Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Tall Man

Jessica Biel plays a nurse living in a small community that has bene plagued with a rash of unexplained child disappearances. A farfetched urban legend has spread about a  mysterious"tall man" coming to take the children away, but could there be some truth to this bizarre story?

A lot of people flipped for Pascal Laugier's Martyrs a few years back; a weird and fascinating mix of torture themed horror, monster movie, revenge film, psychological thriller, and supernatural/religious horror. It's the kind of movie that abruptly shifts gears every 15 or 20 minutes, but in an effective way that keeps the audience on their toes. I didn't love it the way some did, mostly due to some sloppy visuals and a weirdly inert (if still highly disturbing) final act, but I thought it was a unique and effective horror film worthy of serious consideration.

The Tall Man is a major step forward for Laugier; a more mature film that is just as disturbing as Martyrs (though much less punishing and graphically violent), and has a similarly gear-shifting plot, but with a more elegant visual style, a more interesting lead character (Biel is very good in this), and a conclusion that I find to be upsetting in a far more profound, personal way. Martyrs, effective as it is, sometimes felt like empty provocation, whereas Tall Man grapples with a seriously upsetting moral issue (interestingly enough, covered in the past few years in one of my favorite recent crime films, though from a much different angle) that left me feeling chilled long after the film was over.

I don't really feel like I should discuss the plot, because the shocking, perfectly handled plot twists are a lot of the fun. Without giving away too much, I think less adventurous viewers will be disappointed the way the film shifts from a more conventional thriller into something slower, sadder, and more cerebral. Maybe even worse for casual viewers, the film leaves you not entirely sure how to feel about what you've just witnessed, particularly about the actions of certain characters, which makes it's final sequence all the more upsetting. To me, and to other folks who respect an ambitious horror film, that's exactly the reason it's so special.

I'm holding off on flat out calling it "great" until at least another viewing, as I'm not sure everything about the plot makes total sense, and I'm not sure if some of the earlier scenes will hold up on rewatch. But the film has stuck with me since I watched it, and I suspect it's not leaving any time soon.

Rating: B+


Shenan said...

Oooh would it be a spoiler to guess which crime movie you're referring to? Can I say it in code? Based on a D.L. book, directed by B.A., starring C.A. and M.M. and M.F. and E.H.?

Dan said...

You got it.

Shenan said...

Woooooooo! I love that one too.

Mr. Subtlety said...

I got the G. B. G. connection as well. Maybe M. F. is actually the secret leader of the group which is trying to do the thing that it's doing in TALL MAN.

However, I think it's more important to talk about the sequence where Biel returns home after leaving the abandoned apartment complex. The sequence where she slowly walks up the stairs and lays down, only to hen transition to the next scene of her being led back down amid greater turmoil (in one long take, I believe) is seriously fucking amazing filmmaking. It's one of the most striking and intense sequences i've seen all year, and I barely even noticed it at the time because I was so fucking curious about what was going to happen. That right there probably means its a pretty good film.