It’s ironic that found footage, an overdone gimmick technique of late, is still being used by filmmakers to try to make their horror pictures stand out from the crowd. It’s so common now that, when I watch one, I scrutinise whether or not it needed to be one at all, how plausible it would be (e.g., to keep filming) and if it might have been scarier as a traditionally-shot film.
The Taking of Deborah Logan didn’t need to be found-footage. Just because one of the characters is filming something, doesn’t mean we have to see the entire film through their lens. We could honestly have just cut to their lens’s POV and gotten a scare delivered that way.
The titular Deborah (a brilliantly intense Jill Larson) is a elderly woman with Alzheimer’s and early-onset dementia; her daughter Sarah (Anne Ramsay) is her sole carer but is struggling to keep up with her mother’s mortgage payments, and so agrees to let student Mia (Michelle Ang) and her two-man crew film the progression of Deborah’s condition for her PhD thesis.
So far, so good, but when Deborah starts exhibiting some horrifyingly disturbing behaviour (levitating onto kitchen counters, ripping off her own skin, threatening camera crew with a knife), nobody stops filming to commit her to somewhere with proper care and instead continue to film her increasingly self-damaging episodes.
The pacing is a bit awful; there were moments I thought that time had gone backwards. The scares are shamelessly repetitive: Deborah goes missing, the crew film their search for her in the dark; they find her facing a wall in silence; they get closer; she whips around, screams, lurches for someone and then tears or scratches at her own skin. Ad nauseum.
There are one or two genuinely creepy moments (hats off to the SFX team), but by and large, the ‘harmless old lady with unpredictable dementia’ trope would be parlayed into some more effective horror courtesy of The Visit. And with much better use of found footage.