The Tall Man (2012)
Directed by: Pascal Laugier
Release Date: August 31, 2012 (Limited)
Rating: 8.25 out of 10
Review by: George Beremov
From French director Pascal Laugier, who blew us away with his nasty, gut-wrenching horror masterpiece Martyrs back in 2008, The Tall Man is a French-Canadian co-production starring Jessica Biel, and is also the director’s first-ever English-language feature film.
In a remote, very poor mining town, the children are disappearing without a trace, and rumor has it, they’re being abducted by a mysterious stranger known locally as The Tall Man. When it’s her kid that goes missing, one mother looks to unravel the legend. Or does she?
Do not get mislead by the seemingly hackneyed premise, because The Tall Man is like nothing you’ve seen before, and not what you’d expect at all. The first half may be fairly clichéd and pretty straightforward, but that’s just part of Laugier’s clever plan. He wants to mess with your head and leave you with the impression that this is yet another generic horror film about an unknown stranger kidnapping little kids, then halfway through, he throws a curveball that makes you realize nothing in this film is what it seems. From that turning point on, The Tall Man starts to play more and more tricks with your mind, right until the very end, when everything falls into place and begins to make perfect sense.
The Tall Man is definitely not your average kidnapping movie, but something much more than that—it’s unsettling in its realism, intelligent in its approach and profoundly genius in its execution. This time around the director chooses not to go with the extreme gore and graphicness, as instead he relies more on the shock value of the plot turns his brilliantly unpredictable movie has to offer. It won’t be a lie if we call Laugier a master of twists, because much like in Martyrs, the outcome here is disturbing to the point of being overwhelmingly shocking and pretty unforgettable. The unexpected ending is meant to provoke your thoughts and make you wonder—Does doing terrible things for a good cause make you a bad person? Well, if Pascal Laugier’s intentions were to make us struggle finding the answer to this hard question, then he achieved that. Sure, there will be many angry viewers claiming they “don’t get it,” but those who do will be stunned by its brilliance and the well-conceived message it conveys.
Aside from a few pacing issues here and there, The Tall Man is a technically well-crafted movie. The isolated setting and gloomy cinematography match with the mysterious tone of the movie, and Laugier’s capable direction successfully maintains the intensity of the story.
The acting by everyone involved is absolutely spot-on. Jessica Biel gives a solid “comeback” performance as the caring, yet shifty town nurse, the oddly adorable Jodelle Ferland makes the film even more engaging than it already is, and the supporting cast does their best.
Bottom line: It’s no Martyrs, but Pascal Laugier’s latest shocker, The Tall Man, is still a thought-provoking, deeply disturbing and strangely captivating horror thriller, filled with mind-boggling twists and turns, that will haunt you long after the end credits roll.
A movie reviewer since 2004, George Beremov has a soft spot for horror, fantasy and martial arts films in particular, but as a true cinema connoisseur, he adores all the other genres as well. Eight years ago, he started writing reviews on a movie journal over at Rotten Tomatoes, but then left it behind, in order to run his own blog –CineMarvellous! – which became very successful since its debut back in mid-2009. You can follow George on Twitter @CineMarvellous and/or become a member of his blog (http://cinemarvellous.blogspot.com.)