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The Tall Man

A 2012 film written and directed by Pascal Laugier

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Once a provocateur; always one.

  • Oct 7, 2012
**1/2 out of ****

He might have toned down the gore significantly and emphasized more on sheer atmosphere for the sake of it, but Pascal Laugier's "The Tall Man" is no less polarizing than the film that put him on the map as a director to watch, "Martyrs". Some people hated that film while others loved it, and I found myself in the latter group; as a horror film, it is not merely another standard high-body-count torture porn exercise, but rather an intelligent, provocative, and thoughtful horror film. "The Tall Man" has all those qualities as well, although everything is taken down a notch. It's not as smart, uncompromising, or unforgettably harrowing as Laugier's sophomore effort (his first film was "House of Voices"); but under his direction, it comes this close to working.

It all takes place in a small mining town, and in establishing the bleak atmosphere of the place, Laugier does some good and some bad. The town seems empty and very small indeed, although it would have been even emptier and smaller had the crappy voiceover not been included. So with that out of the way, we can get on to the story. The heroine is the local doctor Julia Dunning (Jessica Biel). She's a good enough person to assist in the birth of a teenage girl's child, help the girl's mute sister (Jodelle Ferland) to gather the courage to speak again, and offer coffee to the town loony. She has one son who she loves very much. The heart of the premise is located in the lore of the local legend, a child kidnapper (and probably molester) known as The Tall Man. One night, he takes Julia's kid, and things get personal.

Here's the weird part: when Julia is discovered bloodied and sleeping in the middle of the road by the small-town cop Dodd (Stephen McHattie) and brought to the nearby diner, the townsfolk seem anxious for her to freshen up. Almost instantly, one of them loses his cool and attempts to assault her while she's in the bathroom, although she's already escaped out the back door. Then we learn that the townsfolk want to bring Julie to justice, for whatever reason. What did she do? Is she being framed for the child kidnappings? Either way, she evades capture through the woods, where the Tall Man supposedly lives. To reveal any more than that would do the majority of the film a great injustice.

Laugier's latest is a labyrinth of a horror film that offers up mystery and thrills in satisfactory fashion. It's a downwards spiral of intrigue that keeps getting better as it goes along (in my opinion), although for others it might just get increasingly ridiculous. There are several twists along the way, and the final one is always the most important. Unlike most films of its kind, "The Tall Man" has a twist that will most likely get you talking whether you actually go with it or not. I don't find it absurd but rather stimulating, and overall the ideas behind this film are more interesting than its execution, which is disappointing especially when compared to Laugier's previous film.

But I still think that he builds up tension effectively without resorting to those ever-cheap jump scares. It's not a pretty looking or over-stylized film, nor does it utilize the slow-burn. It kind of exists on the edge between mainstream and unconventional horror; incorporating a story that deals with themes of motherhood, parenting, and even the GOOD things that can come from child abduction. Laugier doesn't quite acquire the level of mind-fuck-ness he was probably aiming for, but I enjoy movies that mess with your head. This one doesn't really get inside it, but while it's still going, it has fun with its ideas, setting, and actors (this is one of the most controlled and engaging Jessica Biel performances if not the best, even though she's far from compelling). Hear me out; this film is definitely imperfect and few of its big ideas come full circle, but I acknowledge it as an interesting stylistic departure for Laugier, who proves once again that it's not the blood and the guts that he's interested in; it's the psychological thrills and the social commentary. I'll keep him on the watch list for now.

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October 31, 2012
Excellent write-up!
October 30, 2012
I am going to be streaming this tomorrow night via netflix. Nice to see that you kinda liked it.
More The Tall Man reviews
Quick Tip by . March 04
posted in Movie Hype
This was a really good movie and may be Biel's best performance of her career. She gives multiple layers to her character here, and she as to with the type of character it is. The changes that happen in this film are crazy and I was surprised by how many twists this thing took.
review by . March 04
posted in Movie Hype
            THE TALL MAN      As a fan of Jessica Biel and of horror/thriller films I had to check this out. The cover alone was enough to pull me in. usually a purchase based on a cover means a bad flick but not here thankfully. Although I will admit that this movie was nothing like what I thought it would be. Still it was a really good flick that surprised me a bit. This is for sure a thriller but it looks and was marketed as a horror …
review by . September 01, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         The Tall Man is a great deal more thought-provoking and complicated than the poster, the trailer, and even the title all suggest. This works both for and against it. On the one hand, it’s refreshing that the filmmakers aimed for something a bit more original and stimulating than a routine thriller with slasher overtones, which is how it has been marketed. On the other hand, their aim might have been too high; what’s ultimately revealed …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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