The Tall Man

Pascal Laugier’s followup to his notoriously graphic and painful revenge-horror film “Martyrs” (2008) is “The Tall Man,” a rather tame mystery with little onscreen violence and no “extreme” content. This shift in tone, while potentially disappointing to Laugier’s fans, isn’t a problem per se; the fact that it’s in the service of a story that’s half-baked and stumblingly executed is.

Jessica Biel stars as Julia Denning, the only physician in a dying mining town called Cold Rock, Wash., now populated mostly by desperate trailer trash. The community’s children have gone missing at an alarming rate in recent years, giving rise to the legend of a supernatural kid-stealing boogeyman known as the Tall Man. Julia becomes intimately involved when her own over-protected child is taken, leading to shocking revelations about the town, etc., etc.

Laugier earns points for taking what begins as a derivative story in unexpected directions, but loses at least as many points — I guess we’re on a point system here — for running out of momentum long before the conclusion. While there’s plenty to like about it in hindsight once it’s all laid out, and though Laugier maintains a suitably suspenseful atmosphere, it isn’t enough to lift this mystery-thriller out of the realm of the mundane.

C (1 hr., 46 min.; R, violence and terror, and for language.)