The Taking of Deborah Logan is a 2014 found footage, supernatural horror film. It was initially released on digital streaming and recently found a home on Shudder. The movie follows a group that is filming a documentary about Alzheimer’s and its impact not only on the person with the illness but those around them.
The movie starts with the crew meeting a desperate Sarah, who needs money and help with taking care of her mother, Deborah. Deborah is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and seems to be relatively healthy, all things considered. She is active and trying her best to stave off the illness. Early in the experience, however, Deborah takes a sharp decline becoming a danger to herself and the film crew. Initially, they suspect that her diagnosis was worse than thought, but the more rapidly she declines, the less her symptoms match up with someone with Alzheimer’s.
While watching Deborah fall apart, they also notice that she becomes obsessed with a man named Henri Desjardins. He had killed four young girls in the area, and it was suspected that he intended to kill a fifth before he vanished. Sarah becomes convinced that if they find out more about Henri, they can make a breakthrough with her mother.
There are a lot of twists and turns with the mystery that unfolds. The audience is watching not only Deborah’s possession but also Sarah’s desperation to uncover things. It is a compelling story, although not entirely fleshed out. There is some oddness with the pacing, with the movie speeding up in bursts then slowing down. It never really feels like it finds the right way to tell the story, jumping a bit with tone and how much or little we are given with scares and story development. (Aspects of the story might also be a bit problematic, but I don’t feel like I can really speak on that).
I also would have liked to see the Henri aspect of the story developed more. He is hardly mentioned, we get an information dump, and then it sort of just keeps going on. Because it is mostly Deborah’s story, it makes sense that we move forward without deep diving into Henri too much, but I would have liked it to be otherwise. There are a few moments that could have easily been removed (or altered) to build Henri’s story more.
There is also the problem with it being found footage. I have already mentioned in past Impressions that found footage, especially supernatural found footage, is not my favorite subgenre. The problem that I have with Deborah Logan is that it is a perfect example of a movie that did not need to be. The story could have easily unfolded without the found-footage aspect; parts of it even would have been more believable. It could also have positively impacted pacing.
I mentioned that Henri’s story wasn’t developed enough; I can see how it was hard to do with the found-footage aspect. Take that out, and you can deep dive into that aspect without hurting the narrative. Just as one for instance.
There were also way too many scenes of “let’s randomly switch the camera back and forth,” which is something often forced into found- footage movies and I could do without.
That is not to say that it never works. One of the best things that the found-footage format does is gives the filmmakers an excuse to lean into darkness, which works fantastic in this movie. There is limited lighting on many of the most intense scenes, and it plays out well for the movie and the scares.
Speaking of scares, this movie has some decent ones. Again there is a bit of a pacing issue, but overall the movie is effective at what it needs to do, scare the audience. It also has some scenes and moments that are just downright creepy and haunting.
Honestly, the biggest thing this movie has going for it is Jill Larson. Larson nails it as Deborah and delivers an amazing performance. There is a lot we see Deborah go through. She is a prim and proper lady at the start, has an almost zombie-like quality other times, goes into violent rages; we watch her run the gambit of emotions and disturbing behavior, and Larson nails it all. From start to finish, she puts everything into Deborah, and the result is that she truly shines.
For all the issues I had with the found-footage, not loving the story entirely, or the pacing, it is pretty much undone every time Larson delivers a great moment as Deborah.
So bottom line? I liked it but did not love it. There is a combination of actual weak parts of the movie and the fact that I just don’t think it was for me. Looking beyond it not being for me, it is a well-done movie, unsettling, and some effective scares. It also, again, has one of the best performances I have seen in a horror movie. I wish the story would have been a bit more solid and that they might have tried to tell the story without found-footage. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, maybe found-footage was the way to go. I would recommend it to most genre fans and would rate it pretty highly in its specific subgenre, even with wanting a little tweaking here and there.