The Taking of Deborah Logan
Directed by: Adam Robitol
It goes without saying that I detest "found footage" films. I hate them. After Oren Peli re-ignited the sub-genre back in 2007 with the vomit-inducing Paranormal Activity, it seems every wannabe director used this concept as a way of breaking into the business and exploiting a concept to death. They're not all terrible though. While a good 95% of them just flat out suck, there are a few gems in the crowd that help you forget that most of these films are simply made because they are cheap to produce, and pretty much anyone can direct them since running around with a camera and spinning it back and forth as much as possible doesn't require any real talent. The Taking of Deborah Logan is an excellent example of doing a "found footage" film right, and bless them for that.
I had never heard of this film before, until a reviewer I follow mentioned how great it was around the same time it premiered for streaming on Netlix. Needless to say, that night we had our sights set on what to watch and The Taking of Deborah Logan did not disappoint.
A team of students decide to chronicle a woman who seems to be suffering from Alzheimer's as part of a study for their school. Though reluctant, the woman agrees and soon things become much worse for everyone involved as it seems that Alzheimer's may not be the culprit after all, but rather something much, much worse.
What I loved about this film is that while most found footage filmmakers (I use that term loosely) think they know what it takes to make a low-budget film successful, writer/director/editor Adam Robitel does. Having worked with Bryan Singer for a number of years, he knows exactly what it takes to build tension and suspense, and none of that involves throwing the camera around like you're high on crack. Using a variety of different techniques to tell the story such as video footage, surveillance footage and news reports, he effortlessly blends them all together to tell a compelling and cohesive story that slowly builds itself to a stunning climax. Sure, a lot of what you see in here you've seen before, but I can guarantee you that there's also a lot that you haven't, and for that, TToDL takes a few large leaps above average in this sub-genre.
I feel that I need to mention, and I can't stress this enough, that the BEST thing about this film is it's lead, Jill Larson, who plays the titular Deborah Logan. Her psychological and physical descent, all with the power of acting, is breathtaking. Watching her take on a transformation with no help of special effects or CGI is nothing short of astonishing. Had Larson not been the lead in this, I seriously doubt that the events of the film, and the film in general, would or could have been as effective or successful. She was fantastic and I'm sure anyone who's seen this will agree with me.
Found Footage is an easy type of film to make. So much so that we get at least half a dozen new ones every year. The problem is that most of them aren't successful just because you think you can pick up a home video camera and record some crazy shit and try to "jump scare" us. Thankfully TToDL and it's team does everything right and knows exactly what it takes to tell a story, build tension, offer outstanding performances, and delivers the goods in an otherwise severely saturated field. *Hint: It doesn't involve running around with a camera and making us nauseous. I'm not going to go out on a limb and say this film reinvents the wheel or anything, but for a solid, well-made low-budget horror film with outstanding qualities both in front of and behind the camera, it doesn't get any better than this.