31 Days of Reviews: The Tall Man (2012)

The plot of this movie is a very close interpretation to the internet lore of Slender Man. Watching the movie is definitely a journey, which I can separate into three distinct feelings:

  1. Eh
  2. What on earth is going on…
  3. Holy social commentary, Batman!

The movie revolves around a small town which has a big problem: children keep going missing. The town invents a type of lore, a person or being called the Tall Man who is taking the children. When the local nurse, played by Jessica Biel, has her son taken from his bedroom in the middle of the night, she does something that no other parents have done. She pursues the kidnapper. This leads the audience through a pretty wild roller coaster of trying to figure out what the story of the tall man really is.

Production wise, I had some problems with some of the edits. On several occasions, we would have a moving camera shot that would suddenly take the viewer to a different time and place. It was being used as a means of passage of time. I don’t see a problem with this in general, but the movie used it so often that it started to grow very old very fast.

Unfortunately, I don’t see much of a way to talk about this movie anymore without delving into actual plot points, so below this paragraph there will be spoilers. If you intend on watching this movie or are put off from watching movies after seeing details of the movie, then don’t read past the asterisks.

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In the introduction to this review, I split the movie into three distinct parts: 1) Eh 2) What on earth is going on… and 3) Holy social commentary, Batman! At this point, I will elaborate further.

1) Eh – When this movie started out, I was convinced that this review was going to be entirely negative. It’s one of those beginnings where the viewer is tossed right into the middle of the action, and then we go back in time, in this case 36 hours earlier to explain just how we got there. This beginning scene is followed by some really campy credits and then we go into introductions to characters.

The introduction to the characters was really off-putting. I remember thinking something along the lines of “wow.. what hollow acting.. That’s supposed to be her kid?” in regards to Jessica Biel’s relationship with her on screen son. She had a more genuine relationship with the other woman she lived with, but it was never explained what their relationship was and I wasn’t happy with that either. The town felt weird. The family felt weird. I was really turned off.

2) What on earth is going on… – After her son is taken from his bedroom, the movie catapults into a roller coaster of emotion and seemingly random events. We have the chaos of Biel’s character pursuing the kidnapper, then she is picked up off of the road by a federal agent. She gets taken to the local diner where the townsfolk are just really really weird, then the townsfolk start chasing after her like a lynch mob as if they’re in on the kidnapping. This is really where it just gets weird. Let me say weird one more time, weird.

During this entire section of the movie, it feels like the viewer is being left behind. It’s really disconcerting, and I was really not liking it. In retrospect, that’s entirely what is happening. The viewer really is being left behind. It’s the opposite of the more common scenario where the viewer knows more than the protagonist. All of the characters in the film know far more than what the viewer does.

3) Holy social commentary, Batman! – This is where it gets intricate. This is where you start to doubt everything you have seen so far, but also start to understand everything you’ve been shown. It’s a plot twist that was dangled out in front of you, but you didn’t want to believe it.

The Tall Man is something that the town made up to try to describe the phenomena that was happening to them. There is something going on, but they have no idea just what it is. The town’s ideas are too simple. They think someone is just kidnapping and killing their children. It’s far more deep than that.

I’m not going to detail the plot twist here, because I think it’s something that people might really want to see, and it will also open me up to doing an analysis of the social commentary being presented. I will say that the movie is taking a good, hard look at a recurring cycle and self-fulfilling prophecy that plagues that United States: the problem with the rich and the poor. While I can agree with the thought process behind what is really going on, I cannot agree with the methods that are being used to remedy the problem. It leaves far more questions unanswered than what it solves in the long run.

Overall, The Tall Man is a pretty wild ride. If you can make it past the first two sections I mentioned in order to reach the third and final act, you might really enjoy it. I know it wasn’t what I was expecting, and that’s probably a good thing.

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