Written by: Matt Molgaard
Directed by: Pascal Laugier
Cast: Jessica Biel, Jodelle Ferland, William B. Davis
I was torn on this film when it initially arrived, and a second visit, years later, hasn’t done too much to clarify my own opinion of the flick. I simply cannot tell you whether I enjoy the picture or not. I can tell you it is no failure, but I can’t tell you it’s a certified home-run, guaranteed to win over genre fans at every turn. The truth of the matter is, this is a grey area kind of film. There’s passion and there’s effort, but there’s an invisible safety net that seems to be holding the pieces of the narrative together for viewers. Which is, I suppose, to say that the film doesn’t push the envelope any way, and it seems as though the pic and its creator are content to avoid the kind of risks that make for spectacular features, and sometimes horrible pictures.
Safe or sorry, right?
Steering clear of risk means we’re going to get a little bit less reward. However, there’re enough qualities here to enjoy, and there are a couple of creepy sequences that look brilliant, handled as exterior shots and executed to perfection. You’re just moments away from hearing of all the unintentional nastiness of the film, but first know this: the good outweighs the bad and The Tall Man (for the record, no, there’s no relation here to Don Coscarelli or Angus Scrimm) is a movie worth watching.
Now, about that ugliness…
The Tall Man suffers from a few different problems that rear their ugly heads on more than a single occasion. First the story begins on a very deliberate note, but begins to become murky as we move into the second act. Then it becomes even hazier as The Tall Man winds down. By the time the flick wraps we’re left to wonder if the awkward ambiguity is intentional or unintentional. It certainly feels as though director Pascal Laugier (who also gifted us the chilling Martyrs) had the intent of winding down on a clearly defined note. That doesn’t happen. Another issue is the suspension of disbelief that must be applied to enjoy the ride. I won’t give away the details that really bring about the… unrealistic (I’ll leave it at that) moments, but as a few events do unfold, you’ll probably find yourself unintentionally sporting the WTF face.
Jessica Biel turns in good work as the female lead. And while her character’s profession of choice ensures that she’s a character of numerous layers – and Biel truly does handle each wrinkle of her character’s personality like a champ. There isn’t all that much in the way of support, but Stephen McHattie does appear looking rather dapper, and he’s always a blast to watch, even if we only get about 10 minutes of screen time. You’ve got to respect every moment you get to see a living legend perform, plain and simple.
You may find yourself staring at some challenges, but if you can look beyond a few relatively small hiccups, you’ll probably discover an ambitious little feature that warrants more praise than negativity. Biel is consistently impressive as she travels an intricate emotional gamut, and I love the rural setting, all green and growth (I’d be surprised if this one wasn’t filmed in either Northern California or somewhere in Canada), no commercialized territory in sight, big businesses be damned! The film is easy on the eyes, and pleasurable if you don’t hoist lofty expectations on a picture shot with a fairly small budget by a still developing director in Laugier.