Thursday 1 November 2012



Despite the title, this has nothing to do with Don Coscarelli's wonderfully grim and morbid Phantasm series (at least, the first two are wonderful, not so sure about the others); being more of a small-town urban legend thriller with a dash of social comment and a huge moral question mark hanging over the action for audiences to argue about on the way home afterwards. If it lacks the full-on visceral and sadistic horror of director Pascal Laugier's previous film Martyrs that's not to suggest it has any less impact: it's a different kind of film, bigger, glossier, and without the harsh edge and misery. Though it's certainly interesting, I was never much of a cheerleader for Martyrs and I think his new film is far preferable.

In a small town without hope or jobs - the mine has recently closed - young children are being abducted from their homes by an unseen individual nicknamed The Tall Man. Various residents claim to have seen the figure as it carried off their young ones, or to have spotted it in the dense surrounding woodlands, but who or what is The Tall Man really? Spirit, kidnapper, murderer? And what's happening to the children: are they even still alive? Then local nurse Jessica Biel's young boy is snatched....

And then, halfway through, the film pulls the rug out from under and recasts everything we've seen in a completely different light, with the who and the how revealed as nothing like our assumptions. (It's best to see The Tall Man without any big clues so I'm not even going to hint at the sleight of hand.) It's great when a movie plays a spectacular and unexpected bluff that sends you mentally rewinding the action in the light of the big reveal - The Usual Suspects is the prime example - and here it's quite audacious. With the villain identified the big question left at the end is whether The Tall Man's actions were morally and socially justifiable or not - a far more interesting idea than the homicidal bogeyman he's made out to be at the start.

Pascal Laugier was originally attached to the remake of Hellraiser (long talked about but still not even in pre-production, according to the IMDb) but walked away and came up with this terrific little original instead. And it's fun to see old hands like Stephen McHattie and William B Davis (as an ineffectual sheriff). No sign of a UK release as yet, sadly, but definitely worth catching when it shows up.


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