If you say the term ‘found-footage’ when discussing a movie from the horror genre, the chances are that you might just groan in utter despair at the prospect of yet another film where, even in the midst of supernatural occurrences or people dying left right and center, someone is still holding a camera (even to the detriment of their own safety) and filming events.
Or you may silently jump for joy at the prospect of a shaky camera keeping you constantly off balance and heightening the scares whilst you see things through an almost voyeur perspective as both the story and scares slowly build and build until the final frightening act.
If you are in the latter segment, then THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN is firmly for you.
In the vein of similar films in the ‘found footage’ horror sub-genre like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, the audience is taken on a journey through the lens of a camera as a woman with a mother suffering from dementia agrees to let a group of medical students film their daily struggles in return for some much needed financial support.
Heading the group of medical students is Mia Medina played by tribe alumni Michelle Ang. Michelle pretty much nails what she is given to work with in the role, including even a small portion of character development. Mia first appears as a student just out to get a great grade for her project, regardless of anything else, but as the film goes on, you can see that she genuinely cares for both Sarah and her mother and tries to support them through the bizarre experiences which begin to occur.
The progression of the story is actually really good for a horror film, and really plays to the slow build up of scares. The strange occurrences sprinkled throughout the opening acts are all initially attributed to Deborah’s rapidly progressing dementia, but gradually, we begin to witness more and more instances arise which simply can not be hand-waved away. The usual scares – doors slamming shut, a figure suddenly appearing behind someone, and demonic screams – are all present, but the supernatural elements are downplayed until the film takes a sharp demonic turn.
We learn that, years before, during a string of unsolved murders, Deborah killed a doctor who was dabbling in the occult before he could complete a ritual to become immortal. With Deborah’s mental capacity weakened due to her dementia, this has now allowed the murderer to attempt to seize control of her body and complete his ritual. Why exactly he needs to do this (since he has been dead already for years and seems to be immortal already) is left unexplained, however, the final moment of the film hints that perhaps it was simply to secure a new physical body rather than the immortality itself.
In any event, the scares begin to ramp up in quick succession as Deborah’s daughter Sarah, along with Mia, begin to realise that this isn’t dementia that they are dealing with, and they soon learn the backstory of events. Sarah herself is an interesting character, a ‘tomboy’ lesbian who is in a relationship with a local female cop. We see how she has had to put her life on hold in order to support her mother, and her struggles in coping with the entire situation. There are hints that her mother seems to know, but chooses to ignore, her sexuality. It’s subtle and crafted quite well – Sarah’s sexuality is a part of her character but not her character, which is something that so many pieces of media can get wrong.
The film eventually comes to a close with Sarah and Mia managing to stop Deborah – including a simply brilliant scene where a demonic Deborah attempts to swallow a young girl like a snake! – and burning the remains of the doctor in order to stop him for good. (Though of course there is that final scene that I mentioned earlier which casts doubt on this).