Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Tall Man: Tension, Twists and Jessica Biel

I make have made quite a few jokes at the expense of Jessica Biel over the years, and really it’s just a sign of my own immaturity (as if you had doubts). The truth is she’s not bad. She’s definitely easy on the eyes, and you know what? I’m tired of making fun of J.B. 7th Heaven ended way too long ago for me to hold that damn show over her head any longer. My mother watched 7th Heaven every night. I was exposed to this show. I learned to deal with it in my own way. Since then she’s been in Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blade Trinity, The Illusionist (which was is still one of my non-horror favorites) and even the goddamn A-Team! She’s about to star in biography about Alfred Hitchcock called Hitchcock as Vera Miles. You tell me that she hasn’t earn back her cool kid card. You tell me that. Well then I’ll tell you that her appearance in The Tall Man made her a gold card carrying member. It’s the right thing to do. If her performance in TCM didn’t earn your respect The Tall Man demands it. Let’s discuss.

Synopsis from straight off of Amazon:

Darkness has descended over the northwestern town of Cold Rock. One by one, its children are disappearing. They leave behind neither clues nor credible witnesses, but instead a legend, a story cloaked in shadows passed from neighbor to neighbor… And with it, a building sense of terror which threatens to devour what’s left of the community itself. Superstitious locals talk of ‘The Tall Man,’ a mysterious figure who takes the children away, never to be seen again. But Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) has no time for legends or superstitions. A nurse doing her best for the emotionally distraught and economically devastated former mining town, she tries instead to preserve a semblance of normality both at work and at home. Until terror enters her own front door. Waking up in the middle of the night, she races to her child’s bedroom, only to discover an empty bed – and a hulking specter in the downstairs doorway who steals off into the darkness with her boy (Jakob Davies). As Julia follows in pursuit, she will stop at nothing and will risk everything to save him. Joined by determined investigator, Lt. Dodd (Stephen McHattie) and the town’s local sheriff (William B. Davis), the chase is on and with it the quest for answers: Who is ‘The Tall Man’? What has become of the children? Soon, the town of Cold Rock will have the answers it so desperately seeks, answers that will shake the community to its core.

Pascal Laugier likes to make you unhappy. Well, I don’t think that’s his sworn motivation for living, but ever since we all had the chance to “enjoy” a little movie called Martyrs we’ve been walking on tip toes and praying we don’t get abducted for any reason. Laugier’s new film is a fabulous mystery, a shocking thriller with a twist that, while not as gut wrenching or gory as Martyrs, will pull your heart strings clean out of your body (if Martyrs didn’t eat them with some sort of legume product first). He’s painted a dark portrait of a person with the best intentions who finds herself in someone else’s very mad nightmare and comes out of the whole mess living her very worst nightmare; one she cannot imagine or hope to wake from. While I hesitate to say more as I might spoil your appetite for this one I think you get where I’m going. The hunt for the Tall Man won’t lead you to a room where Angus Scrimm is signing autographs. There are no shiny balls in The Tall Man.

Now on to Jess Biel. I think her resume beyond our little horror world might be telling Yes, she’s a more diversified thespian than one might imagine and Hell, we all take jobs to bring in the Benjamins. Biel’s performance here is startling and at times touching. You’ll be endeared to her, offended by her and confused… and maybe that whole blender of emotions might make you uncomfortable. The supporting cast will confirm each of these feelings about Biel herself and about the story.

It’s a dark film. Dark in tone with a dark soundscape, lit darkly and with a sense of dread in every frame. It’s also evenly paced. Laugier builds his structure of tension and refuses to let it fall even for a second. Even when you think that the whole thing is about to relax and you’ll be able to catch your breath. Practice your underwater breathing before watching it. You’ll be holding your breath for quite a long time. It’s not strict horror or terror or psych thriller. It’s just a brooding look inside a legend or a really real myth. What lies inside the human monster? What is the human monster? Who is the human monster.

 What this flick suffers from? Well, it’s not exactly the gruesome fest of Martyrs. For the hype that has been built around the film nobody told me that it wasn’t due to the physical degradation of an individual so I came in waiting for the splatter to hit the wall. The splatter didn’t hit the wall, but my butt never left the seat, my eyes never left the screen and I was thinking about it the day after I watched it. I’m wondering what ya’ll will think about it. I wanna know. Leave comments below (you spoil it and you’re on the block). I hope this film hasn’t been overhyped enough to turn you off to it. I hope I haven’t assisted in the overhype.

The moral implication of this film are strong and the psychological mind-fuck is gorgeous. Let your self be fucked in the mind hole for a day and change your impression of Ms. Biel. She may have started off in 7th Heaven but this puppy will take you down to the 10th Circle of Hell (thanks  Ray Stance).

It’s getting a limited release August 31st and will be released on DVD and Blu Ray September 25th, just in time for trick or treating… when you have to really work about your kids being kidnapped. Tee hee heee…