Okay, so, I saw this via netflix last week and… yeah, I can’t say anything without giving everything away so I’m just going to go ahead and spill my guts on this one.
On the off-chance people care about spoilers for this movie:
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That should be enough room!
This movie was marketed as a horror film. Jessica Biel was the lead with Samantha Ferris a strong secondary character and Stephen McHattie as the state cop (or possibly a Fed, it wasn’t clear) that he plays so well.
The main problem with this movie is that it wasn’t a horror film. Not even close. Now, the premise – children being taken from their homes in the blink of an eye to disappear – certainly sounds like a good one for a horror film, especially since the town believes this supernatural legend is what’s taking the children. The town itself is dying, the mine’s closed down, no jobs, rampant alcoholism, poverty, and abuse, etc., etc., so why wouldn’t a supernatural baddie prey on those who are already victims?
When the movie opens, we find Jessica as a nurse struggling to keep giving healthcare to the town where her deceased husband was the town doctor. She helps birth a teen mother’s baby, works with a deaf girl on her speech exercises (I assume there was a cochlear implant, though we never saw it) and various other goodie-two-shoes duties that no one seems willing or able to do for those left.
She goes home to her young son and the nanny/friend, they play and have dinner and then she drinks herself to sleep… and wakes up to find the friend/nanny tied up and beaten and the son missing. After a grueling chase of who we assume to be “the tall man” she ends up half-dead and gets found by McHattie lying on the road.
Here’s where it goes a little off the rails for me. Instead of taking her to a hospital, even one in a neighboring town, he drops her off at the local diner for the sheriff to look after and call an ambulance even though at this point, there’s nothing for McHattie to chase after. The townies in the diner all look like a mob waiting to happen and when the diner owner gives her a change of clothes, Jessica finds an alter to her son in the back room.
I won’t go through the whole movie, don’t worry. It’s at this point that I was squinting at the pc and muttering, “what? wtf is going on?” because the mob from the diner starts chasing her into the woods and Jessica’s suddenly the bad guy because they think she’s the one taking all the kids… because she is. There’s no Tall Man, not even a glimmer of the supernatural, nothing. Turns out that Jessica’s a zealot and believes children shouldn’t be forced to live in squalor and abuse and she’ll “save” them even if it means killing them to do it. She confesses to somewhere north of 10 murders and says their bodies are in the forest and mines and so will never be found…. only they’re really alive and living with families who not only want them, but can take care of them and give them lives worth living.
It turns out that The Tall Man is really social commentary masquerading as an action movie. Is it better to take children from families who don’t want or can’t take care of them or to leave them with their blood and let the cycle of violence and poverty perpetuate?
You know, it’s actually a good movie. The story’s interesting and the acting was pretty good. The twist in going from victim to bad guy was confusing, but only because the premise was so damn badly marketed. I think people were irritated and dismissive about this movie because they, like myself, went into it expecting to see a horror film and got social commentary. Because Hollywood only markets by genre and this didn’t really fit any genre, the movie itself got screwed.
In any case, it’s a movie worth seeing if you like odd little movies that don’t fit much of any genre. Just don’t expect to see anything scary.