William B. Davis, the notoriously skulking, suspicious Smoking Man from The X-Files plays a skulking, suspicious conspiracy-minded sheriff in The Tall Man, which is appropriate, since this movie wants to be that TV series. But writer/director Pascal Laugier is certainly no Chris Carter.
Jessica Biel plays Julia Denning, a pediatric nurse in the remote mountain town of Cold Rock. It's a pretty place, but depressed… "Dead, for 6 years," intones the introductory voice-over. You see, this misty, tree-shrouded mining metropolis has not only lost its industry, but it's been having its children spirited away, one by one, for years and years. As the young population dwindles, so does the morale of everyone forced to sort out the pieces.
Not only will widowed Julia be out of a job if these mysterious abductions continue, but worse comes to worst when her own son is the 18th child to be snatched by "The Tall Man" — a cloaked and shrouded figure who comes in the night, does bad stuff, then evaporates by day. Kind of like Freddy Krueger, but without the snarky quips or razor-sharp finger-knives.
After Julia teams up with mute teenager Jenny (played by Jodelle Ferland, and who is the only person who's ever actually seen The Tall Man), to find her stolen child and solve the mystery, Julia's motives become murky… aside from the obvious, why is she so desperate? Is Jenny an ally, or an enemy? How come there are only two lawmen (Davis plays one, and the sublime Stephen McHattie who wowed in Pontypool plays the other) working on an unprecedented, ongoing case like this?
Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows how I love my comparisons, so here goes: The Tall Man is Haute Tension (2003) meets Boogeyman (2005), by way of an episode of Tales From the Darkside. Quirky fun as this sounds, it's not. It's a suspenseless mess presented far too seriously to bear its absurd set up, sagging center, and ridiculous resolution.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson