The Tall Man is almost the very definition of a wasted opportunity, but it's also a selection of decent scenes wrapped up in some downright unpleasant ideas that frame everything. Infuriating as it is, I probably won't be able to go on about the worst aspects of The Tall Man because they're tied in with one or two twists that I won't spoil for anyone who has yet to see the film. You'll just have to trust me when I say that the film is fatally flawed by the ideas it uses to take it from being a drama to, apparently, being a twisty, thrilling drama.
Writer-director Pascal Laugier pleased a lot of horror fans when he gave them Martyrs. I thought it was quite good, let down by a third act that lost all momentum and put too much faith in some ideas it was bringing to the surface. Strangely enough, while The Tall Man is a very different film it suffers from the same problem, though this time it's even more damaging.
A word of warning needs to go here. Despite what SOME people may have told you, The Tall Man is NOT a horror movie. It has one or two horror elements in the first half but as everything unfolds you will start to realise just how removed from the genre it is. This is a standard thriller with surprisingly few thrills. In fact, it's maybe better described as a dark drama.
Jessica Biel plays Julia Denning, a woman who lives in a small town that seems to be held in the clutches of fear by the titular tall man. Who is this figure? Is he even real? Well, the reality is that a large number of local children have gone missing over the years and the residents at least need someone or something to put the blame on. That would be the tall man. Stephen McHattie plays a Lieutenant who is after the kidnapper, William B. Davis is a Sheriff who also wants to bring him to justice and young Jodelle Ferland wants to meet him, but for her own reasons that are more to do with getting away from her home.
I can't knock the acting here. Stephen McHattie and William B. Davis may be underused, but they're both great when on the screen. Jodelle Ferland is proving to be a consistently good young actress and does very well while Jessica Biel makes the most of a rare role that she actually gets to dig her teeth into. Actors such as Samantha Ferris and Colleen Wheeler also do a great job.
No, the acting is all fine. The major flaw that the movie can't cover up is, I guess, Laugier. Well, as he wrote the horrible script full of such a troubling and blinkered attitude to the issues of poverty and parenting he's the first person to get the blame. The fact that he didn't even dress it up well enough to make it mildly diverting and entertaining, to put his strange message across without it being so jarring and front and centre, means that he gets doubly blamed. As it should be.
The Tall Man could have been an interesting film. It becomes an interesting film about a third of the way in and then maintains that potential for about twenty to thirty minutes. Sadly, it then goes from good to bad to worse so quickly and sharply that by the time the end credits roll you will be struggling to remember anything that you liked about it.