Saturday, October 13, 2012

Movie Appraisal: The Tall Man (2012)

Bait-and-switch thy name is The Tall Man. So, while I'd rather not spoil this movie, I think I'm going to go and say what this movie is and what this movie isn't. It is an incredibly thoughtful film that works on many different levels, both moralistic levels and philosophical levels. It is a mystery story without any real mystery... I mean, you'll figure out what's going on before it's spelled out, but you have to go along with the ride for a while. It's a really, really good movie. It has some great acting in it, primary from Jessica Biel, who is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses (I also love her performance in The Illusionist.) and Stephen McHattie, who was absolutely wonderful in this movie and another movie I loved called Pontypool. This movie is not a horror film, although it has elements of a horror film. It is not a thriller psychological or otherwise. It is not a film unwatchable in the depths of night. There is no real fear here despite the tagline of the movie being "FEAR TAKES A NEW SHAPE." No it doesn't movie. You are misdirecting and lying to me. If you're going into this thinking, "OH BOY! This is an adaptation of Slender Man!" you are going to be sorely disappointed. It's a classic bait-and-switch. You say it's going to be Slender Man and then change it up so that it's a rather intriguing and screwed up plot.

I can't even go and say much about the film. I wish I could, but it would be such a disservice to the two major twists in the plot. Suffice it to say that the plot here is literally fantastic. It drives a point home... kind of... and the heroes and villains... well, it's hard to tell which is which by the end. There's definitely a gray area there... you know, instead of being a movie with EVIL SLENDER MAN STEALING THE BAY-BAYS. The movie is quite brilliant though. Despite not quite being a horror film, it's certainly billed as such. I was slightly disappointed in the film- the lighting was too bright and everything was really confusing- until I realized it was not the kind of film I had expected. Once I knew it was a different film my expectations changed, and I started to change my tune about the film. I never once thought that this was a bad film though, rather I wanted more thrills but was instead rewarded with thoughts swimming into my head. Not a bad trade truth be told.

The directing here, by Pascal Laugier, is well done and unobtrusive. He allows the actors to do what they do best while doing very few fancy tricks. The well lit scenes betray that this isn't quite a horror movie, but he can be forgiven for that. It isn't a horror movie. As for the actors themselves, Jessica Biel shines so brightly in her part of Julia Dunning. She makes a complicated and complex role have many different facets and work as both character and person, something very few movies seem to be able to do. I felt for her character at times. And her performance stunned me. I cannot say enough good things about Ms. Biel. I hope she continues getting great roles for years to come. Stephen McHattie also shines as the lieutenant investigating the missing children. This guy has such amazing acting chops. He puts almost any other actor to shame. I thought he was great as Grant Mazzy in Pontypool and Hollis Mason in Watchmen, but here is another wonderful performance here. He has an interrogation scene that is almost perfect in its execution. I basically wish he would play every character in every movie ever. He's just absolutely a joy to watch act. I should also mention Jodelle Ferland, who seems to have found a niche in "horror" movies with Silent Hill, The Cabin in the Woods, and now this one. Her acting isn't anything to be blown away with here. She has very few lines despite being one of the most featured members of the cast. But her acting is very competent, and for a young actress- well, I have to believe she's the best of her age group by far.

So, I'm not going to say much more. I really enjoyed this movie and would suggest it to anybody who likes movies in general. While it's not precisely a horror movie, I am going to bill it as such here. It's marketed as one and does have some elements of a horror film, particularly in the earlier parts of the film. It's a movie that also really requires multiple viewings to see the whole picture. I seriously cannot recommend this movie enough. With a great plot and some wonderful acting, makeup (Oh, I didn't say it, but the makeup effects are amazing here.), and messages I think this is easily one of the best films I've seen this year.

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