Set in the small town of Cold Rock, which has fallen on seriously hard economic times mostly due to cases of child abduction by a rumoured local spectre nicknamed ‘The Tall Man’. Jessica Biel plays a dedicated and caring nurse whose young son appears to have been abducted. She gives chase, but is felled by injury, unable to save her son. And that’s when this film offers its first of several twists, as there’s a whole lot more to this situation than meets the eye. Stephen McHattie plays a federal agent and William B. Davis is the local sheriff.
This quietly creepy 2012 French-Canadian crime-thriller from writer-director Pascal Laugier (the startling and rather disturbing “Martyrs”) has enough twists and turns to keep you somewhat engaged, but at times I found it frustratingly confusing. I kept watching, and it’s never dull (especially the final passages), but if it were a little more coherent (without spoiling any of the surprises and twists, of course) this could’ve really been something. A low-key Jessica Biel has never been better, if a tad too distractingly deglamourised, practically screaming ‘serious actress’. Being an EP on the film, she clearly felt connected to the material in some way. It’s also always good to see veteran Canadian character actors Stephen McHattie and William B. Davis (even if “X Files” alumni Davis seems about 25 years too old for his role), but this one just comes up a bit short for me.
Confusion lessens the impact of the issue Laugier is ultimately delving into here, and it is indeed an interesting subject worthy of debate. I also found that there was a few too many scenes of characters skulking about for my liking- long passages of it, actually. It’s not like it was supposed to be a stalk-and-slash film. The cinematography by Kamal Derkaoui features some nice night-time lighting, and foggy forestry shots that always warm my black heart. There’s certainly tinges of horror/thriller here (Echoes of Stephen King and Dean R. Koontz in particular), but it’s definitely more of a mystery-drama at the end of the day. Casting ominous-looking actors like Davis (who looks about 90 here, by the way) and McHattie in supporting authority figure roles certainly has your guard up for something sinister throughout, though.
A not always successful, but certainly interesting and rather bleak film that goes to places you don’t always expect, constantly pulling the rug out from under you. I just wish it were a little easier to follow. It’s no “Martyrs”, but it’s no disaster, either.