October has been approaching us at its usual and steady pace; and with its imminent arrival comes the veritable smorgasbord of horror films. I’m a bit of a fan of horror films. Okay, I’m more of a rabid fanboy sporting Pinhead’s face on a t-shirt and discussing all of the clear reasons why zombies that run are complete and utter bullshit lacking any metaphoric substance. One of the first films I remember viewing was 1979′s ultimate classic, Alien. It was 1986 and I was four years old. I always thought of Alien as something of a haunted house movie, just in space. It was since that spectacular viewing that I’ve been in bed with horror films. I grew up with Jason Voorhees and Pumpkinhead. I grew up with (the real) Dawn of the Dead and Evil Dead 2. This is, far and away, my favorite genre of film, so I hope you won’t take this review too lightly.
I don’t recall specifically when it was that I heard of The Tall Man‘s existence. I do, however, remember hearing about it and immediately thinking this was going to be a film about Slender Man. If you’re unfamiliar with the Slender Man meme, read about it here: knowyourmeme.com/memes/slender-man . So here’s what I gathered regarding The Tall Man: It’s about a mysterious figure, tall and shadowy, who kidnaps children. Alright, sweet, so definitely Slender Man, right? Wrong as fuck. I was assured months prior that this would not be a film surrounding the Slender Man myth at all, whatsoever, not inspired by, the end. Okay, so I guess we’ll just see what this is really all about.
I was under the impression that this film would see a theatrical release. It was a film I never had much of an interest in firstly; mainly due to the Hollywood aesthetic on display in the trailer, and the presence of Jessica Biel. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I completely forgot about it until perusing Netflix late last night. Bam! There it was, sitting among a library of some pretty classic horror romps. “Oh yeah…”, I thought aloud. “I thought this was coming to theaters around October this year. Huh…let’s give it a view.”
Let me state here that you should not have an interest in seeing this film, so when I say that there are some minor spoilers to follow, that shouldn’t dissuade you from finishing this review. Here’s the first spoiler: This is not, in any universe or dimension, an actual horror film. To give you an idea of what this film is, I’m going to pitch you a concept here and let’s see what you think: I want to make a comedy. Yes, it will be billed and marketed as a comedy. The film will be ninety minutes of a man being brutalized, tortured, and raped but we’ll have a laugh track to coincide with the wailing screams. Get it? It’s really a fresh take on comedy. But wait, there’s more. We’ll have an important, but incredibly preachy, social message for the audience to take away from it. Here’s the twist: We’ll make sure to write it carefully so everyone knows that we’re really not convinced the message is right in the first place. Yes, a fresh take indeed!
Movies, and primarily horror movies, are supposed to entertain. I literally would have been more entertained if I spent that hundred minutes making repeated feeble attempts to fart out of my nose. There’s a damned good reason I can watch The Running Man over ten times a year, and I’d rather be billed as a human “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey” for children’s birthday parties than spend another two hours sitting through The King’s Speech. Speaking technically and objectively, the King’s Speech may be the better of the two films. But fucking corndogs on a cross, is it BORING. So The Tall Man’s first, and largest, shortcoming is in its complete failure to entertain me. However, it should be stated that the cinematography is marvelous, with outstanding sound to boot. The film is wonderful to look at sometimes, and the eerie melodies help set the mood to great effect. Really a great crew here that played well together. It’s just unfortunate they were destined to work with the likes of Pascal Laugier and the cast.
When I said that the film’s biggest problem was in its failure to entertain, I lied. Ensuring that the audience is entertained is the responsibility of the writer and the director. Here, they are one and the same – Pascal Laugier. Writer/Director Pascal Laugier wrote a script that feels disjointed, is at times incoherent, is overly preachy about a message that he himself is unsure of (as evidenced in a voice over to wrap the film up), and forces the film’s cast to deliver dialogue that is mostly unconvincing. I’m unsure of how much influence Laugier had on the film’s camera shots, but the bulk of those were setup rather well. He was able to pull some passable performances from the cast, but the characters themselves are largely unlikable.
Remember how I just said the film’s largest problem was Pascal Laugier? I lied again. The largest problem is that it is billed and marketed as a horror film. This means that, regardless of affiliations and context, I’m going to see this movie. If it’s horror, I’m there. The film starts eerily enough with oppressive atmosphere, and some gorgeous visuals. Location means a lot here, and we’re given a glimpse at an aging, dilapidated Washington town; seemingly locked in a time capsule, far away from the advances of modern society. We’re introduced to Jessica Biel portraying a nurse. She cares for a child in her home, she cares about the community that she’s a part of. The first boring fifteen minutes are so poorly written, that you’ll often be a bit confused about who characters are, what their relationship is in regards to the lead, and what relevance they have, if any. All of this leads us to Biel’s supposed child being taken by what we’re led to believe is “the Tall Man”. Only he’s not really tall. Or at all. SPOILER: (If you don’t want the movie spoiled, skip ahead to the bold letters marked, “Safe to read” . Seriously, though; you shouldn’t care.)This is because this isn’t actually the Tall Man.
Here’s where shit gets weird and my interest was finally piqued: Again, spoilers: Turns out Biel’s character has been kidnapping the town’s children, caring for them for a short amount of time before apparently handing them over to the Tall Man (who seriously, in all depictions of him, is NEVER tall). Well this could be interesting. The film mentioned her dead husband earlier. My mind began to race and I became excited in my anticipation for the reveal. At this point in the film, here’s what I had going on in my horror-addled brain: Her dead husband, once a doctor and philanthropist, was taken by some wild demon from a far away land whilst out…philanthroping? So now his tortured soul hides in the basement, awaiting his weekly delivery of fresh children to feed on. He swallows the souls from their bodies, leaving behind the pruned corpses. So yeah, I was really wrong about that. THE SPOILER TO END ALL SPOILERS: Here’s what was really going on. While Biel is now imprisoned for the kidnapping and alleged murder of eighteen children, one final child is whisked away by the Tall Man. I started to piece it all together. I knew Biel’s character couldn’t actually be the villain. She goes off on one of the victim’s mothers from behind prison glass: She can’t stand the bureaucracy, the endless cycle of hoops that must be leapt through in order to help millions of children in need. Yep, the Tall Man is indeed her not-so-dead husband. They’re kidnapping children from messy, broken households and giving them new lives (in close proximity to their origins) in the city. LAMEST “HORROR” STORY EVER. FUCKING EVER!
There are more than a few logistical issues surrounding what the story implies. This just wouldn’t work. Children would be found. Furthermore, the writer begs the question (from the child’s perspective), “Am I better off? Am I? Hmm?!?!” Yes, the voice over of the final child literally spews that question out and repeats the words, “Am I!?!” So…what the fuck is your goddamned point, man?! Jesus, this film was boring, poorly paced, ill-written, preachy, and full of logistical plot holes. Furthermore, IT’S NOT A FUCKING HORROR MOVIE. Sorry to yell, but this movie deserves it.
SAFE TO READ:
To recap, I feel this sums the movie up very well: It’s like torture porn with a laugh track and I would have been better off spending my time trying to fart out of my nose. Don’t see this pile of shit. It’s worse than shit, it’s uber-shit. If this movie were a politician, it would be like Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney blowing each other for eternity and making an endless parade of mouth babies. Not very eloquent, I know, but this movie doesn’t deserve eloquence, it deserves mouth babies.
1/100 (Yes, that’s one out of one-hundred)
Okay, fine. I’ll truthfully give it a 4/10 for its great use of sound and spectacular cinematography.