The Tall ManThe Tall Man
Director: Pascal Laugier

Cast: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis
Review by Brian M. Sammons

The tagline for this movie should be, “it’s not what you think.” Rest assured dear readers, I will try my best to avoid spoilers as the heart of this movie is a big twist, but some discussion of it around the edges is avoidable. I will give you a brief and totally spoiler-free overview of my thought about this movie now.

I’m not a huge fan of this film. I know what it was trying to do. I can appreciate it, but that doesn’t mean I think it was done well or that the movie is good/enjoyable to watch. There are a couple of reasons for my opinion, but I’ll begin at the beginning with the movie’s title. I do not like it. There should only be one Tall Man in horror and this movie is in no way related to him. That other tall man has balls, sadly this film does not. And if you don’t get that joke, you really need to watch more classic horror movies from the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Besides the title, I may have walked into this movie with my hopes set a little too high, something I always try not to do. I was excited to watch it once I learned that The Tall Man was directed by Pascal Laugier, the same guy who gave the world one of the most graphic, somber, and out and out truly horrifying horror movies in recent years with 2008’s Martyrs. That movie is, in a word, amazing. It is also very violet, disturbing, and dark as a moonless night in hell. So fans of feel good of funny fright flicks, you should probably stay away from it. If you haven’t seen Martyrs and you really want horror with a capital H, give it a shot, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. However this movie, Pascal’s follow-up film, has none of the other’s style, strength, and unique vision. Going from that great movie to this merely mediocre one was most certainly a letdown for me.

Here’s the spoiler free part of the story; this movie takes place in a tiny, impoverished mining town in Washington State. There they have a local legend, a boogeyman called the Tall Man who has been abducting children for years and doing lord only knows what with them. Later in the film they say that eighteen children have vanished, and yet the government has seen fit to send only one haggard FBI agent to look into the matter. Really? No, really, really? After that many missing children abducted, that’s all the FBI does? No task force, just one lone agent? Oh sure, the movie tries to explain it away with a throwaway line of ‘if we were a rich town we’d have a lot more help with this’ or something, but the town still exists inside the United States. You know, the same place where one missing girl, some kid in a well, or another child supposedly floating away on a balloon makes national headlines for weeks. Your honor, I’d like to label that as ‘suspension of disbelief straining point number one’ if I may.

Jessica Biel plays a nurse (straining point number two?), the town’s only source of medical help after her husband, the local doctor, died or vanished or something. On night a masked figure breaks into her house to abduct her child and … well that’s all I can specifically say. To say more would ruin some of this movie’s surprises. However I feel that I must mention some things that really bugged me, and while I’ll try my best to avoid giving things away, you should still read the following with caution if you have yet to see this movie. So…

MINOR SPOILER WARNING

The ‘big twist’ to this movie occurs at about the halfway point in the film, and while I don’t mind the actual twist, in order for it to be pulled off successfully this movie has to become contrived as all hell and that really bugged me. In very rough terms, a character finds out a shocking secret, but instead of seeking help from the authorities as 99.9% of people would, they instead turn to someone that has no authority or power to help them. Why? Well if they did the smart thing then the ‘big twist’ wouldn’t work. So this movie again tosses in a throwaway line of, ‘no cop has ever helped me out with anything’ or something equally as stupid in an attempt to explain their actions. Furthermore, this crazy plan is shared by a large number of people who all seem to believe it completely and are perfectly fine with it. Again, this only happens for the sake of shoehorning in the twist, and I hate when movies do that. I beat up M. Night Shyamalan whenever he tries to pull that B.S., so I can’t give Mr. Laugier a pass on it either.

Another thing I hated about this movie was its central message. I won’t say what it is, as it is tied to the twist, but I thought it was both naive and insulting. It reeks of that ‘we know what’s best for you’ mindset that some people have that always puts my teeth on edge.

Lastly, this isn’t really a horror movie. It looks like one at the start and it is certainly being marketed as one, but it’s not. It does have some suspenseful moments, but that’s not the same thing. I believe in truth in advertising and I don’t want any or my horrorhead brothers and sisters buying this disc expecting some spooky fun only to get a somewhat overly long and preachy thriller that is only thrilling about half the time.

Oh and one more thing, this ‘tall man’ isn’t all that tall. With a name like that, he had better be freaking huge. The name of this movie really should have been, ‘The Slightly Taller than Average Man.’

Now this movie isn’t horrible or anything. It is made with some skill and does have some moments of suspense, but it was still a bit of a disappointment on all fronts. That being said, how about the new Blu-ray disc from Image Entertainment, was that as equally disappointing?

Yes, yes it was. While the movie looks good in HD (but what modern movie doesn’t?), the so called special features here are very lean indeed. There’s no commentary track, no documentaries, no featurettes. There is some visual concept art, a few deleted scenes that add nothing to the movie, and a theatrical trailer. That’s it. Yippie.

So can I recommend this Blu-ray? Well what do you think? While I didn’t think the movie was a complete waste of my time, I didn’t really enjoy it and at times my intelligence felt insulted by it. I also very much felt like it was a bait and switch, promising a horror movie, including the tag line of ‘fear takes a new shape,’ but only delivering a so-so thriller with a corny message at its core. For all these reasons I’m going to have to say you should give The Tall Man a pass.

About Brian M. Sammons

Brian M. Sammons has penned stories that have appeared in the anthologies: Arkham Tales, Horrors Beyond, Monstrous, Dead but Dreaming 2, Horror for the Holidays, Deepest, Darkest Eden and others. He has edited the books; Cthulhu Unbound 3, Undead & Unbound, Eldritch Chrome, Edge of Sundown, Steampunk Cthulhu, Dark Rites of Cthulhu, Atomic Age Cthulhu, World War Cthulhu and Flesh Like Smoke. He is also the managing editor of Dark Regions Press’ Weird Fiction line. For more about this guy that neighbors describe as “such a nice, quiet man” you can check out his infrequently updated webpage here: http://brian_sammons.webs.com/ and follow him on Twitter @BrianMSammons.

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