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The Taking of Deborah Logan DVD Review

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com The Taking of Deborah Logan

Video Debut: November 4, 2014 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Adam Robitel / Writer: Adam Robitel, Gavin Heffernan

Cast: Jill Larson (Deborah Logan), Anne Ramsay (Sarah Ramsey), Michelle Ang (Mia Hu), Brett Gentile (Gavin), Jeremy DeCarlos (Luis), Ryan Cutrona (Harris Sredl), Tonya Bludsworth (Sheriff Linda Tweed), Anne Bedian (Dr. Nazir), Randell Haynes (Dr. Ernst Schiffer), Jeffrey Woodard (Father Vitali), Julianne Elizabeth Taylor (Cara Minetti), Dave Blamy (Cara's Father), Melissa Ann Lozoff (Cara's Mother), Bo Keister (Officer Donato), Kevin A. Campbell (Henri Desjardins), Lee Spencer (Dr. Leder), Jana Allen (Reporter 1), Bruce Edward Florence (Reporter 2), David Hains (Reporter 1976), Joey Popp (News Anchor 1), Bryan Eric Hanson (News Anchor 2), Nick Madrick (Young Cop)

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen; Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98

Buy The Taking of Deborah Logan at Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

The evolution of found footage from creative device to horror subgenre has robbed the design of almost all its luster and originality. A breath of fresh air in a genre with far too few of them, found footage distinguished The Blair Witch Project in 1999, Cloverfield in 2008, and Paranormal Activity in 2009. But overuse has rendered it stale. While intrigue was surprisingly sustained through a couple of the absurdly lucrative Paranormal sequels,
found footage has gone from fueling creative juices on very limited budgets to enabling anyone to make a horror movie for next to nothing. Found footage horror doesn't need name actors, skilled craftsmen, a lot of lighting or production design, or major funding. Anyone with a camera and a skeleton crew can do it. Not everyone can do it well.

Opening text screens of The Taking of Deborah Logan elicit a groan in establishing the film's entry into the found footage subgenre. And yet, there is some early promise in the premise of grad student Mia Hu (Michelle Ang) making a documentary about how Alzheimer's affects both the afflicted and their caregivers for her Ph.D thesis. The titular Deborah Logan (Jill Larson), who describes herself as a very private person, has reservations about letting Mia and her two-man crew move into the house and film her mental lapses. But, Deborah's spinster daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsey) points out they need the grant that comes with the project in order for Deborah to keep her house.

Briefly, Taking recalls the early sequences of Blair Witch in which the student filmmakers interview Maryland residents about the local legend. Those documentary-styled scenes of that iconic 1999 hit have not been copied much, as self-documentation has moved from the domain of film students to anyone with a smart phone. Alas, Taking grows tiresome quickly. Rarely-seen cameraman Luis (Jeremy DeCarlos) sets up surveillance cameras, which are then used to capture bedtime activity in the film's most derivative and tedious bits.

Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) seems troubled by more than just Alzheimer's disease in "The Taking of Deborah Logan."

Of course, Deborah's problems go beyond Alzheimer's. Her so-called senior moments are more like uncontrollable outbursts that see her tearing off her skin, threatening the crew member (Brett Gentile) closest to comic relief, speaking in tongues, and somehow instantly teleporting from one place to another nearby. A lot of it is captured on film, but all that can be done is the woman's dosage being upped. Sarah asks a priest to perform an exorcism, but he won't.

The film makes up a whole lot of folklore to explain Deborah's erratic behavior. Suffice it to say, her unsettling predicament seems related to a child-killing pediatrician who went missing in the 1970s and her past work as a phone switchboard operator.

Horror seems to have more passionate fans than any other genre, but I just can't understand the devotion. There are so many horror movies out there and so few original ideas among them. If you were to watch even just one new horror movie a month, you'd almost certainly start experiencing déjà vu within a few months. There are only so many concepts that enter the minds of modern filmmakers wanting to frighten their viewers and unless you rarely watch the genre, the concepts and compositions noticeably blend and overlap.

Med student Mia Hu (Michelle Ang) is documenting Deborah Logan as her Ph.D thesis. Sarah Logan (Anne Ramsey) tries to ease her mother's torment.

Taking does not stir with its obvious, predictable jump scares or its loud noises of drunken gunplay and inexplicably slammed doors. Been there, done that. Its climax, which finds Deborah escaping hospital restraints to wander off with a 10-year-old leukemia patient doesn't generate much suspense or interest either. Staying with the mockumentary format with all kinds of edits doesn't make much sense. And the burned-in subtitles translating less than intelligible remarks have no understanding of the value of commas.

Perhaps we should celebrate Taking for giving its title role and top billing to a sexagenarian actress. Soap opera veteran Larson, whose biggest film credit to date came in Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island, must relish this part, one of the rare lead ones doled out to a woman of age. The character is clearly supposed to be older than the actress,
who's just 13 years older than her onscreen daughter. Though the central focus of the film, it's a physically demanding yet ultimately thankless role, which links dementia with demonic possession to minimal interest. To reach 90 minutes, Taking far outstays its welcome; staying hooked through its end is a very tall challenge most will not meet.

The feature directorial debut of Adam Robitel, who co-wrote the script with fellow burgeoning genre filmmaker Gavin Heffernan, Taking does little to excite you about its makers' prospects. And yet, the film did catch the eye of Bryan Singer, the X-Men and Usual Suspects helmer who takes a producer credit that becomes the movie's chief selling point. The backing of Singer, who overcame scandalous accusations this year by making the best X-Men movie to date, did not secure a theatrical release for Taking. Instead, it debuted on October 21st via "early EST" (that's electronic sell-through, which I couldn't tell you yesterday) before hitting DVD and VOD from Millennium Entertainment this past Tuesday, November 4th.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Found footage movies are supposed to look real, not great and Deborah Logan aspires to that with its jerky video that is capably but unremarkably presented in the DVD's 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Offered in Dolby Digital 5.1 and plain 2.0 stereo, the soundtrack doesn't really grab your notice except in the annoying peaks that are designed to jolt but never do.

Adam Robitel talks up his first film as director in the untitled making-of featurette. The main menu splits the screen between the oh so red cover art and full color clips from the film.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The DVD's main bonus feature is a short, promotional making-of featurette (3:36), which dispatches clips and cast and crew comments.

The Previews section adds Deborah Logan's trailer (2:01) to the disc-opening ones for Stonehearst Asylum, Good People, Dead Within, and Automata.

The menu plays full-color clips to the right of the creepy red cover art image.

There are no inserts, but the black keepcase is topped by a textured slipcover creating a creepy effect out of Ms. Logan's eyes.

Deborah Logan (Jill Larson) does not look pleased to be filmed with a bright light in the dark.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The Taking of Deborah Logan showed some promise for about fifteen minutes before its found footage design grew tiresome and its plot came to resemble every other horror movie out there without a creative angle to distinguish it. I will admit I have less patience for horror than those who consider themselves fans of the genre, some of whom have gotten on board with this film and contributed to its fairly decent (but far from conclusive) 6.4 average rating on IMDb. If you are a devotee who isn't ready for the found footage subgenre to be given a rest, this could be worth a look. But I can think of nearly a hundred movies from this year I would sooner recommend of the hundred or so I have seen.

Buy The Taking of Deborah Logan at Amazon.com: DVD • Instant Video

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The Last Exorcism • Cloverfield • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones • Devil's Due
The Disappearance of Alice Creed • Dead Within • Amour • The Devil Inside
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Anne Ramsay: A League of Their Own • Hawthorne: The Complete First Season

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Reviewed November 7, 2014.



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