Is The Tall Man HINO (Horror in Name Only)? Sure, it takes place in a brooding rural slum ala Winter’s Bone (except this one’s on the West Coast—Washington, to be exact), and it’s about a prolific bogeyman who abducts children in a dried-up mining town. But what ensues is a provocatively ambiguous thriller (and yes, it is thrilling) with a fairly blunt social agenda.

Cold Rock, Washington is a mildewing husk of a town decomposing in the overgrown backwoods of Washington. The local Chamber of Commerce undoubtedly has its hands full trying to lure tourists to such a cheerless gray community where 18 children have disappeared over the past few years. A focused and fascinating Jessica Biel plays Julia, a recently widowed nurse living in the area who tends to the medical needs of the hapless hillbillies in her sector. Shit gets personal when her beloved toddler gets snatched from her house by the legendary “Tall Man.” Julia channels her inner Ellen Ripley and sets out to get her bambino back.

The tag line should have been: “Who’s The Monster Here?” The Tall Man is a brisk, well-crafted, and shifty film that never allows you to get comfortable from any perspective. And while the supernatural elements are mostly of the red-herring variety, there is a very real horror at its heart—namely are we becoming a society that might require fantastically drastic social engineering in order to survive? Echoes of P.D. James’ Children of Men and Dennis Lehane’s Gone Daddy Gone may bubble to the surface. You have been warned.

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