Baddie – Possession, I guess.
Lesson – Alzheimer’s is pretty scary, but Alzheimer’s + Demon is scarier.
I’ve been disappointed with possession movies for a long time. The Conjuring, for example, popular with many, failed to capture my attention after a promising first half. The Quiet Ones was super disappointing. The Taking of Deborah Logan has been making noise around the interwebs as a really solid possession movie, so here we are!
Much like others in the genre, this is found-footage style, and follows a filmmaker/med student Mia who’s grant money will support Deborah and her daughter Sarah. Deborah Logan suffers from Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is already a terrifying disease. Seeing someone slip away from you little by little is very scary, particularly when it’s a parent (which I’ve talked about here and here). Sarah is clearly stressed out, and her mother’s memory coupled with the financial problems that come with it is very taxing. Their relationship as mother and daughter is strained as Sarah tries to adopt her role as caretaker and keep her mother. Deborah, in turn, is a formal lady and her Alzheimer’s is somewhat helped by tradition and rigor. The film begins with a series of interviews, which serve an excellent job of educating the audience about Alzheimer’s, and a fair representation of how daily life is affected. Jill Larson is apt at displaying the frustration and the confusion and the anger at having Alzheimer’s. Anne Ramsay, in turn, plays Sarah with the kind of defeated selflessness that everyone recognizes at least a little.
I said very pointedly in my review of Grave Encounters that if there was going to be a possession movie it really needed to build tension effectively while simultaneously building up to the climax. The Taking of Deborah Logan, to its credit, spends about fifteen minutes doing this and then launches pretty directly into the crazy. It has the same pacing things I like a lot in other movies, a roller coaster of highs and lows, but even the lows have subtlety and deftness. Director Adam Robitel is fairly new on the horror scene, but he seems to have a really solid handle on the found-footage format. He knows how to exploit the cinematography to make things look creepier than they are, when to use a tight distracting shot and when to leave things in the clear.
Sarah’s nonchalant way of dealing with her mother’s strange new habits adds to the overall tension of the film. She does something strange, and while the audience is in on it, Sarah and the crew are not, and they act like rational people in the face of the irrational. One of the things that is difficult to portray is the passage of time. Week 3 in the footage time is about half an hour of actual movie, and it’s a little difficult to process as an audience the amount of normalcy in between Deborah’s episodes. As a result, the middle of the film is kinda muddling, despite the overall successful pacing of the horror aspects, almost like a horror cruise-control. It’s still getting you somewhere, and while it’s debatably enjoyable, it’s even-keeled.
I’m totally entranced with the conclusion of this movie, and therefore with the motivation behind the possession. Since I can’t really ever impress upon you enough how dumb The Quiet Ones was, I’ll use it again to demonstrate the simple effectiveness of The Taking of Deborah Logan. Where the former selected something needlessly random to re-enforce the insane ‘twist’ trope that horror audiences occasionally require – the latter selected a quiet pretense that makes sense and is deeply unsettling at the same time. The deciding factor for me to pick this movie to watch was a .gif of one of the final scenes – it was that enticing.
Essentially, even if you think you hate possession movies, found footage movies, or any combo in between – The Taking of Deborah Logan is worth your time. As of right now, it is currently on Netflix for your consumption.