April 16, 2018 Tall Men (Movie Review)
We might live in a debit or credit world, but you better think very carefully the next time you buy on credit! The new Horror/Fantasy/Thriller Tall Men is your forewarning, and it arrives to DVD in the UK market on Monday, April 16, 2018, thanks to High Fliers Films.
Terence Mackleby (Dan Crisafulli: Voice Over Guys short 2015, Grimm series) is a meek individual who drives a nondescript, neutral-colored sedan and lives in the cute little Craftsman home that he inherited from his grandmother. Reliant on pills and quieter than a mouse, there is not much happening in Terence’s meager little world, unless you count the bizarre noises throughout the house and the mysterious opening and closing of doors. Oh yes, and night terrors. This could all potentially be a product of stress, however, as Mr. Mackleby has not been particularly tight with his finances, and he is currently $82K in-debt and facing bankruptcy.
Going about his mundane day-to-day, Terence works at a dead-end job in a common warehouse. His co-workers are a motley cast, from the perpetually wide-eyed Lucy (Kay Whitney: Z Nation series, The Fawn Response short 2016) to the leather jacket-wearing, bad boy Lee (Richard Garcia: Better Call Saul series, Twin Peaks series), conspiracy theorist and all-around weirdo Edith (Jennifer Angelucci-Medina: Altered: The Day They Took the Children short 2014, Agent 5 2016) to the too perky shift manager Dan (Josh Van Dijk: Customer 152 2004).
Back at home, just weeks after filing his bankruptcy papers, Mackleby receives an application for a brand-new credit card in the mail, promising an impossibly low interest rate. Without hesitation or reading any of the fine print, he immediately applies and, once the card arrives, purchases himself a lovely used 1967 Buick LeMans to replace his boring, broken down sedan. Then, of course, he loses his job. Almost predictably, at this same time, Terence begins to notice the presence of a black Cadillac lurking in the shadows, and a series of black suit-clad, tall men paying oddly special attention to him, as well.
Clocking in at 135 minutes in-length, Tall Men was written and directed by Jonathan Holbrook (Customer 152 2004, Whiskers short 2012), and also stars Tim Forehand (Natural Possession: Director’s Cut 2008, Narco Hitman 2016) as Detective Dick Towner; Earl Gray (Whiskers short 2012, The (206) series) as Detective Knotts; Rachelle Henry (Grifters short 2016, Defining Moments short 2017) as Alicia; Elijah Stevenson (Trout short 2015, Everything Sucks! series) as young Terence; Vicki Maxey (The (206) series) as Terence’s grandmother; Paul Sobrie (Mirage short 2014, Divine Shadow series) as Mr. Vermeiren; and Director Holbrook, Brian Lowell and Matt Lowell (Customer 152 2004) as the Tall Men.
While Tall Men is billed as a juicy combination plate of Horror, Fantasy, and Thriller, it is more truthfully an attempted Thriller. The problems here are myriad, from the exceedingly ridiculous run-time to the scattered plot, to awkward and stilted dialogue and over-wrought characters that become almost flat. In fact, ignoring the over-ambitious run-time that drags an already flawed story out to twice what it should be, the plot here is a cornucopia of clichés, from mental illness to implied hauntings, to Mafioso types, to financial irresponsibility. Plus, don’t forget the Slender Men! All things said, it’s the credit angle of Tall Men that is the most unique and will weigh heaviest on its viewers; creating a kind of eerie warning to those that charge what they cannot possibly pay. At this base-line, the plot could have been fairly-unique, if not thrilling. Unfortunately, the additional angles and layers to this story merely convolute the tale, elongating the film’s duration and taking away from, instead of adding to, its success.
The ensemble cast here do their best to tread water with what they are provided, which is a highly-varying set of roles. In the lead, Crisafulli is properly meek, soft-spoken and awkward, though it feels that his true abilities would shine in more of a geek-chic comedic role, as on, say, The Big Bang Theory. Here, Crisafulli is given too much material to work with, which leads his character to feel somewhat stiff and stilted instead of well-developed. It is a credit to Crisafulli, however, that Terence never feels forced or cartoonish. Conversely, the majority of his castmates are given next to nothing to work with, like poor Whitney who, as Terence’s pseudo-love interest Lucy, is perpetually straining to remain disturbingly wide-eyed and cluelessly delicate. Whitney too seems a shoe-in for a geek-chic role in a comedic offering, where her natural softness could truly be allowed to shine and her eyes could, you know, not be so wide.
Generally speaking, the best offerings from the cast are those that play characters with mere minutes of screen-time, particularly Sobrie, as the psychiatrist Mr. Vermeiren, and Stevenson as young Terence. Sobrie communicates his character’s authority effectively, though his screen-time is minimal; despite this, his character is pivotal in providing another angle to this meandering tale. Similarly, while Stevenson is offered but a smattering of words to speak, he effectively communicates young Terence’s adoration for his neighbor and his ultimately psychologically-scarring decision. The remainder of the cast are generally solid and do their best with their flawed roles.
For Tall Men, there are no thrills, just two-plus hours of boredom with a few lines of comedy that may or may not have been intended. In fact, much of the film seems intentionally overdone (or underdone), seeking a deliberate cheesiness that defies time period or categorization; there are rotary phones, old cars, and broken fingers, comedic respites alongside duct-taped warnings and awkwardness galore. Ultimately, Tall Men feels like the Slender Man attempting to punish financial irresponsibility, creating a failed Thriller that is bumbling, at best. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Tall Men 2 of 5 stars.