Directed by Adam Robitel from a screenplay he penned with Gavin Heffenan, The Taking of Deborah Logan starts with a treasure-trove of a premise and runs way, way off the rails. This 2014 horror movie is a found footage piece, with the gimmick of a documentary serving as the justification.
Said justification is shot to hell faster than anyone can say “burlap sack snakes” and The Taking of Deborah Logan pushes through a bundle of clichés and absurdities. There’s even mood music from Haim Mazar, which adds nothing but disruption to a genre picture couched in the unadorned perspective proffered by a passive lens.
Med student Mia (Michelle Ang) procures Gavin (Brett Gentile) and Luis (Jeremy DeCarlos) to help make a documentary about Alzheimer’s disease. The project takes them to Sarah Logan (Anne Ramsay), who offers to let the students film her mother Deborah (Jill Larson).
Deborah appears to be suffering an advanced form of Alzheimer’s, but it’s soon clear that something else is up. Footage captures her springing atop the stove. There are snakes. Windows open on their own. A switchboard comes to life. The crew films it all, while Deborah’s behaviour worsens and malevolent voices speak from the shadows and whatnot.
Larson is impressive as the sort of off-putting figure required in a show of this sort. Much of what passes for creepiness necessitates a character with an appearance that can upset small children and animals. Larson, via the magic of special effects and makeup, surely passes muster.
But there is little to work with beyond mere suggestion. Apart from a trickle of early scenes, Deborah Logan’s struggles with Alzheimer’s don’t account for much. The picture doesn’t waste a lot of time before it veers into the mystical and unplugs a whopper of a plot about demonic possession and the French.
The Taking of Deborah Logan is rather frenetic. Robitel takes a kitchen sink line, permitting tonal blasts to escort the host of jump scares and putting cameras all over a range of locations. He has characters wade through the dark for no good reason. And the snakes. Good lord, the snakes. Enough with the goddamn snakes.
The trick of Robitel’s film is similar to the thrust of Greg McLean’s The Darkness, where dark forces inflict themselves on a boy because his autistic mind leaves him vulnerable to abracadabra. Likewise, the dippy rubric of The Taking of Deborah Logan suggests that the titular character has such a délabré mind that French fiends seek her out.
Points could theoretically be granted to Ramsay, who does the best possible job given the circumstances. But the trifecta of wannabes, led by Ang’s impossibly thick Mia, adds nothing and old man Harris (Ryan Cutrona) is cursed with see-through motivations to the point that he deserves a TV to the back of the skull.
Look, neurodegenerative diseases are scary. But The Taking of Deborah Logan does nothing but use a daft phantom of Alzheimer’s disease as a cheap bridge to conventional found footage fare. It pushes peculiarity without a care for build or character or fright. And the snakes. Oh man, the snakes.