Interviews: Adam Robitel - Director of The Taking of Deborah Logan

We recently had a chance to talk to Adam Robitel, the director The Taking of Deborah Logan. Check the interview out here. Don't be frightened.

TMS: We just had a chance to check out your new movie, The Taking of Deborah Logan. We gotta say that this is easily the best horror film of 2014 and doesn’t feel cookie cutter like that dreaded Annabelle or Ouija. For the first time in years, a horror film sent straight up shivers down my spine. What’s your opinion of the state of mainstream horror right now?

AR: Well having humbly made my first film I must say it’s really hard to scare most horror fans—they are so voracious an audience, they see EVERYTHING. I also think because of all the sordid images we see on the internet (ISIS BEHEADINGS, TWO GIRLS ONE CUP to name a few lovely visual treats), it becomes very hard to shock people… People are desensitized and very jaded. So, the window of what is “scary” has become smaller and smaller. Also, what “scares” people is a very subjective thing -- Some people are terrified of ghosts, others think they’re ridiculous and want really grounded, “real-life” horror. So it’s always a quandary when setting out to make a movie – how do you write a story that has broad appeal and for me, that always starts with great, well-carved characters. No matter what you do, it’s going to be derivative of something, because everything has been done before. I loved The Conjuring, and I think it had extra weight because it was “inspired by true events.”  James Wan, who is a friend, is really a master of the supernatural scare… it takes great precision, timing and craftsmanship to make those scares work. This was particularly difficult in the found footage format, where I didn’t have the luxury of coverage and multiple angles. That said, for me, the suspension of disbelief is key… if I can allow myself just a modicum of buy-in into the reality of the world, I’m far more frightened. With The Taking Of Deborah Logan, some argue that it could of very well been a scripted movie and I understand that comment but I just don’t think it would have landed so viscerally as it does if people didn’t believe she was a real person. I know the ship has sailed and no one truly believes a found footage movie is real…but if a movie is overly produced and it reminds me that it’s a movie, then I find it much harder to get into it. It makes sense for the studios to make a Ouija film — it has a tremendous brand recognition (we’ve all scared ourselves playing with the damn thing). I admittedly have not seen the film but it appears to be targeted towards a younger crowd. The good news is there is a tremendous amount of choice out there to be had. The window for what goes theatrical is incredibly small and they typically have to be the big “four quadrant” types of movies that will hit the largest demographics possible but now VOD and streaming services are making it possible to make movies that are more nuanced.

TMS: It’s easy to see some defined influences in the movie but it’s never too heavy handed in that approach. What films would you say influenced you in making this film?

"I told you bastards!!! It's not
my bedtime!!!"
AR: So many to count! Obviously Blair Witch and Paranormal movies were big influences but really documentaries like Capturing the Friedman’s and Paradise Lost were also very influential. Actually, there was a companion piece to the Blair Witch called Curse of the Blair Witch that they did for marketing purposes—that was a very big influence because they had all this cool, multi-format mythology that helped created a historical context around Ellie Kedward.  My cowriter Gavin Heffernan and I really wanted to start with almost a polished documentary in the beginning that slowly becomes unhinged, the screws coming off as the film careens into  third-act roller coaster. Some complain that it descends into found footage tropes but at the end of the day, it’s a horror film and you have to give them what they want… there’s a reason why frantic running around in the dark and quick cuts works in these films—because it creates the tension. The third act was influenced by movies like REC and The Descent to be sure…  

TMS: On that same note, who would you say your favorite horror directors are? And did they have any direct connection or relevance to this feature?

AR: Well, one of my all time favorites is Brad Anderson’s Session 9. That film got to me so deeply. Maybe it’s because I’m from Massachusetts and remember the Danvers Insane Asylum but I just loved the creepy, slow burn atmosphere. In fact, I think that was literally one of the first feature films to be shot on HD! I listen to that score by Climax Golden Twins anytime I’m trying to write. Another cool thing is Brad’s movie, Stonehurst Asylum is Millenium’s big genre movie this year and our producers Christa Campbell, Lati Grobman and Rene Besson all worked on it… so it’s strangely appropriate. In terms of other horror greats, the typical list applies: Kubrick, Carpenter, Craven, Aja, GDT for fantasy horror, thought Nispel’s redux of Chainsaw was pretty awesome. Love James Wan and my darling Lin Shaye is in many of his best, Insidious 1 and The Conjuring ruled. I really dig some of Ti West’s stuff… so I’m pretty eclectic….   

TMS: I think a lot of people assume that a “found footage” type movie is easy to make. You and I both know that’s not true. I would think the realistic approach would be super hard to capture. What are the biggest challenges of making a movie in that style and what made you decide to use that plan of attack when making Deborah Logan?

"All I wanted was a manicure."
AR: Oh god dude, this was the hardest and really something I feel I wasn’t half as effective as I could have been. Unfortunately directing is a learn-on-the job type of situation and jump scares are supremely reliant on editing and score. With a first person, one camera documentary, if you are really going to honor that, it’s really really tricky to create a good jump because you’re relying much more on big sound hits and the occasional whip pan. Most horror films will lull you into a moment and then rely on a hard cuts with a huge musical sting to get the desired effect. We did certainly take some liberties with atmospheric type scores, but the jumps were hard to come by. I ended up doing a lot of cheats in post, (radios squawking, etc) and that is just because I honestly wasn’t thinking as much as I should have, about the jumps. As a first time guy, I was so much more focused on performance and the story… The other really difficult thing with FF in the writing of it, is validating why these people are still filming. REC was a good example of a movie that you just sort of bought into it – news crew is stuck in a quarantine situation, they might as well keep shooting. Here, that became much harder! If people are in danger, they run for the hills…

TMS: So, this movie got released directly to streaming services. Were there ever any plans for a theatrical release?  To add, what are the advantages of going directly to the home viewing audience versus a standard cinematic run?

AR: You know, like all films, we aim for the heavens and hope for a theatrical. For whatever reason it didn’t roll that way… but we are grateful people are finding it and there’s kind of a great feeling of a grass roots family of people now discovering it. Things are really changing. Would we of loved to have been on 3000 screens, you bet? I’m at peace with it now. I’m convinced that with the right marketing we could have had a nice opening weekend but que sera sera… the obvious upshot is we didn’t spend fifteen million on advertising and really have nowhere to go but up from here!

TMS: Remakes have really been at the forefront of horror for the past decade or so. What are your thoughts on all these remakes that have been released the past few years and do you have a favorite one? Are you sick of them or do you think it’s a worthy way of keeping classic horror characters relevant and modern?

"This isn't going to hurt a bit. I swear."
AR: I see both sides, honestly… I really do. Movies are always risky investments and the studios hedge their bets by retreads because they hope that brand recognition will help cut their product out from the pack.  I mean, did Van Sant need to remake Psycho ? Probably not… but it doesn’t draw the ire from me it does other people. If a Carrie redux gets people to go an actually watch the De palma version, then it’s a win / win to me. I’m weird like that. Keep in mind, the “millenials” have never seen many of the films we believe to be so iconic / classics and honestly, it’s really really hard coming up with good ideas. They are usually pretty rare… so if I’m a producer or studio with a proven idea, it just makes good business sense. The only remake that I thought was actually BETTER than the original was Fincher’s take on Girl With The Dragon Tattoo… if that answers your question.

TMS: To continue that question, if you could remake one classic or iconic genre film, what would it be, why, and how would you make it your own.

AR: Funny you should ask, I’m up for a remake right now that I can’t speak about but that I’m incredibly excited / daunted by.  That is a hard question though --  I’d love a crack at Rawhead Rex or something from Barker.

TMS: What do you want people to know about The Taking of Deborah Logan and how can they see it? And what type of protection should they wear when watching it? 

AR: A rain slicker or burka would be ideal. Our big request is if they really love the movie, then please buy a DVD and keep our “filmmaking habit” alive.  But we are please to get it out there any way we can and there are many VOD / Streaming options:

Google Play:

Also check out our review here.