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
Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
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