The Tall Man (2012) - Pascal Laugier

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In the small American town of Cold Rock, a former mining town, long since fallen into poverty and ill-repute, children go missing. Seemingly the victim of a mysterious entity known that the town refer to as the 'Tall Man'. A few have even claimed to see him firsthand and lived to tell the tale. But no one knows for sure. Julia, a former nurse, now the unofficial town doctor, one night has her child taken from her and frantically tries to get him back...

From the director of Martyrs, Pascal Laugier, so I was expecting a unique take on the horror genre, and much like Martyrs subverted our expectations of what the film was, The Tall Man does much the same. There is a definite shift in tone and story halfway through when the film starts asking different questions. Unfortunately the questions and answers it provides are rather trite, verging on the ridiculous when we eventually come to the the end.

My main problem is the casting of Biel in the lead role. Initially I thought her age/aesthetics was an issue but it turns out there was a reason for that. Even so she never convinced me in the role and when the film really hangs on the obliqueness of her character, for me to not feel there is anything really going on beneath the surface is a major stumbling block.

It's directed slickly enough, but I was bored throughout the film. The location is promising and the commentary on the decaying heartland of America and it's often self-destructive people we seldom see in mainstream Hollywood or when we do are populated by caricature is a rich one to mine, as evidenced in something like Winter's Bone. But it never sustains any tension, being punctuated by mundane conversations and confrontations and ever more stupid plot turns. Having seen the various twists coming a mile away, there's not really anything else for the film to hang on. The performances range from poor to average, the moralising comes across as ham-fisted and it's neither scary enough as a traditional horror film nor thought provoking enough as a psychological drama it tries to become; it's a jumble of styles and ideas that never coalesces into a satisfying whole.

4/10