Jessica Biel is well-known but you will struggle to find anything noteworthy in her career; Blade Trinity killed the franchise, and Stealth killed Josh Lucas’s career. Yet somehow she has maintained her mainstream presence (in part thanks to being Mrs. Timberlake). This supposed-horror film, The Tall Man, does not change things despite her having the lead role.
Julia Denning (Biel) is a local widowed nurse in the small run-down town of Cold Rock. The community has fallen on hard times because of the closure of a nearby mine, therefore there’s not much to look forward to in this bleak place, especially if you are a child. Mysteriously, someone, known locally as ‘The Tall Man’, is stealing the children without leaving any trace. But is he – or she – even real? Naturally things start to unravel when Julia’s child is taken – as well as the truth behind the resident bogeyman and the disappearances.
It is fair to say that the storyline does not inspire much. As this has been clearly presented as a horror film, you expect the creepy vibe it initially introduces. Don’t be fooled – it is more like a drama. Some scenes have obviously been shoved in as stock horror elements, like Biel frantically running around in a low-lit, rainy, hillbilly area (basically reprising her Texas Chainsaw Massacre role). But all it does is confuses the story and rams home a morality lesson to us at the end which you never would have expected in the beginning (without giving anything away – is stealing children good?).
There are also inconsistencies in all the characters, and turning Biel superhuman (staying conscious after a massive crowbar whack, punching a person across a room) shows how poorly-made this is. In fact, more thought has gone into the out-of-place opening credits than anything else. This is the fundamental problem; the film is asking you to think deeply about society yet it is impossible to do so when there are laughable factors throughout the film.
If you are not bored, amused or angered by the unclear narrative and terrible acting, than you may find something in here to enjoy, or at least ponder. The abusive mentality of certain town-folk definitely strikes a nerve and is arguably the only chilling thing in this. But it all goes back to the message it’s trying to convey and it is one a double-episode of a TV show could have handled better.
A bit of credit goes to the ending for making things slightly more interesting with its subject matter, if only because it keeps you guessing where the film is going. Whether you care or even stay around until the end is another matter. Despite how different it tries to be, The Tall Man falls some way short in any justification to be seen.
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