Creating a world that is subtly surreal can be a very difficult task. Balancing elements of a disintegrating reality with a compelling storyline that progresses at the correct pace to guide the viewer along the journey with the protagonist is a challenging undertaking indeed. So how does Tall Men fare with a storyline that embodies this concept? Well, let’s discuss.
The film centers around Terrence (Dan Crisafulli), a man living with mental illness who has fallen on hard times and is filing for bankruptcy. An early scene eludes to a childhood trauma which seems to have played a big part in his current mental state. After his meeting with the bankruptcy attorney he begins to have strange visions and the feeling like he’s being watched. His life takes an even stranger turn after he applies for a mysterious credit card that seems too good to be true.
The first thing I will say about this movie is that it sucks you in. This is no doubt something that was made on a very modest budget but the sleek sound design and attention to detail give this film a professionalism that transcends its financial limitations. Director Jonathan Holbrook wisely chose to focus on a character-driven story in which he craftily builds tension and dread in a compelling and natural way. The world of the characters is well established and when the surreal and paranormal elements creep in you consistently find yourself questioning what is real and what isn’t.
The film has a lot of clever touches as well. For instance, the scene where Terrence is on a date with the weird, pretty girl he works with and the movie they go to see ends up unexpectedly being a horror film. As he comments “I don’t think this is a romance” there is a noticeable tonal shift in the overall movie itself and what had started to feel a bit like a quirky relationship movie the last few scenes takes on a darker feeling of dread and menace. It’s a meta moment that is far more effectively executed than in many films where I have seen similar things attempted.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a few things that I feel could have been a bit more polished. While I feel like most of the actors were quite effective some of the supporting cast could have benefited from reining in their performances a bit. Some of this may have been a deliberate choice by the director to inject some humor into the film but I feel it would have been stronger with a consistently serious tone throughout. This would have sold the characters as real people a little more and helped the viewer feel more immersed in the film. There were also a few scenes in which fake teeth were used where the actors exposed too much and betrayed the items as props which took me out of the moment a little. Okay, so these may seem like quibbling points but the devil is in the details and it is the attention to the subtle details that often separates good films from great ones.
Bottom line here, this is a very watchable film with some genuinely frightening moments and an interesting, surreal story. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it and would definitely see it again, which is certainly not something I would say about some of the other films I have reviewed. Without a doubt, recommended viewing.