Posted on January 20, 2016

The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) Review

Gwen

2014   |   R   |   90min   |   Director: Adam Robitel   |   Writers: Adam Robitel & Gavin Heffernan   |   USA

Grade: A+

Synopsis: While working on a PhD dissertation regarding Alzheimer’s, a student and her camera crew document the long term effects of the disease on one woman. During the course of filming, the family and the crew come to discover that the degenerative disease is not the only thing wearing away Deborah Logan’s body.

Review: A smart and tense film that will keep even the seasoned horror fan on the edge of her seat!

The Nuts & Bolts: I cannot help but begin this review by stating that this was by far one of the best horror films I have seen in recent history. The Taking of Deborah Logan maintained a high level of suspense without relying on the usual tropes. The acting was stellar, especially from Jill Larson (Deborah), and Anne Ramsay (Sarah). The writing and directing was innovative and well executed. Overall The Taking of Deborah Logan will appeal to fans of a damn good story as well as fans, more specifically, of the sub-genres of found footage, ritualistic horror, possession, serial killers, as well as suspense. One might ask, how does this film incorporate such schizophrenic themes? To that, I answer…”very effectively.”

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Anyone who says that horror films don’t offer meaningful social commentary has not seen this film. The Taking of Deborah Logan addresses the horrors of degenerative disease. In doing so, it raises awareness of the terrifying effects disease has on the mind, the body, and the family without exploiting the disease or mischaracterizing it as a one dimensional plot line (as the 2015 film The Visit does). The Taking of Deborah Logan meaningfully incorporates disease in a way that shows the desperate choices individuals and their family members make when faced with their own mortality. During the course of her study of Deborah Logan, the PhD student Mia (Ang) posits that “The story of Alzheimer’s is never about one person…this insidious disease not only destroys the patient but has a physiological effect on the primary caregiver.” The horrors and heroism of being a caregiver are not to be taken lightly. Films such as Pet Sematary (1989) and Would You Rather (2012) have touched on the subject, but not nearly as directly as this film.

The Taking of Deborah Logan is a narrative dominated by women. Jill Larson (Deborah) and Anne Ramsay (Sarah) are both pillars of strength who have overcome adversity and bonded together despite their differences. They are not sexually objectified nor cast solely to thwart a menacing, masculine monster. In fact, they fight a more nebulous and indiscriminate killer that manifests through the disease. I find it important that a film about disease incorporates strong female roles, as quite often women take on the duty of caregiver.[i] Caretaking is not unique to women, but the way that horror film portrays their roles within the family is hardly positive across the board. Refusing broader trends within horror, which portray women as monstrous mothers or demonic children, The Taking of Deborah Logan recasts mothers and daughters as human. In this case, the mother has successfully raised her child and we see the caregiving torch get passed to the successor (Sarah). Women not only care for their children; they often become caregivers for their own parents as they age.[ii]

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The impeccable writing of Adam Robitel and Gavin Heffernan brings in a new take on female spectatorship and the Final Girl. Most students of horror are familiar with Carol J. Clover’s concept of the Final Girl.[iii] Considering Clover as a starting point, Sarah shares a history with the killer and helps drive the investigating consciousness of the film (with the help of female PhD student Mia), but she is no longer the sexless, genderless, “girl.” Sarah is a woman, and a strong one at that. She is in a relationship, she makes decisions, she has an overtly female name and appearance, and she does not have to become “masculinized” for the purpose of male viewer identification. This new, clearly female Final Girl advances leaps and bounds in challenging the dominant male gaze as well as serving to privilege a growing female spectatorship in horror.

Horror scholarship aside, The Taking of Debora Logan is a smart film that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Your mind will stay on high alert fruitlessly trying to anticipate the next scare or the next plot twist. Even when the film ends…it continues in your head. There are no weak characters, there are rich narrative twists, and everyone came prepared to “stave off” the formless horrors encompassed within The Taking of Deborah Logan.

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[i] Here is a compelling article on women caregivers https://www.caregiver.org/women-and-caregiving-facts-and-figures . It is further supported here: http://www.apa.org/pi/about/publications/caregivers/faq/statistics.aspx

[ii] The idea of being a female caregiver tending to children and elder parents has been called “The Sandwich Generation” http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2006/09/art1full.pdf It does not apply to this film as Sarah does not have children, but it illuminates the unique circumstances of many female caregivers.

[iii] Here is a quick wiki reference to the Final Girl for those who may not have read Clover’s book Men Women & Chainsaws https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Final_girl

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