The Tall Man
Directed by Pascal Laugier
Starring Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, Stephen McHattie
Review by Jordan
Some filmmakers just don’t like to play by the rules. What could have been a taut, moody and straight-forward slasher about a Tall Man who abducts helpless children, under Laugier’s writing and directing becomes something entirely different. I won’t ruin any of the unforeseeable twists, but needless to say this is an experience in fear, indeed, but also ethics and morals that is decidedly one-of-a-kind and worthy of your attention.
The mine is long closed, and the town of Cold Rock is in the middle of a great economic downturn. Employment is low, healthcare scarce and to make matters worse the local children are disappearing at a horrifying rate, with the blame aimed at a mythological figure known as the Tall Man. When the son of the regions sole nurse Julia Denning (Jessica Biel, also an executive producer) is taken, she risks her life in order to save him and perhaps solve the mystery that has engulfed the town and perplexed the police force. With the enigmatic lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie) also on the case, exactly what will be uncovered in this search for the truth?
French director Pascal Laugier arrived on the feature film scene with the flawed but atmospheric Sainte Ange (aka House of Voices, 2004), which he followed with one of the best and most powerful films of the past decade, Martyrs (2008). Martyrs is a bold, brutal and ultimately transcending film of such immense unpredictability that I’m ashamed I ever expected The Tall Man to be normal, although of course I knew it was going to be significant, and that like the female leads he has worked with previously, especially Morjana Alaoui and Mylene Jampanoi in Martyrs, Jessica Biel would act with strength and conviction. McHattie, a personal favourite of mine thanks to his work in Watchmen (2009) and Pontypool (2008) also puts in an interesting performance as the aforementioned Dodd, as does Jodelle Ferland (Silent Hill) as the shy, troubled Jenny.
The Tall Man is a unique and apparently strange thriller that could well become a minor cult hit in years to come. My advice is to approach it without watching a trailer or reading any reviews (although it’s a bit too late in regards to this one…) and enjoy the tricky narrative prepared for you. It’s far from perfect, but an original thriller made with such precision and care is more than worthy of your time, and if like me you’ve never paid much attention to Jessica Biel, this will make you take notice. Laugier is fast becoming a master of his craft, and like Alexandre Aja (High Tension) and Xavier Gens (Frontier(s)) has proven he is much more than a French gore-hound and heading for a long, successful career.
3.5 rusty trucks out of 5