Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
October 1st, 2017

Tall Men

Tall Men
Directed by Jonathan Holbrook
Written by Jonathan Holbrook
Starring Dan Crisafulli, Kay Whitney, Richard Garcia
133 mins

When you get a look at the box art for "Tall Men," the first thing you're going to think is Slenderman. That's not necessarily a bad thing--guy's certainly creepy enough to merit a few movies--but it's also trading heavily on name recognition. Or at least face recognition. The question is, is that enough? The answer, meanwhile, is no, it really isn't.

"Tall Men"--also known as "Customer 152"--follows Terrence Mackleby, a young man whose life isn't exactly going super well. He's just declared bankruptcy, which turns out to be just the latest in a string of problems. Things might be looking up for him, though, when he finds a black credit card and discovers that the sky is quite literally the limit. Not just on the debt limit, but also on the finance charges. He buys a car with the card, and discovers that the minimum payments might well be significantly more than he could ever handle.

This is a strange sort of film. It's got an oddly indolent pacing about it which is largely out of character for a horror film. Yet at the same time, this sheer deliberation, which doesn't depend on jump scares or the like to deliver its frights, is a wholly unusual affair that can't help but put some shock into things.

There's a certain visceral horror in Terrence's life as well; while it's not the kind of horror that brings to mind kids at summer camp involved in sloppy makeouts or more, it's the kind of horror that infests the minds of the 35-52 set everywhere.

Watching Terrence in the midst of a bankruptcy lawyer's meeting, detailing his life--seven credit cards, all maxed out, two consolidation loans, one health club membership, and $82,000 in debt--and all to the tune of "Ave Maria", is a horror every bit as bleak as a maggoty monstrosity with a machete, though nowhere near as bloody.

All of this happens within the first 20 minutes, so it's easy to wonder where all this is going. They've given themselves runtime more appropriate to a summer fantasy blockbuster than a minor-tier horror movie to work with, so they've got time to set up some real punches. Sadly, they don't set up some really amazing stuff, but rather spend their runtime keeping a constant, low-level creepy going on.

I spent way too much time in this movie shrieking at my television "What the hell is going on here?" Because for the most part, I wasn't sure. By the end of the first half hour, I hadn't even seen a monster yet in anything but the vaguest terms, and had no idea when this was going to stop being creepy and start being scary. Even the part where Terrence discovers just how predatory the lending practices are on his new credit card is more creepy than anything. When the credit card company explains away its lending practices of daily compounded interest and payment in full due at the end of the month as the produce of "hardworking Republicans trying to make a difference," is more creepy than anything.

The ending does pick things up. Things get downright frightening in the last half hour or so, but it still takes a lot of buildup to get here.

Special features stop at one trailer for "Tall Men" and English subtitles. At least it's got that going for it, if absolutely nothing else.

"Tall Men" spends way too much of its time being creepy and not nearly enough being scary. Granted, there's something scary about that much constant unrelenting creepy socking you in the face, and there is a substantial pickup at the end, but there's still a whole lot of time spent to build up to a horror that proves merely underwhelming in the end.