Released August 31st was the suspense thriller The Tall Man, starring Jessica Biel (Texas Chainsaw remake, The Illusionist) and co-starring Stephen McHattie (Pontypool, Exit Humanity). The film is about a small mining town called Cold Rock that is suffering from more than the loss of jobs after the mine shuts down. A dark secret is harbored among the community and amid the depressed citizens and bleak attitudes, children are being taken from them vanishing almost instantly. A legend spawns about a mysterious figure called The Tall Man, a name that was mutually given by the parents of Cold Rock. Some claim to have seen a dark hooded figure coming in and out of the dense forests at night…
The film opens with Julia Denning, played by Jessica Biel, as the town nurse who works for the local free clinic and is respected throughout the community. Her presence in the town along with the contributions of her recently deceased husband, have helped Cold Rock to thrive and as she plainly puts, “has brought dignity to the town”. She is mother to a small boy David who is kept sheltered in her isolated mansion amidst a vast enclosure of forest. During the day, he is watched by family friend Christine.
A Mysterious Mountain Town
The film builds up to a creepy and heartbreaking montage of news clips revealing grief-stricken parents who demand answers followed by an overhead shot of the town surrounded by lush woods, jagged mountain ranges, and a thick foggy atmosphere. One of the creepiest intro scores I’ve ever heard accompanies scenes of this small mountain town showing how cut off it was from the neighboring cities leaving me with a feeling of helplessness and dread.
After awakening from a drunken slumber, Julia glimpses the bloodied up and restrained Christine and immediately starts looking for David. She catches a hooded figure carrying him out of the house into the forest. The next few segments to follow were some of the most suspenseful and action packed in this film as Julie chases the mysterious being down. Grasping onto his getaway vehicle, she is brutally tossed around the road as she fights to get her son back. She is met with nightmarish consequences as she tries to tango with the Tall Man.
Her efforts are however put to an end as she crashes and is left to once again chase David into the forest suffering physical and emotional trauma along the way. Biel did a decent job as Julia transitioning from the humble caregiver and mother, to a woman fighting tooth and nail to rescue her son from the grasp of a shadowy monster. Around midway into it, there’s a pretty insane direction that the movie twists to especially when the inhabitants turn on Julia in a most surprising way. By the end of the film, I was left feeling like I needed to watch it again to really understand the secrets surrounding the Tall Man.
Suspensful Thriller From Director of Marytrs
Stephen McHattie did an excellent portrayal of the hardened and stoic Lieutenant Dodd, so drastically different from his role as shock rock D.J. in 2009’s Pontypool. Jodelle Ferland of Silent Hill plays the mute and abused girl Jenny who coincidentally becomes the last of Cold Rock’s missing brood. Pascal Laugier whose previous films include 2004’s House of Spirits, and 2009’s Marytrs, wrote and directed. The Tall man takes Pascal to a new place as a filmmaker trading a steady paced and atmospheric suspense thriller for his previous venture Martrs which was a high tension, bloody, and some may even say taboo horror. In the Tall Man, isolation and despair with a dark majestical landscape set the tone for the town’s urban legend and fueled my desire to understand the mysteries plaguing Cold Rock.
Laugier’s pension for a good twist seems to be his signature and he follows through but with subtle differences. A clear message underlines this movie about poor society and the prejudices that come along with their day-to-day living. It speaks about the struggles that people can endure that may be brought upon themselves, by the choices that are made.
So don’t pay attention to naysayers, as I came across a few, and instead immerse yourself in this town. Be the grief-stricken parents and feel the horror of not knowing that your last step may just be right around the corner.
For originality and a creepy score I give Tall Man 4 out of 5 Blood Drops.