Cold Rock, U.S.A. – on the surface just a small town like any other, However, the residents of Cold Rock are quietly living with a horrible truth: their children keep disappearing, leaving neither a clue nor a witness. Whilst the police are no closer to finding out why, some of the more superstitious locals whisper tales of The Tall Man, a legendary, mysterious dark figure who takes children away never to be seen again. So when local nurse Julia (Jessica Biel), wakes one night to find her son David's bed empty, all her worst fears are realized. Is the dark figure she sees escaping with David really The Tall Man? If so, who is he and where does he take the children? And why do some of the town folk seem to know more than they are prepared to say...
Cold Rock is an aptly named town. Jobs have evaporated, and the people live an isolated existence where they take the law into their own hands. It is a town that has died – everywhere is streaked with rain and oil, the townsfolk are permanently bedraggled, their faces bleached of colour. Sometimes children are born in Cold Rock that are not wanted; often, these youngsters simply disappear. Someone is taking them.
In young David, we have a genuinely appealing child. With a head full of crayons and castles, he is ripe for kidnap by the fabled Tall Man. Julia (Jessica Biel), who looks after him, has a bloodied confrontation with the indistinguishable figure – despite my initial thoughts, The Tall Man is not a spectral, superhuman figure, but a real, physical threat. And yet when Julia is brought to the café which seems to be a meeting point for the locals, their hostilities are directed towards her.
Rather than a full-blooded horror, this film is about a handful of people who make the most extraordinary sacrifices to remove the many children from their stultifying life in Cold Rock – or presumably any other similarly perverse and hopeless community – in order to place them in surroundings with a better future, or any future at all. I would have preferred it if the writing had not been quite so oblique concerning this fairly important revelation. In view of the extraordinary sacrifice this handful of people make in delivering children with no future into the hands of The Tall Man, the reality of what they are doing might have been more clearly defined. As it is, the brow-beaten, teary-eyed staring into space from characters like Julia could have been better explained.
Do money and respectability necessarily ensure a child has a better life? That seems to be the message here. Social commentary given the trappings of a potential horror film – beautifully told and acted, incredibly well directed. At its core, the story itself seems judgemental.
Supposedly based on a real local folk tale from somewhere in the United States, The Tall Man tells the story of a town plagued by the mysterious disappearance of children, who leave absolutely no trace of themselves and are never seen again. A local nurse finds herself in the middle of another kidnapping tragedy, but things aren’t exactly as they seem.
A movie that starts out as a run of the mill thriller The Tall Man left me quite speechless by the time the credit’s had finally rolled; things are certainly not what they seem in the quiet town of Cold Rock, and the central character Julia (Jessica Biel) has quite a few surprises in store for us in the ninety odd minutes that follow the first on screen disappearance.
As the movie plods slowly along things begin to get strange and the run of the mill thriller begins turning into a horror movie with distinctly Wicker Man overtones, there’s something going on in this town and actually, it’s not what you expect.
It’s very hard to talk about the Tall Man without giving away too much, what I can say however is that it’s intriguing and I defy anyone to guess the ending.
Unfortunately for the movie it’s also quite disjointed, the generic theme is constantly in flux, and although this is a great idea in theory, it makes it very hard for you to know where you stand as an audience member. There’s also a strange kind of over-characterization in places where you don’t really understand why you are being introduced to half of the characters until right at the very end, whilst on the other hand you find yourself asking, on more than one occasion, who that character is in relation to another.
There’s a part of me that really wants to encourage you to watch the Tall Man because it is quite unlike anything I’ve really seen before, and in many ways it’s very clever and raises some very interesting moral issues; but in the end it’s a bit of a disappointment. You don’t care that much about the characters anyway, so the outcome isn’t particularly fulfilling and the final plot twist isn’t handled or explained very well. What we have here is another classic case of a plot with potential that was spoilt by the big screen.