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'The Tall Man' Movie Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


'The Tall Man' movie poster.
© Image Entertainment
With the shocking Martyrs, French filmmaker Pascal Laugier dropped a bomb on the horror landscape that reverberated with its controversial, extreme content. So, it's with no small amount of curiosity that Laugier's English-language debut The Tall Man opens on US soil. It's time to get shocked again, but for altogether different reasons.

The Plot

The small, dreary town of Cold Rock, Washington has been "dead" for six years following the closing of a mine that supported the local economy. If poverty, ignorance and alcoholism don't make for a dangerous enough environment in which to raise kids, the arrival of the "Tall Man" pushed the threat over the edge. An urban legend, the Tall Man is rumored to be a shadowy entity responsible for the rash of disappearances of the town's children over the past few years.

Nurse Julia Denning (Jessica Biel), who's overseen Cold Rock's medical well-being since the death of her doctor husband, is initially skeptical of the rumors, but one night, when she finds the babysitter tied up and spots her young David (Jakob Davies) being dragged out of the house by a hooded figure, the stories become frighteningly real. She gives chase, delving deeper into a mystery whose true nature no one could predict.

The End Result

Jessica Biel in 'The Tall Man'.

Jessica Biel in 'The Tall Man'.

© Image Entertainment
Just as Martyrs was largely a love-it-or-hate-it experience, The Tall Man is likely to be polarizing -- though its modus operandi is quite the opposite of its predecessor. While the only thing anyone could talk about after seeing Martyrs was its graphic, over-the-top gore, The Tall Man has little if any blood 'n guts and in fact plays as much like a drama as a horror movie. That should be enough to turn off some genre fans, but hopefully most will be open-minded enough to appreciate the captivating, original nature of Laugier's script.

Now with three feature films under his belt (including his debut, the ghost story Saint Ange, AKA House of Voices), Laugier has established his penchant for undulating storylines that veer off in wildly unpredictable directions -- a refreshing dose of originality in an era of remakes, reboots and sequels. The Tall Man's twisting plot is frustratingly (and intentionally) vague as it unfurls, but that only serves to make its mystery more fascinating and rewarding upon its final revelation -- as if you yourself put in work to figure it out. It even tackles social issues like poverty and abuse without becoming preachy and frankly, leaving the issues open-ended enough to spur debate. His films have a gray morality that may not always be pleasant to watch, but they're boldly introspective and yearn to do more than your standard fright flick. Love him or hate him, Laugier is one of the most unique, challenging, boundary-pushing voices in horror cinema today.

The Skinny

  • Acting: B- (Although Stephen McHattie is underutilized, Biel is surprisingly dramatic -- most notably in an emotional monologue near the end.)
  • Direction: B- (Blends horror and drama well and utilizes the natural scenery to cinematic effect.)
  • Script: B (Original and unpredictable, demanding multiple viewings.)
  • Gore/Effects: C (Little necessary.)
  • Overall: B- (Not particularly scary or gory, but refreshingly original and surprisingly dramatic.)

The Tall Man is directed by Pascal Laugier and is rated R by the MPAA for violence and terror, and for language. Release date: August 31, 2012 (on demand August 1).

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