Happy Horrordays for your fang-girl, Steph! Did all the holiday cheer make you sick to your stomach with all the sugarplums dancing in your head? Let’s turn your tummy in a different way…
THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN:
Available On: Netflix
Ahh, family. Can’t live with ’em, can’t handle them if they get possessed by an evil demon. So is the dilemma that Sarah and a documentary film crew are faced with in the found-footage movie, TheTaking of Deborah Logan, released by Jeff Rice and Bryan Singer and directed by Adam Robitel.
Deborah Logan is a quiet, conservative woman who is suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. When she is approached by Mia, (played by Michelle Ang,) and her film crew, Logan and her daughter Sarah are faced with a sensitive choice; do they let this documentary in to save Deborah’s home from repossession? Or do they turn them away for the sake of privacy and pride? I bet you guess what the answer they come to is. The hard truth is that the family needs money to keep the house, and despite Deborah’s reticence the Logans decide to let the documentary in.
It becomes clear there is tension between Deborah and her daughter. In a true raditionalist, Midwestern fashion, Sarah’s life choices and sexual orientation is a note of contention between the two women. But family is family, and although Deborah is still a little reticent to have strangers in her home her and Sarah try to give them good footage and try to really translate what is happening to Logan. Not only do they let the crew in on doctor’s visits where Deborah’s quickly deteriorating state is discussed, but both women also begin to explain Logan’s background and activities before the disease took hold. Logan was the sole switchboard operator in her town, running an answering service from her house. We also meet a nearby neighbor by the name of Harris, who is extremely protective of Deborah, and becomes increasingly agitated at the filmmaker’s presences.
Disturbing events begin to noticed by crew members. Finding Deborah in vast, empty rooms staring blankly, and sitting at her old switchboard speaking in French which is later translated into talk of snakes and sacrifices of some sort. The doctor looking over her condition assures them that it is not unheard of given her condition, but it is still unnerving to those within the residence, especially when she begins to go missing in the middle of the night. It is discovered that a line on Deborah’s old switchboard begins ringing constantly, a line once belonging to a man named Desjardins who was a local doctor that disappeared after the cannibalistic ritual killings of four young girls in the community decades prior. Soon after this discovery Deborah must be hospitalized for her own good, where she begins to beg for her life to be ended. It is soon uncovered that Deborah herself ended the murders so many decades ago by rescuing the fifth and final young girl needed for the ritual Desjardins was attempting, which makes it a reasonable assumption that her rapidly degrading condition is the work of Desjardins, exacting revenge and attempting to complete his ritual from the other side. The film crew must struggle with Deborah andher possession, attempting to save both her and a young girl she becomes obsessed with at the hospital, before it is too late.
NAILS IN THE COFFIN: 8/10
Although this is a found-footage feature, it does give the genre a bit of a new vitality with a bit of a twist on the typical possession theme frequently found in such movies, a la the Paranormal Activity series. Many attempt to recreate the creeping horror of that line of films, but don’t really realize the delicate hand it takes. Although there is a little bumpy storytelling in the arc, and quite a few repeats of events regarding Deborah’s condition, what I find so fascinating about this movie is the new take on the idea of possession being mistaken for a disease. It’s been used before, of course, but it is thought- provoking to use the idea of aging, dementia and other issues like Alzheimer’s to take the spotlight in this tale, as opposed to a young child or at most a middle-aged adult.
Jill Larson and Anne Ramsay’s chemistry is very familiar to most midwestern families struggling with the advancement of society, and the performances are crisp and believable. Larson’s transformations are both heartbreaking and terrifying, and with such material it is vital to make the transitions between the two “characters” not only clear, but credible. The frail and wide-eyed Larson brings real honest and fussy nature to Deborah, as well as a strong and vicious edge to the demon within. If you are a fan of found-footage, possession, or medicine and science theories, this is a pretty inquisitive find.