The Tall Man (2012)



I could have seen The Tall Man on one of the various OnDemand services, but to this day I feel guilty about watching Pascal Laugier's previous film Martyrs in my apartment, where the film's nearly nonstop barrage of pained screams probably terrified my wall-mates (I can't call them neighbors, because that's a more familiar term - I don't talk to anyone I live next to). Plus I always like seeing things in theaters when I can, so I waited a couple of weeks so I could see it in a theater with a big crowd - the best way to watch a movie.

So it's kind of ironic that a. this movie was not particularly loud and b. there was only one other person in the theater, because my seat was super squeaky (as were the ones near it), so every time I shifted slightly (which I do often, as I'm a restless bastard) it would make a loud, obnoxious squeak, forcing me to concentrate on trying to remain motionless. Thus, yet again I was more concerned for disrupting those around me than just enjoying the flick. Someday, Mr. Laugier, someday...

Anyway, it's a pretty solid thriller, and like Martyrs it has a polarizing twist that gets at something more human and thought-provoking than the earlier part of the movie would lead you to believe. But the great thing is, it doesn't feel like he's covering the same ground or even using the same tricks like M. Night Shyamalan. While Martyrs had a late-game "man behind the curtain" moment, Tall Man's twists come along at a steady clip, constantly having you rethink what you've seen. It's almost like an old serial, where every twenty minutes you're left with a new piece of the puzzle and most likely have an idea where you think it'll go from there, only for it to switch again at the end of the next "reel" (remember those?). It's pretty impressive.

Naturally, this can cause some whiplash, particularly if you want the whole movie to play out as depicted in the trailer, with Jessica Biel's son being taken by the titular villain and her attempts to get him back. That stuff only covers the movie's first half, and in theory that is the way I wish all trailers were. Whether I like the movie or not, I am sick of seeing its final shot in the trailers (The Grey is the most egregious recent example), and wish more films had trailers that were only comprised of first half footage. But as I said, this can cause problems with some viewers who feel cheated or just want generic scares, because they're too dim to give a rat's ass about things like "story" or "theme". If you're like that, you should probably avoid this one.

If not, then enjoy this intriguing take on what exactly happens to kidnapped children who disappear without leaving a shred of evidence behind as to who had taken them or where they can be. The film's small town, northwestern locale is perfectly suited for the situation, as they wouldn't have surveillance cameras on street corners, people with cell phones in their hands at all times, etc. You have to buy that so many children could disappear from one area without it getting more attention from law enforcement and media, but if you can, I think you'll find it's otherwise well thought out, and again, fairly thought-provoking by the end.

Good performances also help, with Biel in particular delivering one of her best performances. She's not a terrible actress, but she's never given very interesting characters to play, often just "the girlfriend" (Next) or the obvious heroine who goes through the motions (Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake). Not the case here, as her character has many layers, and she handles it wonderfully. Jodelle Ferland, who seemingly has a lock on every "young, disturbed girl" role in genre films these days, is also quite good, playing a nearly mute girl who may know more about the Tall Man than she should. And since this is a Canadian genre film, Stephen McHattie and Samantha Ferris are also around (I was amazed that Julian Richings wasn't one of the creepy town locals), as is Smoking Man himself, William B. Davis, as the town's ineffective sheriff.

Now, you might have noticed that this is a vague review, and that is intentional. I don't wish to go into detail about the film's second half, and I am truly disappointed at those who felt the need to point out something about its nature to me when I said it was my choice of horror movie for the day. Obviously, Laugier goes to great lengths to keep the film's second half a surprise, and I wish to respect that. If you're disappointed with how it turns out, that's fine, but addressing that switch in detail is counterproductive and unnecessary. It'd be like if (IF!) From Dusk Till Dawn was advertised as a straight up hostage thriller, without vampires being any part of its marketing or plot synopsis, and then telling someone not to see it because it's a vampire movie. Follow the characters and the story, and judge the movie on that - not what it lacks.

What say you?


  1. I've been curious about this one primarily because of a small piece of Jungian synchronicity. I was reading an old issue of McSweeney's a while back and had just finished a fictional piece called...THE TALL MAN. It was about a lot of different things, but one of them was a mythical Tall Man who kidnapped children. Well, I finish reading that story and turn on my laptop, and what am I greeted with but a trailer for a movie called...THE TALL MAN, which is, apparently, also about kidnapped children. The author of the story (Chloe Hooper) doesn't seem to have had anything to do with the film, so I'm guessing that both are based on an actual myth or urban legend. Although it otherwise might not have been a movie that I would actively seek out, it definitely now has my interest piqued.


  2. Great film.One of the few films that actually surprised me ,as it ended going in a totally different direction from what I guessed it would.

  3. I really liked this one, glad you did too. It's been really bumming me out reading the comments on the IMDb page and some of the reviews because as you point out, a surprisingly large number of people are actually ANGRY that the trailer leads you to believe what you need to believe at the beginning to enjoy the movie, and doesn't spoil what it's actually about. We always complain about advertising like THE GREY that gives away too much, but it turns out it's true, many people only want to be given an obvious predictable product that they can feel comfortable with, they just want to laugh at the same jokes from the trailer or relive the scary parts from the trailer and if they are surprised or delighted in some way they want their fuckin money back.

    Why is "it wasn't what I expected" usually used as a negative thing? Shouldn't that usually be good?

    I don't mean to imply that people are dumb if they don't like the audacious way this story unfolds and the crazy issues it asks you to contemplate. But the people who feel they were "misled" or "lied to" because the trailer only said it was gonna be normal, formulaic bullshit and then it was something much more unique... yes, I will go ahead and say that those people are stupid.

  4. Yep, great flick! I was impressed that Laugier went in a different direction than Martyrs, while I loved that film I don't really need a retread of it. Jessica Biel was great too, I wish she would snag more roles like this.

  5. Wow Vern, then I must be stupid by your standards. However, when I'm sold one thing and get another that's not only completely different but substandard and ridiculous, then I tend to get a little miffed. Come on, this was not even a good story, particularly 'the twist'. It was puerile and a little disturbing. **SPOILER ALERT*** Why would any group of people mine Washington state for poor kids? Is there some shortage of rich kids? Who is funding this operation? And why? For me, it taps into the current fad of 'rescuing' third world children from their still living birth parents and handing them to american celebrities and barren rich people because a life with them would somehow be 'better'. Plus, has it ever crossed your arrogant mind that certain people like formulaic bullshit sometimes, particularly when that's what they thought they'd paid for. Believe it or not, I also love innovative cinema and thought provoking stories but not when I'm duped into it, and not when they are as plain awful as this movie.


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