I am one of the biggest complainers about horror on Netflix streaming. It’s always a struggle to find something to watch that isn’t an Asylum flick or some SyFy bad-on-purpose movie. That’s why I was so excited to see 2014’s The Taking of Deborah Logan.
The story follows a documentary film crew–Mia (Michelle Ang), Gavin (Brett Gentile), and Luis (Jeremy DeCarlos)–and their subject, Deborah Logan (Jill Larson from Shutter Island and All My Children), an older woman with the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
Deborah is resistant to filming but her daughter, Sarah (Anne Ramsay) wants the film to be made, since they’re going to lose their house.
Things seem pretty normal as they film but events escalate fairly quickly including Deborah’s odd behavior, making it clear that there are forces beyond just mental illness at play here.
What I really liked about this movie were the strong female characters. Deborah Logan is a formidable woman, someone I don’t always agree with but I still find interesting. Her physical transformation as she increasingly loses her mind is intense and Jill Larson’s performance is amazing. Sarah is just as formidable but in a different way from her mother. And Mia clearly has her own agenda amid the chaos of the increasingly supernatural events.
What makes the movie work is that the house is its own character. It’s huge, impressive, and on the edge of some pretty creepy woods.
As Luis says, in my favorite quote from the movie, “White people and their basements and their fucking attics.” This house has three creepy attics. You can see how this house could be a kind of portal to something evil, especially with Deborah’s abandoned switchboard in one of those attics.
The movie packs some great scares. Aside from the possibility of possession and ghosts, there’s some serious body horror here including an intense spinal tap. It reminded me of The Exorcist when Regan is undergoing all the psychiatric procedures. It just strikes you as unfair and evil that anyone would have to undergo that.
The movie is filmed like a documentary but it uses minimal shaky camera. It’s kind of Blair Witch-lite without all the nausea. The security footage is used to good effect, letting the viewers see the paranormal activity but without the huge boring sections like <a href="Paranormal Activity. It’s easy to scare people if you get them bored enough and then add a jump scare, it’s harder to build up tension like this movie does.
My only complaint is the ending. It felt overdone. It’s set in these really spooky caves and has a very The Descent feeling. That is scary enough but the director pushes it too far. Plus, maybe because I’m a seasoned fan, but I could see where they were going within the last twenty minutes. I wish there had been more restraint.
That being said, it’s still an interesting and scary ghost/possession mash-up. The Babadook got a lot of positive buzz in 2014 but it’s a shame I didn’t hear more talk about this movie.