Starring: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, Stephen McHattie
Other than suspecting that the film was a horror starring Jessica Biel, I went into my viewing of The Tall Man with next to no knowledge of the film. I had seen no trailer and I had done no research. In fact, I intended on skipping it altogether, but after a couple of luke warm reviews from my friends I decided I should at least give it a go.
The story centres on a small town in Washington called Cold Rock. Like most small towns, Cold Rock isn’t doing too well financially, and large parts of the area are run down. Added to this is that a number of children have gone missing in recent years, without any suspects or explanation. With no evidence of normal kidnapping, the townsfolk have taken to blaming the tragic circumstances on a mysterious figure known as The Tall Man.
After letting us a see a few of the main characters, getting an idea of the town’s dynamic, we soon see local nurse Julia (Biel) in her home with her child and his nanny/babysitter. One night, Julia is awoken by the sound of her kitchen radio blaring at full volume, and goes downstairs to investigate. She discovers the nanny tied up, and that her child has been kidnapped, seeing a black clad man running away with him.
Once Julia finds her child, the mystery unravels, and the whole story is flipped on it’s head. Obviously as a person who hates spoilers, I won’t go into details as to what happens, however I will say that it does take a somewhat interesting turn, with the horror aspect slowly phased out.
Which kinda makes it difficult to review. In someway this is a film of two halves. Much the same way as The Box and From Dusk til Dawn. There is almost a clear moment when The Tall Man switches from one narrative to another. Do I review the story as a whole or two parts? For the sake of simplicity, I will review it as one.
I won’t say this is a work of genius, it falls way short of that, and there are too many faults to really love it, but there is something almost creative about this film. Once the mystery is debunked, and the actual story kicks in, it tries to be thought-provoking, which is somewhat refreshing for a film of this genre. It’s no Citizen Kane, but it tries to say something about the world we live in. That either works for it or against it, I’ll let you decide.
The performances are mostly decent, without particularly excelling, although this is the first time I am seeing Biel take on a serious dramatic role and she does pretty well. The supporting cast is largely unknown, although there are a couple of faces I am sure you will recognise.
One large concern I have is with pacing. Until the above kidnap scene, the film suffers from being too slow, and also trying to fit in as much local lore as possible. In such a short space of time we get to find out about: Biel’s work; a resident who suffers from domestic violence; a girl who has chosen to be mute; a woman living on the street; the death of Biel’s husband; and various other elements of the town folk’s lives,. All these things are thrown together, without an attempt to expand on any part meaning we have alot of information without any context. Strangely enough, the one thing we don’t get any significant information on is The Tall Man himself. He is mysterious, takes children and has been seen a couple of times near the woods, but that’s about it.
We then have a prolonged period of action, involving someone who is quite clearly not tall therefore shattering any mythical illusion we have so far been led to believe is involved, followed by a few scenes eluding to various conspiracies, and just when everything starts getting interesting, the pace is slowed right down as we see cops trawl the area for the missing children. Like I said the pacing is off as we are never truly sure what type of film the director is trying to create. Is it a drama, a mystery, a horror? Who knows.
Other than the above, the director, Pascal Laugier, does include some pretty well shot sweeping scenes of the surrounding ‘Washington’ area (it was filmed in Canada) and successfully conveys a town down on it’s luck. For a number of reasons, this is definitely not a place you would want to live.
Overall, The Tall Man has a number of flaws, not least those listed above, but for me there is at least a kernel of an idea here, and it is worth watching just to make your own judgement on it. Sadly there is a discrepancy between how the film is marketed/perceived and what it essentially is trying to say. What I expected to be a very generic supernatural horror turned out to be a thriller based on a tall tale.
Rating 3 out of 5
Did you know? The tall man character is very loosely based on The Slender Man, a fictional character which was created for a competition on a horror website.