The Taking of Deborah Logan ReviewJoe Shaffer
We sometimes make much ado about originality. If a film is unoriginal and we don't like it, we call it a "genre exercise" and burn it down. I've done that plenty of times. During such occasions, we forget that there have been plenty of unoriginal movies we've enjoyed, and might have even praised them for playing to their genres' tropes. All I'm trying to say is that treading familiar ground is neither inherently a positive nor ill device. Rather, what matters is how old concepts are executed.
In that respect, The Taking of Deborah Logan succeeds by--wait for it--playing to its subgenre's tropes. It's a possession flick with plenty of concepts lifted from The Exorcist and a found-footage affair with copious nods to Paranormal Activity and The Blair Witch Project. On the whole, though, I wouldn't compare it to those movies because it arranges its elements well enough to stand on its own. That's why I recommend it.
The Taking begins in more or less typical fashion. Here we have a college film crew working on an Alzheimer's documentary, with the lives of sufferer Deborah Logan and her daughter/caretaker Sarah serving as their focus. As the film advances, Deborah's Alzheimer's becomes more aggressive and we see her slowly fading from a lucid mother to a victim of dementia. It's a perfect angle for a horror film of this type, as it allows the audience to see Deborah and Sarah at their best, only to break both of the characters. It's hard not to respect Sarah or feel a pang of grief as Deborah slowly succumbs to the disease, particularly when we see how hard Sarah works to take care of her mother. Debroah as well comes off as a the sort of kind elderly woman you'd want as a neighbor. Unfortunately, this being a horror movie, you know things don't resolve the way the audience would want them to...
Deborah becomes self-destructive and prone to hallucinations. Worse than that are the references to something even graver in her presence. Before long, her actions begin to defy reason or physics. We see her levitate onto a counter and seemingly move through walls or at unbelievable speeds. That's when another entity begins to act through her, and revelations start to bleed out that put not only Deborah, but those around her in peril, especially children...
Sadly, prior to these revelations and after the expository, we're treated to a bit of a narrative trudge. By this point, the movie has established that something supernatural has a hold of Deborah Logan, yet the movie stalls for a decent chunk of its running time. It dishes out some scares here and there, but by this point it's getting repetitive. You might say, "Yeah, we get it. She's possessed. Can we discover anything new about her possession?" Info trickles out, but not enough to satisfy you. Then finally the movie hits a critical point, and from there it's pace shifts to "balls to the wall."
When The Taking goes all out, we discover something very uplifting about the movie: there are very few weak characters. Yeah, there's one guy who packs up his junk and drives away because he wants nothing to do with Deborah Logan or the being haunting her, but his companions and the others frequently coming to Deborah's aid are aggressive go-getters who want to free Deborah from her shackles. Whenever they make a new discovery, they swallow their obvious trepidation and try to do right by Deborah, whether it means digging up an obviously cursed corpse, punching a viper in the face, or slipping into an abandoned mine in the middle of the night to battle the antagonist head-on. It's refreshing to see a cast of horror characters who isn't comprised of a bunch of screaming, spineless soon-to-be-victims.
Finally, you're probably wondering something that I should have addressed in an earlier paragraph: is The Taking scary? Personally, I'm not one to get easily freaked out by a movie like this, but I will say it was very tense. There are more than a few scenes where Deborah disappears and the characters search for her in the darkness of her home or out in the midnight-blackened woods. You see demonic manifestations appear amidst the white noise of the camera, perfectly setting the mood for the occasion. Then everything comes to a head and we find Deborah mindlessly switching phone lines (as she did as a phone operator in her younger years), scratching bits of flesh off her arms or throat, staring at the camera with a look of absolute disgust, or even roaring into the lens with a voice obviously not hers.
None of this is new material, but it's no less effective. The Taking of Deborah Logan is a terrific blend of grisly, heart-wrenching, visceral, and downright spooky material featuring a likable cast. It may not be the best of its category, but it's definitely leagues ahead of its subgenre's contemporary additions.
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