Horror Movie News and Reviews

A Conversation with The Taking of Deborah Logan Director Adam Robitel

Last week, I turned on Netflix and started browsing around for something new to watch.  As usual, I dropped down to the horror category to see what might be new.  As I browsed around, I came across a film called The Taking of Deborah Logan.  I knew I had heard something about the film, but I couldn’t place it.  Either way, I decided to give it a try.  Now, I’m not a guy who scares easily.  I’m not a guy who is easily made uncomfortable by a horror movie, but I’m telling you this one really bothered me.  Immediately after I finished the film, I pulled up Facebook and tracked down the director, Adam Robitel.  This was a guy I had to talk to and I sent him a message asking for an interview.  I’m very excited that he agreed and I’m able to share that interview with you here!

If the interview piques your interest, you can check out the film on iTunes, Netflix and several other video on demand services, and it will also be available in stores and for purchase online on November 4.  I highly recommend it, and in the meantime, please enjoy the interview with Adam Robitel below!

Waylon from iHorror:  First of all, I want to thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Before we get started with Deborah Logan, I have to say I loved you in 2001 Maniacs! It’s one of my favorite guilty pleasures. Could you give any of our readers who may not be familiar with your work a little background on your career up to now?

Adam Robitel:  I initially started as an actor and it’s definitely a love of mine. I appeared in a few horror movies and shorts, notably 2001 Maniacs where I got to play Lester Buckman, Robert Englund’s sheep-loving son and an undead resident of Pleasant Valley, Georgia.  In terms of filmmaking, I started as an editor, where I cut my teeth editing industrials and documentaries and then edited and produced “Bryan’s Blogs” which documented the making of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns in Sydney. In around 2005, I started trying to write and eventually wrote a script called THE BLOODY BENDERS, based on the true story of a family of Kansas serial killers in the 1870’s, that got the attention and was optioned by Guillermo del Toro. I’m really focused on making movies now but I hope to return to acting as well.

Waylon:  Your new film,The Taking of Deborah Logan, has to be one of the most frightening I’ve seen come out of the found footage realm of horror in a long time. You’re not only the director, but also a co-writer and co-executive producer. What can you tell us about where the idea came from and how it developed into this film?

Adam:  I’d always been terrified of Alzheimer’s. I remember an uncle who used to be found wandering people’s yards at night, completely disoriented. The idea that someone could lose their mind and be literally trapped inside their own bodies has always intrigued and horrified me. As I started to do research, I realized that the story is never about one person – often it’s the caretaker that suffers the most. Alzheimer’s is a pretty organic metaphor for possession and I think the best horror films take the horrors of real life and then turn them on their head. I also knew, at the end of the day, while it starts grounded I really wanted the film to slowly become “unhinged” and move into the fantastic. At the end of the day, the disease is really an allegory for what happens to Deborah and other patients, they literally get “swallowed” whole. It took two years to develop the script and it was only when my co-writer Gavin Heffernan and I worked through many iterations that we were able to come up with the right alchemy of set up and scares. It was a really tricky balance.

Waylon:  The film offers quite a bit of education about the way that Alzheimer’s affects its victims. My family has been dealing with this for quite some time with my grandmother and it’s a horrific disease. I have told my mother before that it feels like someone else has taken over my grandmother’s body and mind and won’t let her out so it’s easy for me to take the leap that the films makes. I have to say that with all of the horror, I appreciated the way that Deborah is treated with respect from the beginning of the film.

Adam:  Based on the research I did, I learned that 1 in 4 of us that reach the age of eighty will suffer from some type of dementia. Watching all the research films, my heart just broke a thousand times over – it’s so hard to watch and we really know so very little about the disease. If anyone wants to know more, they should watch the Maria Shriver HBO documentary – that was outstanding. We wanted to treat Deborah with dignity because it makes her a nice, round character and it also makes her decline all the more upsetting. That said, at the end of the film we realize that this is something else entirely. We knew if we stayed too “real”, it would have felt exploitative. We wanted the audience to have the discussions and start a conversation, but were very mindful that it needed to go more into the expressionistic horror to provide the ‘escape valve’ of entertainment.

Waylon:  I grew up seeing Jill Larson as Opal Cortlandt on “All My Children” and a few years ago saw her in the fabulous musical film, Were the World Mine. So, in my mind, she occupies a place where she is glamorous, well-dressed and always very together. It was almost un-nerving seeing her so impressively raw and gritty in this film. Did it take some convincing for her to take this part or did she jump in with enthusiasm?

Adam:  Jill was Deborah from the very first audition and went at it with unreserved gusto. She is incredibly daring and talented and was unflinching every step of the way. The audition process was quite grueling and we had the top candidates come in multiple times—there was never a day when she didn’t bring her A-game. The movie would not have worked, had I went with anyone else.

Waylon:  The rest of your central cast is just as great. You have the ridiculously talented Anne Ramsay bringing such depth to Deborah’s daughter, and Michelle Ang, Brett Gentile and Jeremy DeCarlos as the intrepid film crew documenting the events inside the Logan home. Did you feel like you had pulled together a sort of dream team for the film?

Adam:  I was extraordinarily lucky with my cast. They all gelled so nicely. Michelle brought both sex appeal and a real authentically believable intelligence. Mia had to be both believable as a PhD student but also have an edge about her, a bit of a Lois Lane quality. Also, Michelle is from New Zealand and I was really impressed with her ability to turn off her accent, something that is incredibly difficult to do and do well. She did a great job. Brett Gentile was incredibly funny; naturally comedic, with a Paul Giamatti quality and was a great happy accident. Jeremy DeCarlos was incredibly versatile and actually happened to be working Mitzi Corrigan’s casting office in Charlotte and he and Brett already had this hilarious back and forth banter with each other… having been friends before the project (maybe not after).  Jeremy was also a seasoned camera operator which was perfect. I do wish I could have seen him more and I’m sure it was frustrating being behind the camera as much as he was, but I’m glad Luis gets a lot of the punch lines!

Waylon:  Okay, none of my friends will even believe I’m even bringing this topic up, but I have an extreme phobia of snakes. I could barely sit through Anaconda with a snake that looked so very fake, but your film took that up by about 100 or so notches on the fear scale for me. What was it like working all those reptiles?

Adam:  They were actually incredibly harmless garter snakes. We did have a few “missing snake” moments during the night shoots in the house, but all were found and safely returned. We had an amazing couple of reptile handlers, in particular Steve Becker, who would literally crawl through our “chock cave” with the camera as they bit and struck. We also had a live poisonous rattler one night, but it didn’t make the cut because of storytelling issues. Jill is actually holding a type of boa constrictor in the final scene, but it looked just like a rattler in the infrared.

Waylon:  And then, there’s THAT scene. I know you know the one I’m talking about.  I’m not going to spoil it for anyone because I think it should experienced first-hand and it’s simply one of the most shocking things I’ve ever come across in a movie before. Where did that come from?

Adam:  Let’s just say that SOHO FX out of Toronto, a constant collaborator on Bryan Singer’s films, had a little something to do with that visual trickery. They had to tape Jill Larson’s jaw back together with duct tape, for a couple of weeks after.

Waylon:  The campaign for this has been very grass roots with people finding out about the film via word of mouth and shares of the trailer on social media sites, and the buzz just keeps growing. Has it been overwhelming at all to see so many people posting and Tweeting their reactions to the film?

Adam:  Gavin Heffernan and I are incredibly grateful. Naturally every filmmaker wants their movie to go nationwide into theaters but we are at peace with that now. There is something incredibly satisfying about people finding it and taking ownership of it. I’m a people pleaser and want everyone to love everything I do but I’m learning that just isn’t possible when you make a movie. It’s a piece of commerce and for every person that loves what you do; others will have a deep, visceral hatred. It’s fascinating to read people’s responses and it’s also sort of a weird time – reviewers seem to carry less weight when 50k people rate your movie in three days on Netflix. It’s very democratic now. As Gavin reminded me, think about politicians, the best ones have 50 percent of folks who love them, the rest want to spit in their eye. I’m trying to let go of people’s judgments. It seems like the people that respond to the film, really respond to it and get what we were going for. That is incredibly vindicating.

Waylon:  You made one hell of a movie and I hope it just keeps getting better for you. So, I guess my final question would be: Now that you have impressed us so much with this film, what’s next? Should we be expecting you to scare us again soon?

Adam:  I’ve got some creepy surprises in store, to be sure. I’m working with Peter Facinelli and Rob Defranco of A7SLE films on a CROPSEY project that I’m really excited about that re-imagines the campfire story of the Cropsey Maniac that terrorized campers for hundreds of years in upper state New York. I also have a few indie dramas that I’m circling, for my obligatory Sundance play.

Well, we at iHorror.com certainly wish Adam the best of luck and once again, you can find The Taking of Deborah Logan streaming on demand and you can also purchase it on DVD on Tuesday, November 4.  Check it out soon.  I’m certain you’ll be a fan, as well!

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