September 4, 2012

The Tall Man (2012)

"When her child goes missing, a mother looks to unravel the legend of the Tall Man, an entity who allegedly abducts children."

Don't you just hate reviews which start with "From the director of" and then proceed to recount all the details of the director's previous works as if that will make any difference to any opinion of their latest offering? I hate that too, but, in this case, I do think it's necessary to mention that, of course, Pascal Laugier also directed "Martyrs" (2008) and "House of Voices" (2004) as I have noticed a slight pattern forming with these movies, and it isn't something good.

To cut a long story short and probably spoil "The Tall Man" before you've even seen it, what is the deal with Pascal Laugier and all these films about children? In "House of Voices", it was all about ghostly orphans, "Martyrs" gave us kidnapped and tortured children, and now "The Tall Man" is all about the little brats disappearing for yet another reason.

Let me just remind everybody that I cannot stand any movies about children, movies starring children or meant for children, or, basically, anything to do with children in general. I hate kids, I have no paternal instincts whatsoever, and I'd rather have a house full of adult cats who I treat as cats rather than little "fur babies". So can you possibly imagine how disappointed I was by "The Tall Man" when the story turned out not to be about the "Slenderman" who abducts and tortures children?

Although the odds were against it with "The Tall Man" being Canadian and having an R-rating, I wanted this to be sicker than "A Serbian Film" (2010) or "Salò" (1975), but obviously without the paedophilia because that doesn't float my boat. What I wanted was something like an adult version of "The Witches" (1990) but with more extreme torture and death. Alas, it was not to be.

If you don't want any spoilers, stop reading now!

"I smell... dogs' droppings."

In spite of borrowing heavily from the "Slenderman" myth and spooky computer game to create a few visual red herrings, "The Tall Man" turned out to be a thriller with two twists which put it almost into the M. Night Shyamalan category of dramatic nastiness. I'm not an M. Night Shyamalan hater apart from loathing his more recent films, and I hasten to add that the key word in the previous sentence was "almost". As a movie, rather than specifically a horror movie, "The Tall Man" was actually pretty good. It also wasn't anything to do with the shitty "Phantasm" franchise.

Coming to it after just watching Rob Zombie's "Halloween II", I was impressed by the run down, recession hit look and atmosphere of the Canadian mining town which was obviously doubling for America. Everything looks like that where I live so the reality pleased me. Whereas Rob Zombie had his own agenda for using white trash characters, you can be sure that Pascal Laugier (like most Europeans) was definitely including some major social commentary here. I'm not going to spoil it for you too much because it's actually the motivation of the main characters and a very weak link in the plot, but if you take the idea that people who can't afford pets shouldn't have them and upgrade it to people, then you'll get the idea.

The acting was very good with Jessica Biel really standing out. I haven't seen many of her films, and I think she may have a reputation for not actually being that great, but she was fantastic in "The Tall Man". Ultimately, "The Tall Man" was her "vehicle", as they say.

I was very impressed by Jessica Biel's action scenes even though the aftermath of a few of them wasn't all that realistic. Her lack of make-up, or rather her lack of glamorous make-up, seemed to increase her screen presence as I found myself able to concentrate more on what she was showing rather than what she was trying to hide, if you know what I mean. The increasing number of scrapes, gashes and other wounds her character sustained pleased me even more. Some of those make-up effects were done very well indeed.

I didn't particularly care about any of the other characters, least of all the oddly mute girl played by Jodelle Ferland who, obviously, is no stranger to real horror films. Having her do the narration was a little bit weird, but the reason was revealed at the end.

Other recognisable faces included the now very old-looking "Cigarette Smoking Man" from "The X-Files" TV series, and Stephen McHattie who appeared to be channelling a slightly younger version of Lance Henriksen in an attempt to shake off his minor role as Hollis Mason in "Watchmen" (2009). I'm tempted to think that Pascal Laugier must have been a huge Chris Carter fan as "The Tall Man" reeked of "The X-Files" and "Millennium" right down to its British Columbia filming location.

As a movie with some quite unexpected twists, I was entertained by "The Tall Man" even though the final reveal of his identity and motivation was very weak. I was kind of hoping that he would turn out to be Jeff Goldblum just so that I could make some feeble joke, but, unfortunately, Pascal Laugier already beat me to the punchline with his lacklustre ending.

I'm going to rate "The Tall Man" as slightly above average. It's not really a horror movie, but it did have several reworked tropes taken from the horror genre in it. The similarity of the setting to the "Slender" game, which I've included a video about below, really made this a bit of a naughty cheat in the same way that "The Mothman Prophecies" (2002) also promised much more for horror fans than it delivered.

Have you seen "The Tall Man" yet? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below.

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