Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Tall Man (2012)

NetFlix 3.5/5
IMDB 5.9/10
My Rating: 7/10

In a depressed and dying mining community, a mysterious figure called "The Tall Man" begins abducting the neighborhood children. When a mother's young son is taken, she plunges headfirst into a deeper mystery.

The Tall Man, like a movie I reviewed earlier, Triangle, is a tough flick to write about.  There's a plot on top of a plot on top of a plot, and my hope is to encourage folks to watch the film without actually spoilering what makes the film so excellent.  And it is excellent, in my opinion - It's clever, very tense, well acted, and well told.  What it is not is a horror film.  I notice on IMDB it has received a number of negative reviews from people disappointed that it wasn't a slasher or a supernatural scare flick, and I think the promotional material I've seen for it does lead one to think that they're in for stabbings and Paula Deen-level terror.  Nope.  It's more a mystery/thriller, the sort of movie I'd recommend to my parents even.  "The Tall Man" is certainly a menacing figure and the child theft theme amps up the tension factor, but it's not a film that leaves a trail of bloody bodies.

What is does have is several great genre actors - The X Files' Cigarette Smoking Man makes an appearance (and when he turns up on YOUR side, you know you're screwed) and it's also lucky to have Stephen McHattie in a small part as the lead investigator.  McHattie has been a favorite of mine ever since I saw him in that most unusual zombie film, Pontypool - One of my personal favorites of the last ten years.  He's a good actor with a great stare... Manic, intense, and with a lot of screen presence that is aided by the fact that he resembles a sort of ambulatory mummy, as if Karloff strolled out of the sarcophagus and threw on a trenchcoat.

So what exactly IS this movie about?  In a small, dying mining town, the children are being abducted by a seemingly magical figure called the Tall Man.  Atmosphere is a big part of the story and the depiction of a crumbling, formerly middle class town, with boarded storefronts and broken windows and even more broken lives, is a familiar sight in these modern times.  Unemployed citizens are everywhere, sitting by roadsides, yelling at their spouses, and generally living dead-end lives in a community that's slowly spiraling into inevitable decay.  The additional sense of doom from having their children literally vanishing adds to the overall despair.  Police seem helpless to solve the crimes or find the kids.  When our heroine, a young mother of a rather odd looking child, interrupts his abduction, the chase is on... and what a chase it is!  The bulk of the film is in constant motion as we follow her through twist after twist.
Be braced for some confusion midstream - Unlike so many movies that are good right up to a disappointing finale, this one can be vexing and seem overly twisty until the final reveal, which makes all the preceding events fall into place for an unnerving and thoughtful conclusion that asks some big questions about society as a whole.  I loved it, personally.  Definitely recommended!

And the bad?  The unfortunate title means that forever after, our Google searches are going to confuse THIS Tall Man for the REAL Tall Man, and as every loyal Phantasm fan knows, the wrath of the Tall Man is not a thing to take lightly...

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