7.5 out of 10
The Tall Man is simply put a capable mystery / crime thriller in horror movie dressing. There is no slasher, mutant monsters or aliens that rape women in it. The threat that is portrayed in this inventive and tricky thriller is real and it is very scary. Pascal Laugier directed this movie and cast the very pretty Jessica Biel as a widowed Nurse, named Julia Dunning, who resides in a depleted and poor town in Washington State. Pascal is renowned in the horror community for directing the wildly popular and cringe inducing French film “Martyrs” from 2008 and “House of Voices” from 2004. He was briefly attached to the Hellraiser remake but mysteriously dropped out. Pascal doesn’t deliver another type of film like “Martyrs” but comes close in tone and style in representing dread, fear and isolation. We are introduced to very slick opening credits and the morose voice-over of the young brilliant actress, Jodelle Ferland (“Silent Hill” and the decent thriller “Case 39”) who plays Jenny, a young mute who constantly draws her feelings and fears in a Sketch Book. She comes from a very dysfunctional family that includes her sister, a young un-wed mother and an abusive son in law.
Jenny proceeds to tell us that there is something very wrong with her town. It is isolated, poor, grungy and in mortal fear of someone or something that is abducting the children. Someone called “The Tall Man” who has become the local urban legend and is a proposed supernatural being that disappears in the night with the town’s children. Laugier shows us through some very revealing and engrossing cinematography that the very heart of the town is fractured and distraught. Nurse Julia (Biel), after delivering the latest addition to the town (Jenny’s nephew) is not welcome to stay in contact with the family in order to proceed with the infant’s care. Her husband was the revered town Doctor and she is frowned upon in trying to fill his shoes. Soon after though, her own child, David played by Jakob Davies (Smallville, Fringe, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is taken away from her very large home. Even her live in nanny falls victim to the dark cloaked menace that is kidnapping the children. She chases the abductor down and after a very tight and frightening chase in a truck down a desolate highway ends up injured and lost in the forest looking for David.
Once she gets back to town and reaches the Town Diner do things get interesting. The locals have it in for her and her only protection seems to be the Federal Agent that is assigned to the case played by the always watchable Mr. Stephen McHattie. (Pontypool) The “Smoking Man” from X-Files fame, William B. Davis plays the aloof and uninteresting Sherrif Chestnut who seems to be in just as much fear and in distrust of what happens next with Julia and her story. I will leave it at that but trust me we get double sided storylines and narratives that can at times be a bit misleading and there is a confrontation between Julia and a frantically crazed Mother of a missing child that will raise your eyebrows. Biel, McHattie and Laugier (who wrote the story as well) propel this film and they do an admirable job juggling the twists and turns. Jodelle Ferland shines here as Jenny. She comes in at the proverbial nick of time to bring closure and truth to the film. We get a better understanding as to what or who The Tall Man may really be. It is when we get a better understanding of the machinations and purpose of what is behind these abductions that it becomes a morality play and very thought provoking. Kudos to Laugier in pushing us in the direction of actually thinking these things through. After we find out the deal with Biel we get a very entrenched crime story with all the routine dressings. A sort of a slow close to the film bogs it down in too much dialog but it is fleeting. Jenny closes the film with a stunning conviction and asks us a very important question about how things in life can or can’t be done if it is or isn’t worth it. Watching “The Tall Man” just once to get to that crossroads and ask ourselves “what would we do?” is definitely worth it. Enjoy.