The Tall Man (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">The Tall Man</strong> (2012)

(On-demand video, October 2012) My first thought after seeing a title like “The Tall Man” and reading a plot description involving missing children was to wonder if the “Slender Man” Internet meme had made it on-screen.  Alas (maybe), The Tall Man defies a number of assumptions, and not having any relationship whatsoever with Slendy is the least of its narrative transgressions.  Initially presented as a horror movie about a mother searching for her abducted son in a small town that has seen a wave of child abductions, The Tall Man turns out to be something quite a bit different than just another horror thriller with a generic monster.  After a conventional (but well-executed) beginning, the middle act of the film defies our assumptions about the protagonist and the nature of the film.  The overlong last act limply completes the transformation from horror thriller to provocative drama, leading to a flurry of questions, doubts and hesitations about the film’s true intent.  Is it social commentary smuggled underneath a glossy patina of horror, or a horror film that loses its nerve?  Does the ending lead to eucatastrophe or unsettling doubts?  (“Right?  Right?”)  This particular issue has been better-addressed in one of Ben Affleck’s movie (I’m obviously dancing around spoilers here), but there’s something almost admirable to the way The Tall Man commits itself to a full-blown chase sequence knowing fully well the revelation it has in store for audiences later on.  Writer/Director Pascal Laugier established himself as quite the iconoclast with Martyrs, and if The Tall Man is more mainstream-friendly, it’s certainly not your average straight-to-video thriller.  It’s relatively well-shot, sports a decent budget and Jessica Biel gamely incarnates the main character, lending her sympathetic personae to a character that requires a bit of misdirection.  Elsewhere in the film, Jodelle Ferland turns in another noteworthy performance as a character that becomes increasingly important as the film advances (in-between this, the third Twilight and a lengthy filmography on Canadian TV, she’s probably due for a breakout role soon enough).  I suspect that The Tall Man will divide audiences: annoy horror fans, while intriguing those who are always looking for a bit more substance in their genre films.  While the social message may not be all that well-integrated, the attempt seems interesting enough to warrant a look.

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