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The Tall Man

2012 | 104 min | R | 2.39:1

The Tall Man


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Movie appeal




Theatrical release date

 31 August, 2012

Country of origin

 United States

Box office




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Screenshots from The Tall Man Blu-ray

The Tall Man Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 29, 2012

Marketed as a sinister picture with heavy demonic overtones, “The Tall Man” turns out to be something quite different, absent a juicy genre hook to immediately pull viewers in. That’s not to say the film is successful, but its intentions are unique, hoping to approach formulaic scares with moralistic twist. It’s a shame the feature isn’t terribly interesting beyond its central concept, laboring through pedestrian chase sequences and flaccid confrontations. Writer/director Pascal Laugier has a few inspired visual ideas to share, but what begins as an intriguing Stephen King riff devolves into a Lifetime Original, effectively burning off the potential of the complex misdirection.

In a small mining town destroyed by economic woes, the community is fighting a specialized demon known at The Tall Man. A shadowy figure the locals fear is responsible for a recent rash of child kidnappings, The Tall Man’s myth grows daily, sending terror throughout the town. For nurse Julia (Jessica Biel), time with her son means the world to her, and when she’s confronted with the wrath of The Tall Man and the loss of her child, she pursues the evil force into the night, looking to save her loved one and discover the true identity of the culprit. However, such a mentally and physically draining task is complicated by the unstable community and an investigation by Lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie), who’s having trouble piecing together the supernatural aspects of the case while keeping tabs on Julia and her singular drive to find her boy.

To properly explore the various pushes and pulls of “The Tall Man” means spoiling the feature in a major way. It’s a story built upon a crucial mid-movie twist of sorts that shifts the action from heated genre elements to a strangely heartfelt tone of protection locked inside a tonal severity that’s intriguing to consider, yet doesn’t provide much voltage to the finished film. I’m not going to break down Laugier’s work in explicit detail, but it’s fair to suggest his intent is bolder than his execution, rendering the picture uneven and unsatisfying, despite its somewhat original design.

The thrust of “The Tall Man” is one of parental protection, unleashed inside a town crippled by the loss of children. The superstition surrounding the titular force keeps order, introducing a King-esque atmosphere of unsettling, unexplainable events pummeling weary inhabitants, escalating with a force that draws the viewers into the characters through mysterious interactions. Laugier shows patience with the early going, constructing a peculiar aura around Julia that preserves attention on the single mother, watching her deal with cryptic neighbors and those less fortunate wandering around town. “The Tall Man” gets off on the right foot (minus a needless flash-forward opening), and while highlights are minimal, the direction is clearly working toward a destination with an inviting visual mood and a comfortably expressive performance from Biel, who elects an unglamorous route for her performance, transforming herself into a believable domestic presence.

“The Tall Man” begins to unravel with the film’s surprisingly early reveal of plot specifics, or perhaps pause is a more accurate description of what happens to the movie. Taking a turn away from creepy encounters, the feature spends an inordinate amount of time showing off its work, taking pride in its rather ambitious third act. Fatigue sets in before explosive twists ignite, rendering the final chunk of “The Tall Man” on the lifeless side, observing banal accusations and conversations between characters at a time when the suspense of it all should be overwhelming. After exhaling with the full reach of his script, Laugier has nowhere to go, trusting the distinctiveness of his story might fuel the entire effort. “The Tall Man” certainly displays bravery in its final summation, but it not enough to retain a steady pace. The potent moral questions and general attitude of intolerance deserve a more compelling picture.

Starring: Jessica Biel, Stephen McHattie, Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis, Samantha Ferris
Director: Pascal Laugier

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The Tall Man 16 Aug 03, 2012

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