The Tall Man (2012)

After a lackluster trailer, you could be forgiven for thinking Pascal Laugier had gone all sell out on us. The trailer for The Tall Man looked identical to the myriad other lazy horror trailers that I spend my life avoiding on the off chance I want to watch one of these films and don’t want to know every plot detail in advance. I will let it slide if you thought Laugier used his Martyrs goodwill to hop on to some flash-in-the-pan US script desperate for that special director-for-hire to give it just enough of a push to get into people’s consciousnesses. Based on the trailer, that’s exactly what you should be expecting. That is not The Tall Man.

Former mining town, Cold Rock is crippled by recession. Not only that but children are going missing on such a regular basis that the residents have begun attributing these disappearances to an urban legend known as the Tall Man. It’s not until the son of town nurse, Julia Denning, is taken that the mystery of the Tall Man begins to come clear.

So far, so what? Right? The guy behind the grueling viscera of Martyrs isn’t going to be content with telling such a straightforward story, is he? Luckily for us, he’s not. Much like in his previous film, Laugier switches allegiances a number of times causing you to reevaluate everything you think you know about the characters involved. He uses the perception of film to make you believe one thing, and then have to reassess when the full picture is revealed. It’s not new, or groundbreaking, but he does it so brilliantly.

Let’s straighten this out now. The Tall Man isn’t necessarily a horror film. It uses familiar horror tropes to put the viewer on edge, and then pummels them back with a neck-breaking right turn directly into the thriller genre, only to end up somewhere completely different. One of the things that Laugier is clearly interested in is opening up the world of the movie, subtly, to show that this is just one event in a world of horror. While I can’t say anymore and stay on the right side of a spoiler warning, I’ll say that it happens a lot clunkier than in Martyrs. Some people to seem to take issue with the moral conundrum set up and later asked by the movie, I found no problem with it. I think it probably depends on how much you enjoyed the first 90 minutes as to whether you will find yourself despising the final ten or not.

For the most part, performances are handled well. Biel shines in her bare bones, low-key, no make-up type performance. Stephen McHattie aptly fills the role that probably would have gone to Lance Henriksen, had he been a slightly younger man. It’s well shot with a lot of tight framed shots that we saw in Martyrs, albeit shot through a blue filter that is almost essential if you want to encourage the modern horror audience to take an interest in your film.

Overall, The Tall Man is an intelligent, tightly-wound thriller that dares to ask some pretty bold questions. It is infinitely better than its trailer would have you believe, and as long as you don’t walk in expecting a Jeepers Creepers or similar then chances are you might have a pretty good time with this movie. I’m glad Pascal Laugier didn’t try to retread Martyrs or, even worse, take it to a more extreme level. Instead he crafted a film that is, in many ways, similar to his previous film without him feeling the need to repeat himself.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

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