Very few horror films in recent years have scared me quite so profusely like Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs. That film besides being excruciatingly gory, disturbing and all around scary showcased Laugier’s style and interest in maintaining a high degree of unpredictability in his films. Even if the end result doesn’t always hit the mark, you do give praise to the film for being different and going places you wouldn’t expect. His follow-up to Martyrs is The Tall Man, a film that takes place in a very small town where children disappear without a trace. Said to have been taken a mysterious entity known as The Tall Man, the town is living in absolute fear especially since none of the kids that disappear are ever found. One stormy night, Julia’s (Jessica Biel) son is taken from and she must do all she can to get him back.
Even though that summary makes the film sound like so many that came before it, I must point out that around the 30 minute mark there is a massive twist that changes everything. That twist, which I never saw coming, shifts all that you thought you knew about the story and characters of the film. It redirects the proceeding in such a way that from here on out anything can happen. It because of that twist, that incredible change in expectations that The Tall Man is a film worth your time. It plays with expectations really well and presents things that gradually increase the intrigue and scary factors. I wish I could say more, but this is the type of twist the effectiveness of the film firmly relies upon and once it hits it all goes to hell.
The factor that almost made not watch this film was the always reliably wooden Jessica Biel. Biel is an actress whose fame I just don’t understand. It’s not so much that she is a bad actress, which she can be sometimes, but it’s the fact that she is always so average and lacklustre in what she does that I cannot stand her. In The Tall Man she is no different unfortunately. In the beginning her attempt at acting is incredibly boring to watch and it isn’t until her son gets taken that she finally become fun to watch. If there is one thing Jessica Biel is good for it’s action and director Pascal Laugier puts her through the ringer in this film. I liked that she plays the kind of mother who will chase the culprit down the rode, get in his truck and attempt to rescue her son by beating up the bad guy.
Those scenes where she doesn’t speak are very entertaining and effective. But it isn’t until the major twist hits that Biel’s character instantly becomes the powerhouse of the film. I mean powerhouse not in the acting terms but in the holy shit this is very interesting terms. Her performance gets better as the film progresses and for the first time, in my opinion, shows that she can actually emote and act. Her feelings of desperation, terror and newfound confidence are very palpable and give her so many unprecedented layers. Of course, a much better actress would’ve milked this character more appropriately but you take have your given and go with it
None of the trailers or the promotional posters for The Tall Man gave me any indication that I should use my time to watch it. It all carried this generic vibe that is plainly present during the first 30 minutes of the film. I think what the posters should’ve emphasized is the fact things are definitely not what they seem and that there was going to be a great twist. But I guess playing the generic card does increase the effectiveness of the twist so that’s why I’m not in advertisement. Suffice to say that The Tall Man will surprise you constantly and take you places you didn’t expect. The story itself gets better like everything else in the film and while things do get a bit preachy near the end, this whole ride is worth it. The film brings up some interesting points but I wished they had been explored further. But for what it is The Tall Man delivers enough to merit a scary movies night with friends.