The Gist: Children have disappeared without a trace from the small and desolate former mining town of Cold Rock, Washington. The locals blame the disappearances on The Tall Man, a legend without a back story but still a figure to be feared. When the widowed wife of the town’s beloved doctor loses her own son, the truth behind the The Tall Man is revealed.
A Quick Note: I’m going to say it now because I’m going to include spoilers below, I recommend this movie because it was not what it seemed. It is a bit slow and it takes a few moments to put all the pieces together when the truth comes out but it is a good watch.
Villains? Jessica Biel (Julia Denning), Jodelle Ferland (Jenny) Patience Buckner in The Cabin in the Woods, Stephen McHattie (Lieutenent Dodd), Samantha Ferris (Tracy) Ellen Harville from Supernatural, William B. Davis (Sheriff Chestnut) the cigerette smoking man from The X-Files.
My Take: I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie since I purposely avoided reading more than the synopsis to keep from spoiling it. I’ve watched many suspenseful/horror movies where I read too much of the plot and it detracts from my enjoyment. Alright, on with it. I was struck by the setting for this flick as it was filmed around a location that I used to live in: Nelson, BC. The movie is bleak in its appearance being set against dark forests and having a constant drizzle – very atmospheric Julia is a nurse in the small community who has taken on the duties of being the only medical aid in the town after the death of her doctor husband. Over time (I can’t remember how long) children have disappeared, taken from the poor community and never heard from again. One night the unthinkable happens when Julia’s son David is snatched from her home (Julia has kept David in the house with his nanny and doesn’t allow him to watch TV or apparently go to school, leaving the boy and the nanny in an isolated home). Julia wakes up after having a couple of cocktails, to the radio blaring some bible thumping stuff. She doesn’t find anything or anyone until she turns and sees nanny Christine beaten and tied up in the pantry. She looks away just in time to see a mysterious, shrouded figure carrying David out the front door.
Things progress from the nightmare of a child abduction to the strange and unexpected explanation behind what is actually happening to the children and who is taking them as Julia pursues The Tall Man. There are several close calls where she almost gets David back but after a bumpy ride on the back of a truck, she fails and is found in the middle of the road by a cop. He drops Julia off at a local café with the Sheriff and the locals start to whisper that she knows. Julia finds a shrine to the missing children and runs away but the townsfolk are on her heels.
The twist happens when Julia comes face to face with the shrouded figure who turns out to be David’s real Mother. It turns out that David is one of the missing children. She accuses Julia of brainwashing him but before the Sheriff shows up, Julia escapes with David and with the help of teenager, Jenny, who is desperate to leave Cold Rock. Julia makes it home but is still being pursued by the town folks who know she is The Tall Man. Julia disappears into the basement with David and comes back alone to face the wrath of the police and the angry townies. Christine in the meantime has hung herself and not face the same fate as Julia.
So, what is happening? Julia’s dead husband is not dead and they have been working together with other people to abduct children from Cold Rock (and elsewhere) to give them to rich families who will be able to offer good homes and educations and save them from the fate of growing in poverty with no options.
Julia is the fall guy for the organization and tells David’s mother that she killed all the children and buried them throughout the mines and woods so that the authorities will not look for them. Her fate is sealed to either the death penalty or life in prison. Meanwhile, we see one last abduction as Jenny is taken and the full truth is shown. We see Julia’s husband hand over Jenny and refuse to take any money, indicating that monetary gain is not what he is after. Jenny is given a new name and new life with a woman who is fostering her creativity and her intelligence. The final scene shows Jenny walking through the park and spotting David with his new family. He shows a shade of recognition when he looks at her but goes to his new family. Jenny struggles with accepting the opportunities she is being given and going back to her Mother whom she never stopped loving or blamed for their poverty.
Yah or Nah: Wow…that was a long one and my final verdict is Yah. While I was expecting a more horror like movie, I was pleased that it was suspenseful and not filled with violence against children. The theory behind what Julia and her husband were doing walks the line between right and wrong and the way the story was told, kept the true motives hidden from the viewer until the time is right.