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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Sept 23: The Tall Man


Sept 23: The Tall Man

"When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children."
Directed by: Pascal Laughier, Rated: R, 106 minutes

Pascal Laugier is a director on the rise. With his absolutely unforgettable 2008 film, Martyrs, he showed that he has what to takes to craft a terrifying tale in a completely over-the-top, hard-to-watch cringe fest. Unfortunately, his 2012 follow-up, The Tall Man, fails to deliver on any of the fronts Martyrs was able to do and gives us a very predictable thriller that never scares us or unsettles our stomachs. The movie is advertised as a horror film, with a mysterious figure sweeping in and stealing kids left and right. But in fact, it's far from horror and turns more into a dramatic thriller with less suspense than the O.J Simpson Bronco chase. 


Jessica Biel stars as Julia Denning, a nurse in a little town with a past she wants to forget. Her town, Cold Rock, Washington has been experiencing a constant flood of child abductions, with no one being able to find the missing or even their bodies. Everyone is paranoid of the figure the town has come to call The Tall Man, a shadowy figure who kidnaps every young child he can find. Thinking that this fact alone would turn people away from the town, Julia still decides to raise her young boy in the town full of vans stuffed with candy. After her own son is kidnapped by The Tall Man, she goes into panic mode and does whatever she can to get him back. Of course, nothing is what it seems in Cold Rock and as she unravels the mystery behind it all, a shit load of twists are thrown in our face to keep things interesting. Keep in mind, all of these twists and turns are revealed less than halfway into the film, leaving much to be desired in the third act. 

Her arms aren't long enough to reach out and get a hold of a good script and more talent. 

The Tall Man looks terrific, and Laughier manages to capture the atmosphere of the little town in the Pacific Northwest. It's wet, it's gritty, and it feels far from anything else. Woods surround everything with plenty of natural escape routes available to any criminal or baby-snatcher. But there's only so far good camerawork can take a movie that really gets going way too soon, never really going anywhere but slowing down and puttering out. I will admit that the twist isn't as predictable as some I've seen, but when we're told what's behind everything 30 minutes into the film, any fun of guessing who did what and why is thrown out the window. As the film winds down it really feels like a Lifetime movie with good cinematography. Jessica Biel has no talent to carry a film like this and seeing her try is even harder to watch. Her moments of emotional display are decent for a brief second, but as everything is stretched out to fill a 106 minute run-time, you lose all sympathy for her and the rest of the characters. 

The film also features the unnecessarily over-casted Jodie Ferland, who apparently needs to be in every movie involving missing children. 

I honestly believe that The Tall Man could have been something great. Had the lead been recast and the story tweaked, Laughier could have delivered another unsettling film that's smarter than you think. Too much is revealed too soon at the dismay of the film as a whole and when you don't really care for these characters to begin with, seeing what happens so quickly makes you want to turn the thing off. If for some reason you must see The Tall Man, I suggest going into it knowing it's far from a horror flick and that it really never satisfies any curiosities you would have. 

The Good:
atmospheric camera work that makes me miss the Pacific Northwest... even though it was filmed in Canada
The Bad:
a lead in Jessica Biel that has absolutley no talent to carry a film like this
The Ugly:
a script that gives away too much too soon and really gives you little to care about afterward

Overall: 4.5/10


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At September 25, 2012 at 8:10 PM , Blogger TheVern said...

I agree with you about Jodele Ferland. I like her but I wish she would stop being in these creepy kid movies. She has outgrown that role. She is talented and I dont want her to become one note

At September 25, 2012 at 9:00 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Yeah, I think she's pretty good too. She's just thrown into everything these days horror related.

At October 18, 2012 at 6:57 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the marketing hurt the movie by trying to imply it's a horror film, whilst the director has clearly stated it's not.

I thought Biel was great in this personally, the best I've seen from her, and ultimately I seemed to like the movie a lot more than you did. Definitely different to Martyrs thats for sure!

Nice write up Nick! :)

At October 18, 2012 at 9:41 AM , Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for stopping by. Yeah, Biel may have done the best she's done so far, but it's still not that impressive lol. I can understand how the director wanted to make sure people knew it wasn't a horror film as well but even then, it lacked a lot.


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