Directed By: Adam Robitel
Starring: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay, Michelle Ang
Line from this film: "The story of Alzheimers is never about one person"
Trivia: Filmmaker Bryan Singer was one of the producers of this film
For those who don’t believe a sweet little old lady can scare the bejesus out of you, I point you in the direction of Adam Robitel’s 2014 found footage horror film The Taking of Deborah Logan. This movie is creepy with a capital “C”.
Medical student Mia (Michelle Ang) is putting together a video thesis that will study the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s, and for a subject, she’s chosen Deborah Logan (Jill Larson), an elderly woman recently diagnosed with the disease. Along with her cameraman Luis (Jeremy DeCarlos) and sound engineer Gavin (Brett Gentile), Mia spends the next several months as a frequent guest at the Logan household, befriending Deborah’s only child Sarah (Anne Ramsay), who’s happy to assist. But during the course of their research, it becomes apparent that Deborah’s illness is progressing rapidly. What’s more, she’s exhibiting symptoms that suggest she may be the victim of a demonic possession. With the doctors at a loss to explain what’s going on, Sarah and Mia look into other methods to deal with Deborah’s bizarre behavior, all the while wondering who, or what, has grabbed hold of her psyche.
The Taking of Deborah Logan gets off to a deceptively quiet start, with Mia and her film crew setting up tiny cameras around the house as the kindly, somewhat meek Deborah looks on. At first unsure of whether or not she wants to go through with the interviews, Sarah reminds Deborah that they need the money (Mia has promised them a portion of her grant), or else they’re going to lose the house. Those scenes in which Deborah shows the effects of Alzheimer’s will definitely rattle you (at one point, she accuses Gavin of stealing her gardening spade, screaming and yelling at him in the kitchen before Sarah finally is able to calm her down), but are simply a precursor of what’s to come.
There are hints scattered throughout the movie that suggest something more sinister is at play, including the various pictures Deborah paints, all of which contain a shadowy figure lurking just outside the windows of her home. In addition, the cameras occasionally capture Deborah sleepwalking, during which she mysteriously teleports onto the top of her kitchen stove and even makes her way into the backyard, frantically digging holes as if she were looking for something. Then, one night, Deborah strips off her clothes and sits down at the telephone switchboard in her attic (years earlier, she operated the switchboard out of her home, handling calls and taking messages for many of the town’s prestigious citizens). From there, The Taking of Deborah Logan takes a few turns that are absolutely terrifying.
The cast is exceptional (especially Jill Larson as the title character, whose changing personality sets the entire story in motion), and while the movie itself doesn’t bring anything new to the table (like most found footage, there’s plenty of surveillance video, a whole lot of shaky cam, and, sometimes, no good reason why the cameras are still rolling), The Taking of Deborah Logan does utilize the sub-genre’s conventions to relate what amounts to a very frightening tale.