Review: TALL MEN (2016)

Probably everyone has managed to miss a payment or fall a bit behind on their debts at some point in time. And you probably remember the phone calls you got looking for those payments. In TALL MEN, writer/director Jonathan Holbrook (BELOVED BEAST) takes that already unpleasant situation and gives it a demonic twist. The result is a unique mix of realistic drama and supernatural horror.

Terrence (Dan Crisafulli) has issues, lots of them. Both mentally and financially challenged, he’s declaring bankruptcy as TALL MEN starts. When he’s offered a black credit card by a mysterious company he uses it to buy a car and impress Lucy (Kay Whitney) a lass with problems of her own. However, Terrence hasn’t read the small print, interest on his debt is compounding daily. And when he can’t pay, the bill collectors show up. Mysterious large men who show up at night, haunting him like ghosts, or maybe something worse.

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Based on Holbrook’s 2004 film CUSTOMER 152, (this film’s original title as well), TALL MEN turns the financial problems and worries that so many people face into an entirely different kind of fear and dread. It’s an interesting approach and one I haven’t seen before, By turning the spectre of endless debt cycles and high-interest rates into horror movie tropes Holbrook makes what could have been a boring, Lifetime Network style topic into a much more interesting film. And I can’t think of too many industries better for literal demonizing than subprime credit outfits.

Making Terrance a person who has assorted other issues also keeps the viewer guessing. How much of what we see is real? How much is the interpretation of a troubled mind? Clues are sprinkled throughout the film, but never in a way to the point of spoon-feeding the viewer. You have to put the pieces together.

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TALL MEN does have its issues though, primarily a running time of nearly two and a quarter hours. That’s way too long. The original version ran an hour and fifty minutes, and I’d be curious to compare them and see what was added. The script has pacing issues to begin with, and drawing it out to this length makes them even worse. At least half an hour, maybe more, should have been trimmed.

For those with the patience to sit through longer films, TALL MEN is an exercise in a slow burn that will make you want to cut up your credit cards. Others may be tempted to hit fast-forward. Despite its issues, it’s worth the effort, and I’m very interested in Holbrook’s upcoming feature BELOVED BEAST.

THE TALL MEN is available on iTunes, Amazon and other digital platforms.

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