Release Date: August 31, 2012 (Limited)
Showing via OnDemand Platforms: August 1, 2012
Director: Pascal Laugier
MPAA Rating: R
The Tall Man has an interesting premise, but the film is not well executed and thus the premise fails to enthrall us the way it could. Writing about this film would be easier if I could give away the movie’s final twist, but I try to avoid writing spoiler-laden reviews. I can say this, I did not see the final twist coming and that, in and of itself, is an interesting point that almost makes the film recommendable.
A small town in Washington has a problem: kids are disappearing from the community and locals are sure it is due to who they call “The Tall Man.” This mysterious character is not to be confused with the frightening character from Phantasm. Instead, the “Tall Man” is a rarely seen entity that is supposedly taking kids of various ages – the kids disappear without a trace and are never seen again. With the film’s opening scenes, we are introduced to Julia (Jessica Biel) who has apparently lost her son and has become injured in looking for him. Through the too often used method of voiceover – in this case by a teenage girl – we are told such disappearances are due to the Tall Man. The voiceover is provided by Jenny (Jodelle Ferland) who is a local teenager who figures prominently in the story as a plot device.
We more fully meet Julia, a nurse whose husband used to be the town’s beloved doctor. She has a son named David (Jakob Davies) who is looked after by Christine (Eve Harlow) when Julia is working at the local clinic. One night, a stranger enters the house, ties up Christine, and runs into the night with David under his arm. Julia takes off after who or what must be the Tall Man in an incredible – in this case, I mean not credible rather than stupendous – chase sequence involving a van that ultimately crashes with everyone unscathed. Unfortunately, Julia doesn’t get David back and the stranger takes him away into the night. Through a strange set of circumstances, Julia does track David down only to find he’s been taken by a woman who had previously lost her son to the Tall Man.
Is Mrs. Johnson (Colleen Wheeler) the Tall Man? It cannot be so and indeed it is not. Instead, we are shown that Julia and Christine have been stealing the town’s kids and doing something with them all along. Julia is caught and confesses to kidnapping and presumably to killing the kids, though she never tells law enforcement officers where the bodies of the children are. It is likely that they are, as she says, in the woods or in the mines (as the area is littered with old, closed-down mines once dug out of the town’s land). Laugier has us believe that Julia is guilty; after all, she confesses to the crimes even though she refuses to reveal the children’s whereabouts.
So enters another twist that I will not reveal here. Needless to say, it suddenly turns on the proverbial light bulb and certain unanswered questions get some resolution. However, the plot has some major holes in it, and the twist ending does not resolve those holes nor does it attempt to do so. We are simply expected to take or leave the twist and its consequences. As I said, I didn’t see the twist coming, and so was pleasantly surprised by being, well, surprised. But unfortunately it’s too little too late to save the entire film from itself and its rather poor execution.
Pascal Laugier is a director who has the ability to make frightening and disturbing films. The Tall Man simply isn’t one of them. Instead, I would recommend seeing his film Martyrs for those looking for a first-rate, haunting film. I cannot recommend this latest endeavor because while the concept is quite interesting, the manner in which it is delivered is less-than-worthy of the idea upon which the film is built.