In an isolated, slowly dying mining town, children are vanishing without a trace – abducted, the townsfolk whisper, by a mysterious entity known locally as “The Tall Man.” Town nurse Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) seems skeptical…until her young David disappears in the middle of night. Frantic to rescue the boy, Julia lives every parent’s darkest nightmare in this twisting, shock-around-each-corner thriller from acclaimed director Pascal Laugier.
The Tall Man is not your everyday horror movie. In some ways that is a good thing and in some ways it is not so good. Jessica Biel plays a widowed nurse that finds herself in the middle of a small town horror show. Kids are disappearing and the local legend, The Tall Man, is supposed to be the guilty party. Kids just go poof into the night to this cloaked monster of the dark. Biel is not so certain at first…until her young child goes missing.
One thing that The Tall Man does very well is it plays on your deepest fears. Any parent that has momentarily lost sight of their child knows that bottomless pit of desperation that hits you in the gut. That feeling is the emotion that director Pascal Laugier depends on in delivering his spooks and scares. For the most part it works.
The atmosphere and despair is palpable in the little town and it is the central focus of Laugier’s camera. The entire town is depressed and a bit mental outside of Julia (Biel) and it is odd in the extreme. Alcoholism, fist fights and insanity is all that seems to exist outside of the occasional despair of losing their children. Julia is one of the few people in town that seems to be normal, but she begins to question her own sanity as the movie goes along.
This despair is what drives The Tall Man, and Biel is phenomenal in a departure role for her. Gone are the make-up and fancy duds as Biel goes au natural for this role. She is stunning and still quite beautiful as she exudes the same quiet power that made her a star in Texas Chainsaw Massacre and others. Those high cheek bones give her a strong, firm countenance that she does not have to work for. It is totally natural.
The Tall Man is short on violence, sex and other staples of the genre, but it is no less scary. Although the plot gets extremely convoluted at one point, the solidarity of Biel as the protagonist seems to pull it all together. Again, it is desperation that allows the scares to come fast and furious.
One thing you can say about The Tall Man is that it is not predictable. The script twists and turns throughout and you never really know what is coming next. Unfortunately, the twists and turns don’t always make a ton of sense and dangling questions go unanswered. It is a thinking man’s horror flick that does not always have answers to satisfy.
For those that simply want a movie that will give them easy scares and quick jolts, The Tall Man will give you some of that. The second half of the movie is not going to be what you are looking for in that case, however. From there the movie is all about trying to figure out what is going on. Simple endings are not being served here.
Although the movie has its ups and downs, I enjoyed it a great deal. I will admit to being a huge Jessica Biel fan so certainly I am biased on that count. She is easily the best thing about this movie. It also has plenty of psychological horror that is effective until it becomes too convoluted. If you are a parent, this movie will strike a major cord in you. If you are not and are simply looking for a strong, simple horror movie to make you jump, then you might look elsewhere before plopping your money down on the Tall Man.