette
Working a from a shaky, morally questionable premise, “The Taking of Deborah Logan” jerks and shudders its way through a scaly story of snake-skin possession, almost burying a great lead performance by Jill Larson along the way.