Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I know Edgar Allen Poe’s short story ‘The Tell Tale Heart’ pretty well because it’s one of the bedtime stories my mother used to read to me when I was a child. Other kids got Dr. Seuss, I got horror stories about dismembered bodies under floorboards. That mother of mine, I tell you. Some one hundred and fifty years or so later we have a retelling of Poe’s tale, produced by the Scott brothers Ridley and Tony and starring Josh Lucas calling itself ‘Tell-Tale’. It certainly is a great concept for a horror style movie but the execution of this great concept was a little suspect.

Terry Bernard (Lucas) hasn’t been dealt the best hand. His wife abandoned him some years ago leaving him to care for his adorable young daughter Angela (Beatrice Miller) who has an extremely rare disease in which her tendons are slowly fusing into bone. And Terry himself is in desperate need of a donor heart. Good news... the heart has been found, the surgery was a success and all is temporarily right with the world. Things are getting even better for Terry as he is getting very close to his daughter’s caring and concerned pediatrician Elizabeth (Lena Headey), who also by pure chance also happens to be one of the hottest women on God’s planet earth. And she can cook. We call that a win-win where I come from.

The strangeness began soon after Terry got his new heart but it really started to kick in one day when Terry bumped into an EMT at the hospital parking lot. His new heart started beating rapidly and these fractured visions started clouding his head. All his tests reveal Terry to be perfectly fine but he knows something is up with this heart of his which causes him to do a little research, with this research of his revealing that his heart belonged to a man named Viellard who, along with his wife, was brutally murdered.

These things happen, but what does this have to do with his new heart and a random EMT? What indeed. For answers he tracks down drunken cop Phillip Van Doren (Brian Cox) who was first on the scene for the murders and starts asking him some stupid questions which do little except piss Van Doren off. Then people start ending up

dead. Van Doren puts two and two together and these murders are pointing directly at Terry, or more accurately to Terry’s heart which seems to know who is responsible for Viellard’s murder and is using Terry as his weapon of revenge. More perplexing is that Veillard, an angry vengeful person even before he got himself murdered, is taking over Terry’s physical and emotional being. The question would be why was this Viellard cat murdered? That is a good question that we don’t have an answer to as of yet, but one thing we do know is if five people committed a murder and four of those people are dead then that fifth person is going to be on high alert. Terry / Viellard might want to watch their backs.

Directed by Michael Cuesta there are a lot of things about ‘Tell Tale’ which were superb. One of these things was the great performance delivered by Josh Lucas who was able to relay the subtle changes in his character of Terry Bernard in a very effective and crucial way. When the movie began Terry was a person lacking confidence, and understandably so since nothing in his life seems to be working out all that well, but as Viellard’s persona started to invade Terry’s personality, he was still the same person but with some added sharp edges and Mr. Lucas did a fine job of keeping the character believable as opposed to making the character some kind of over-the-top raging lunatic. Brian Cox and Lena Headey were both very good but young Beatrice Miller who had the usually thankless part as ‘the sick kid’ did an especially fine job in making the character she played into an actual character as opposed to a simple plot device inserted to elicit an emotional response.

I liked the look of the film, I thought the pacing of ‘Tell Tale’ was on point, I enjoyed the story that screenwriter David Callaham managed to squeeze out of Poe’s short but what I had a problem with was some of the gaps in logic in this movie in addition to a couple of inane plot point insertions that didn’t seem to serve a purpose, at least in my opinion, of furthering this story along. For starters, Terry’s random murder spree probably would’ve been stopped after the first murder. These murders were driven by rage not by forethought so they weren’t planned out in the least so you have to swallow that every time the ‘heart’ got mad and killed somebody in a public place, Terry sure was fortunate that nobody was around in that parking garage or catching the subway or watching him drag bodies to the ocean in broad daylight. Then the heart seemed to know not only who was on the scene during its murder but also who was behind the scenes of its murder, then pile on a plot point involving the detective which again didn’t really seem to add anything to the story which further convoluted things. ‘Tell Tale’ also vacillated between a horror film and thriller, throwing its hat into more of the thriller category though I think it would’ve been better served as a horror movie, considering the thriller aspects were spiraling out of control as the movie came to its conclusion. I did like the little twist at the end though.

I did enjoy ‘Tell Tale’, particularly Josh Lucas and young Beatrice Miller’s performances, it just sort of lost its way along the way, and mind you it appeared to be on its way to being something really good. As it turns out it ended up being that something I still found entertaining, but still just slightly disappointing.

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