A Tale Hardly Worth Telling

Which have there been more of: movies “inspired” by Edgar Allan Poe stories or movies about transplanted body parts manifesting characteristics of their donors in their new recipients? With Tell Tale, we get both… a double-whammy of unoriginality. It’s not that it’s a bad movie; it’s just that there’s really nothing unique about it to recommend.

Hearken! And observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

Terry Bernard (Josh Lucas) is the recent recipient of a donor heart. I’m not sure we know why he needed a new heart; his character in this story is less important than the mysterious circumstances surrounding the donor. And, frankly, his condition is less interesting than that of his daughter (Beatrice Miller), who has a genetic disease that will eventually cause her muscles and soft tissue to turn to bone. THAT sounds like a good movie! But in Tell Tale, it’s presented so matter-of-factly that it’s inconsequential.

Well, I guess it serves its purpose as a plot device to provide a romantic interest for Terry. His daughter’s doctor (Lena Headey) is inexplicably concerned about the welfare of both daughter and father, and exhibits an excellent bedside manner with the latter, if you know what I mean. It’s as if we’ve missed the entire first part of the story, both with Terry receiving the heart, as well as developing a relationship with the doctor.

But, back to Terry and his heart… Particular people and situations around the hospital cause his heart to beat faster and louder and cause Terry to see visions of, no spoiler here, the donor’s untimely death. He recruits a detective to help piece it all together, and in the most absolute sign that a movie is squandering its talents, the great actor Brian Cox portrays the LEAST interesting character of them all.

They heard! – they suspected! – they knew!
they were making a mockery of my horror!

Director Michael Cuesta and Cox worked together on L.I.E. in 2001. Dig that one up instead of watching Tell Tale. In it you’ll find a more twisted and disturbing movie. It’s one of those that you have to say is really good, but are ashamed to admit that you like. (It’s not a horror movie at all, but then, neither really is Tell Tale.) If it means anything, Cuesta wrote L.I.E.; he did not write Tell Tale.

And have I not told you that what you mistake for madness is but over-acuteness
of the sense?

I suppose it’s meant to be suspenseful, but it’s too familiar. It’s dark, but in a literal sense, not in one that adds to the atmosphere. And the payoff is dull. I expected something a little more… well, supernatural. Instead, it ends up being a simple crime story that even tries to squeeze in some social relevance, like something “ripped from today’s headlines”. It’s an odd mix that doesn’t make it interesting, just ordinary.

REVIEW: Tell Tale
2.0Overall Score
Creepy Kids
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