The Tall Man

Dir: Pascal Laugier
Star: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, Jakob Davies, Stephen McHattie

Considering Laugier's last movie was Martyrs, one of the most ferocious horror films of last decade, his English-language debut had a lot to live up to - and, sadly it basically fails. Not to say there aren't some interesting ideas, but the execution is badly muddled, and by the time he chooses to reveal what's actually going on, it's too late for you then to care much. The setting is the rural town of Cold Rock, which has slipped relentlessly into decay since the closure of the local mine. Recently, someone has been abducting the local kids, a new one being taken every couple of months with local folks dubbing the perpetrator 'The Tall Man'. Widowed town nurse Julia Denning (Biel) becomes involved when her son is snatched from their house in the dead of night, setting off a chase through the woods, which finishes with a startling revelation.

There's a certain point here where my brain more or less shut down as a defensive measure, the storyline is dribbled out in such a confusing fashion. The end does clear things up, to its credit, and this is probably a film which is better looked back on, or might repay a second viewing, rather than immediately at the time of an initial viewing. I'm not entirely convinced the engine which drives the central twist would stand up, logically, to a re-watch; however, I can't say more without major spoilage, so I'll bite my tongue. What it does share with Martyrs, is the same sense of people acting in a really twisted way, out of a dubious sense of what's "right," and with little or no concern for who gets hurt in the process. In almost every other term, though, this is a pale imitation. Even if you can't expect every Laugier film to match the raw intensity of Martyrs, I was expecting something better than a combination of decent episodes from The X-Files and Law and Order.

[December 2013]

Don't go in the woods
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