By Brian M. Sammons
The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014). Director: Adam Robitel. Cast: Jill Larson, Anne Ramsay.
Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of Cthulhu Mythos or Lovecraftian connections to this movie. Sure, some people see HPL’s influence everywhere, and there may be some here around the edges, but nothing more than that. And yet, this movie, more than any other in recent memory, reminded me of a good game of Call of Cthulhu.
What, you don’t know what Call of Cthulhu is? Well, it’s only the best pen-and-paper role playing game ever made. As you could probably tell from its title, the game is based off the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and of those authors who followed him and continued to expand upon what is now commonly known as the Cthulhu Mythos. Unlike almost every other RPG out there, Call of Cthulhu is concerned with the story over the action. The best games are clever mysteries that have to be unraveled, bit by bit, until the players have enough information to confront the big bad whatever that’s behind the horror at the end of everything. It is in that way this first-rate, independent movie so reminded me of Call of Cthulhu.
The story behind this film is about a small group of college students looking to document a woman’s sad, slow decline into the horror of Alzheimer’s Disease. Pretty soon, the elderly woman, the titular Deborah, is showing the classic signs of someone being possessed. Now, before you write this movie off as yet another found footage possession flick, things are a lot different here and I couldn’t be happier about that.
First, there is that mystery I alluded to before. That backstory is expertly laid out during the course of the film, piece by piece. There is never any great exposition dump here. Instead, you are given clues to the mystery as the story unfolds and only at the end does everything all makes sense. This is good storytelling, folks. This is how it should be done. Sadly, few other movies take the time to do it so well.
Then there are the actors. Each and every one does an excellent job here, and the characters they are portraying are expertly written and realized. There’s not a bad performance in the bunch, but for me, the one that takes the top honors is Anne Ramsay as Deborah’s long-suffering daughter, Sarah, mostly because of the subtle way her sexuality is handled in this film. While it is never outright said, it is pretty clear that she is a lesbian, but unlike the vast majority of movies, that is not her sole, defining characteristic.
That is amazing for a “silly little horror movie.” In many oh-so-serious films, if a character is gay, then they are GAY! They are gay first and foremost above all other traits, because most films think subtlety is a dirty word. Either that, or they want you to be sure that you notice how liberal and open-minded they are for having a homosexual character in their film. Oh, bravo, well done, and oh-so-brave! Here, Sarah Logan is a real person with worries, fears and flaws, who just so happens to be a lesbian. While this is a little thing overall, it’s just one example of how this movie gets everything right.
As for the rest of the story, I’m going to leave that to you to discover. This is absolutely one of those films where the less you know about it before you see it, the better. Just know that I thoroughly enjoyed it, but hey, I can tell you all that in the Final Verdict below.
Final Verdict: while the Cthulhu Mythos is mostly absent here, this is a damn good movie, able to stand shoulder to shoulder with any film regardless of label. I wish more horror films were made this well; then maybe my favorite genre wouldn’t still be seen as a cinematic ghetto. The story has a wonderfully measured pace, a great mystery with occult overtones (Shades of Angel Heart came to me when I watched this movie, in regards to how it handled the supernatural, and that’s a very good thing in my book), and believable characters I actually cared about. Yeah, that’s something else many modern films (especially horror movies) seem to forget, but that’s a rant for another day. It grabbed my attention from the start and didn’t let go until the very end, which actually had a scene in it that made me say out loud, “What the hell?” A bigger compliment I could not give this movie. If you have yet to see The Taking of Deborah Logan, do so at once. If you live in North America, it is now on Netflix. Watch it.