The Tall Man (2012)






French writer/director Pascal Laugier blew the horror world away with the release of his sophomore effort 'Martyrs' four years ago. It was a bold film. Brutal, yet tender, with a shocking ending that resonated with people long after the final reel had rolled. So what do you do as your follow up? Do you stay in the same territory, rehashing old themes and looking for new stories on land you've tread before? Or do you turn 180 degrees and move in the opposite direction, expanding your film making palate and forging into new territory? If your Laugier, you do both.

Jessica Beil is Julia, widowed town nurse and all around good person. Her town unfortunately, is dying. The mine has closed down, leaving most folks deprived, angry and out of work. Adding to the volatile cocktail is the strangely high amount of children that have disappeared from the town is a relatively short period of time. Local legend 'The Tall Man' is blamed by some for the disappearances, others believe there is a far more logical answer. The real cause creates a film that can be both powerful and maddening at the same time.

'The Tall Man' is a funny film. Not "ha ha" funny, more like, that's weird sort of funny. It really feels like two films sandwiched together somewhere around the 1 hour mark. The first half hour to forty five minutes feels much like 'Martyrs' in many ways. Beil is brutalized. Beaten, bloodied, lost in the forest - she's just a mess. Then the film - after the twist, which is pretty good, becomes an odd X-Files sort of police procedural.

It's when the tone of the film the shifts that it's quality goes right down the tubes. It's a shame too, because for the first hour of the film it's one of the best thrillers I've seen in a long time. Laugier pulls the trigger on the twist way too early and struggles to fill the rest of the running time. He drowns us with so much back story and repetition that we forget what made the first half of the film so special.

That being said there are some wonderful things at work here. Much like 'Martyrs', 'The Tall Man' is a wonderful film to watch. It's shot beautifully. The camera moves are wonderful, even DePalma-esque at times. Despite the films missteps, Laugier can shoot my film anytime.

The other really strong point of the film is Beil. I cannot believe I just typed that. But it's true, the chick who I mostly remember for her ass in that 'Chuck and Larry' film is quite good. I will go so far as to say that the film actually suffers when she's not on screen. That's not to say the other actors are bad, but she really is that good.

It's a shame that a film with so much promise over the first 60 minutes or so devolves into such a mess so quickly. If you can put up with the horrible third act, then 'The Tall Man' is a film you might really enjoy. If it really doesn't sound like something you'd be into, put in on and turn the sound off around the one hour make and just marvel at Laugiers direction.

Barely *** out of *****

'The Tall Man' is available on DVD and Blu Ray and can be streamed instantly on Netflix.

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