Directed by Pascal Laugier
I’m not really a fan of remakes. That’s a fairly trite thing to say, especially if you’re a genre fan, but it’s true all the same. Mind you, there are plenty of remakes that are worthwhile, but most seem to be lifeless retreads that exist solely to fleece hopeful fans of their hard-earned blood money.
And why is it, I ask you, that most of those remakes are adaptations of previous works that were classics in their own right? Why not take a flawed film that showed promise and remake it instead? I could absolutely get behind that idea. There have been plenty of near-misses I’ve seen, only to wind up thinking, “Hey! Can’t wait for the remake!”
For example: The Divide (review). Great idea, good cast, shoddy writing and execution. Can’t wait for the remake.
How about something like Apollo 18? Found footage horror! In space! But, uh… well, you saw it. Still, can’t wait for the remake!
Of course I already know the answer to my earlier question. Flawed films aren’t likely to have large enough followings for studios to trade in on their names. All the same, that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of movies constantly popping up that have wonderful ideas hindered by any number of factors that prevent them from being classics (or even very good films).
Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you The Tall Man. Not a remake, no, but an original flick from writer/director Pascal Laugier – the crazy, brilliant bastard who gave us the super-creepy House of Voices and the superb Martyrs.
The town of Cold Rock, Washington, has fallen on hard times. Ever since the local mine shut down, work has dried up and the town has turned poverty-stricken. Worse still, a rash of recent child abductions has plagued the area, with the various disappearances attributed to the local urban legend known only as “The Tall Man”. Local nurse/unofficial town doctor Julia Denning (a very good Biel) doesn’t seem to pay much mind to the legend, as she tends to the broken town as best she can (acting as midwife, paying house calls, etc.). Of course, not being a believer doesn’t protect her own child, who is stolen from Julia’s home in the dead of night. What follows is a harrowing chase with this desperate mother doing everything she can to reclaim her kidnapped son, until…
Not much more can be said without spoiling the film’s big reveal. It comes at the film’s midpoint (rather than the climax), and suffice to say that it signals the movie’s downfall. Up until this moment the film had such promise. The acting is pretty damned impressive across the board (including the surprisingly strong Biel, who gets to work a few acting muscles she’s seldom given the chance to), the production design and cinematography are that special brand of gritty and gorgeous that Laugier seems to do so well, and the story, while simple, is pretty damned enthralling. Hell, even aside from all of that, the movie is intense, at least until the big Shyamalan that’s thrown at us.
I don’t even mind the twist so much, even though it creates some major story problems for the first half of the film (either that, or you can choose to believe that Cold Rock has the WORST. COPS. EVER.) It’s an interesting idea, even if it’s cribbed from the climax of a far better crime movie from about five years ago…
…said movie being Ben Affleck’s great Gone Baby Gone.
What I mind is that the rest of the film is made up of two things and two things only: exposition (ohhh, lots of exposition) and a red herring that attempts to hide the film’s final revelation from the audience (even though it’s glaringly, painfully, obvious what that revelation will be).
It’s as though Laugier had a great forty-five minute thriller to tell and then spent another forty-five minutes explaining himself and all that came before. All notions of this film being a horror/thriller are forgotten by this point while the movie settles down into… what? A drama, perhaps? A cautionary tale concerning the potential repercussions of bad parenting (if only!)? A well-veiled meditation on the importance of adoption? Who knows? What it is not is thrilling or horrific or even terribly interesting or entertaining.
It’s a shame, too. This reviewer is a big fan of Laugier’s previous work, and I’m still looking forward to his next film, whatever that may be (pity it won’t be Hellraiser). He knows how to shoot a beautiful film, pull great performances from his cast, and tell a cracking good story that’s brimming with intensity.
Unfortunately, The Tall Man is a major misstep for the man. Had he chosen to fill out the film’s middle with a bit more intense cat-and-mouse and kept the big surprise for the film’s ending, this movie might have been considerably more successful. But, as the worst way to review a film is to talk about what one might’ve done in the filmmaker’s place, I’ll say no more.
Sorry to say, but I ultimately have to conclude that The Tall Man isn’t quite worth your time. Great idea, great cast, great cinematography, sure. If only the storytelling had been up to par, this film might well have been one of the better horror flicks to have come out this year.
Can’t wait for the remake.
2 out of 5