Deb Logan is a woman with Alzheimer's Disease (and some pretty advanced baldness to boot). Mia is a student attempting to finalize her doctoral thesis on the effects of Alzheimer's on the close family members that have to care for their afflicted loved ones. "The Taking" is a found footage movie that follows these two as Deborah's condition goes from bad to worse. Odds are you've seen this movie staring at you from your Netflix queue. We watched it just so that old lady would stop leering at us, and now she just haunts us from our "watch it again" list. Shit. Check out the trailer below, and read our review after the break. Plenty of SPOILERS will follow.
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Jack: The Taking of Deborah Logan. So, we actually watched this thing. Let the record reflect that I was NOT excited for this one. It’s been popping up on my Netflix queue for months and I had deftly avoided watching it due to my low expectations. That is, until some idiot decided we we should watch this thing for the site.
Mark: Yeah…. Hey… wait. Come on now. No need for name calling. It’s not like I made you watch some shitty body horror dumpster fire. I wouldn’t know anything about that. The Taking of Deborah Logan actually had the trappings of a competently made movie.
Jack: Sure. Found-footage, something something. Alzheimers, something, something. Snake-people, something, something. Nailed it. Ratings?
Mark: Dammit Jack, only you can so competently summarize a movie like this in so few words. But perhaps, maybe just this once, we should expound on it a bit for the sake of our adoring readership?
Jack: So that was a joke, but like, only kind of. I genuinely do not have a lot to say about this movie. Well that’s a lie, I do, but most of it is frothing at the mouth anger rants. So I’ll unleash that if you want, but I figure you can go read our Lazarus Effect review for much of the same.
Mark: Well, that’s what happens when you go in with a closed mind. Honestly, this movie was a decent horror movie that was competently made. It had its issues, chief among them being the pseudoscience doctoral thesis that drives the narrative of the first half of the movie, but what movie is perfect in this day and age?
Jack: Right, this is a found footage movie. One of the most important things with found footage is establishing a reason for filming. Here we’ve got a seemingly acceptable one: Mia, our (maybe) protagonist, is making a documentary for her PhD thesis. She’s even gotten some grant money to do the research. Her thesis topic? Stress is bad. Fuck. It’s so absurdly stupid. Look, I know there’s a lot of stupid PhD theses out there, but I hope and assume they don’t get any amount of grant funding. Although I guess that might just be life in Barack Obama’s America huh?
Mark: The world needs to know man. The world needs to know that Alzheimer’s disease is bad. And who are you to say that online colleges can’t give legitimate PhD degrees? There’s a pile of money surrounding medical research of all types so it’s really not that absurd a proposition. Beyond that, her rationale for filming isn’t wholly different than the motivations of the trio in The Blair Witch Project, which you’ve said is one of your favorite movies.
Jack: Regardless, Gavin, the cameraman, starts filming. Mia loses her goddamned mind on him because he has the fucking temerity to film Deborah in her garden doing something that might seem a little off. What the fuck? She screams at him because he’s doing his literal job description? She pretty much becomes untethered and her rage knows no bounds.
Mark: That’s a bit of an overstatement. The film goes out of its way to make it known that film crew is a bit of an inconvenience to the family, and that they’re only going along with things because they need a taste of that sweet, sweet grant money. Mia just doesn’t want to lose the ability to skate by on a filmed doctoral dissertation. If this falls through she’ll have to write her paper like she’s a fucking animal. It’s a modern world and you want to relegate her to a typewriter... Despite her protests he eventually starts to capture some eery shit on film. Deborah moving around weirdly fast, freaking out about a missing spade, just doing creepy shit. The first actual scare is basically just her catching the cameraman unaware as he’s trying to film her gardening.
Jack: Yeah man, the first “scare” sequence is comical. Just really not good. And then follow that up with a really lazy scene clearly just meant to up the discomfort because the screenwriters recognized the “tension” they were building was about as effective as it was on the Teletubbies. We get a super cheap squirm scare of a close up of a spinal tap. Now I’m not saying it didn’t make me squirm, because needles + spines will do that, it just felt lazy.
Mark: Unfortunately, you aren’t wrong. It is pretty blatantly just a scene to get people who don’t like needles to squirm. That’s not really a bad thing though, is it? Horror movies are chock full of that shit. To the movie’s credit a spinal tap is actually a legit technique to diagnose Alzheimer’s early so at least they’re in the right ball park. Granted they already knew she had the disease so I’m not sure what good another diagnosis does, but we can’t all have gone to Hollywood Upstairs Medical College.
Jack: So as Deborah starts to lose it fully, the doctors tell us that her Alzheimer's is getting worse, but strange things start to happen, like her teleporting on top of the stove at one point.
Mark: Okay so here’s the thing about this movie. The whole conceipt of the thing is that it’s sold as a movie about Alzheimer’s how that shit is actually scary. Dementia and sundowning are real world fears, and the movie is trying to use them to mislead you. This scene, where they see Deb teleport from the floor to the top of the stove on camera, is supposed to be the first big twist of the movie… or at least the first hint that shit ain’t what it seems to be. Honestly, you probably realized what they were doing before this point, but I still counted it as a valiant effort. The only issue is that they way belabor the point of the timecode not skipping. It’s not exposition per se, but it’s also not a particularly organic feeling exchange.
Jack: There is so fucking much in this movie that breaks the immersion. For instance, when Deborah is in the hospital, they set up a couple of cameras to watch her, and the cameras should be labeled “DR-A CAM-1” and “DR-A CAM-2,” but they screw it up and forget to change the label on one of the cuts between the cameras so the two different cameras have the same HUD label. It’s infuriating. And then there’s absurdly bad dialog. At one point, when asked if he wants to press charges against the drunk neighbor who was wandering around shooting a rifle, Gavin says “You’re damn skippy I do!” in what is undoubtedly the least natural line readings ever recorded to film.
Mark: False, Mark Wahlberg’s “What? No!” from the Happening takes that category by a mile. QED.
Jack: Alright, I’m just anger-rambling now. Which is exactly what I was trying to avoid. Frankly, I blame you, Mark. So a bunch of shit happens. Deborah goes nuts. Attacks people, kidnaps kids at the hospital, rips off her own skin, all that stuff. In the mix, we learn that a gentleman named Desjardins (which they pronounce absurdly incorrectly, but I’ll move past that), was trying to kill a bunch of virgins or whatever back in the day and now he’s possessed Deborah and she’s continuing his mission. Did I miss anything Mark?
Mark: There’s a bunch of snake imagery. They try and tie it all back into some Monacan tribal rituals that can give you immortal life. Without getting too far into the weeds of the story Deb killed the guy in order to save her daughter, who is now her caretaker. Solid mom maneuver. Real #1 Mom level stuff. I actually thought they did a pretty good job of pacing out the second act so that there’s equal parts backstory and creepy shit.
Jack: Whatever. Anyway, Deborah has taken a little girl to some nearby caves to sacrifice her. Our heroes tail her there and she turns into a snake person and starts munching on the little girl. Credit where it’s due, this scene is actually pretty cool, and spawned a gif that can be found like all over the damn internet.
Mark: Yeah, like I said. Snake imagery. If the first twist was that something more sinister than dementia was at play in the Logan household, then this is the second twist. She’s going all final form on this kid in order to steal her vigor or something. That part isn’t really explained, but it doesn’t matter because it’s goddamn shocking and creepy. If you came into this thing knowing nothing about it and expecting a documentary about mental health then you are probably in a dark place by this point in the movie.
Jack: As the final send off to this ridiculous plot they then burn Dejardins’ remains, and he leaves Deborah but possesses the little girl. Done. Phew. Spoilers, I did not like this thing. Ratings now please?
Mark: You’re reviewing this movie like a 7 year old would review broccoli. There’s a bit more to it than that, but you went ahead and prematurely shot your wad on the final twist soooo….. Ratings.
For 1 think of how Homer Simpson would rate paying his taxes this year:
And For 10, think of how Bone Saw would rate his level of readiness.
Jack: 4 - I really wanted to give it lower. The Alzheimers vs possession thing that goes off the rails into a snake person thing was actually kind of interesting. Also, the pacing was not half bad. That said, the movie sucks and a lot of that was due to the story and writing.
Mark: 6 - And I feel like I should go higher. You notice how Jack basically just said that the story was interesting and then gave it a low score without any reasoning? Yeah that basically sums it up. The story for Deb Logan is clever and surprising if you go in blind. The biggest struggle it has is explaining why the film crew comes along for the whole ride at the end.
WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:
Jack: 1 - I have rarely been less immersed in a film. It starts off poorly and only gets worse. The dialog is bad, the acting is bad, and the plot holes are plentiful. I wanted nothing more than to be doing anything else while watching this.
Mark: 5 - I'll admit that there is a bit of found footage fanboyism in this one, but to me found footage almost always boosts the immersion score. That's why I like them so much. The ludicrously minor continuity errors with camera HUDs aren't enough to take me out of it like Jack. There were moments that were pretty bad, but I was immersed when I needed to be. The biggest issue I had was that they included random splices of demonic images in between some scenes ala The Exorcist. Nice homage I suppose, but it really doesn't make sense in the context of the movie.
Jack: 3 - It’s not scary. The snake-head eating scene was awesome, and in the right movie, could have been a terrific reveal. Some of the skin pulling-off made me cringe, and the lazy spinal tap made me squirm a little. That’s all.
Mark: 5 - This one scared me more than I care to admit. Jack is just trying to come off as brave to save face. There are some pretty creepy scenes scattered throughout this thing... especially if you don't think too hard about why the police allow a film crew to follow them around on a manhunt.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):
Jack: 2 - They don’t do much and none of it’s good. The only thing they tried to do was have a CGI snake in night-vision. Bad.
Mark: 4 - Jack's right in that they don't do much. The makeup and general character design is pretty good throughout. They weren't really asked to do much, though, so it's not like they deserve a 10. The fact that the snake mouth scene at the end has been floating around the internet since release is a testament to the effects for at least that brief moment. The greatness of that scene is counterbalanced by a scene where a cg television flies off a wall mount to bean some guy. Looked terrible. There's also an establishing shot of the hospital at the beginning that literally looks like they're filming posterboard.
Jack: 2 - Don’t see this movie. It’s not bringing anything to the table. Don’t watch it. Not worth it.
Mark: 5 - Don't listen to Jack. He's only right about stuff like 15% of the time. This is not one of those times. The Taking is a solid movie to watch when you are looking for something on your Netflix queue on a slow night. Do your best not to spoil it for whoever you are watching it with and see how well the twists hit them.