Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tell Tale (2009): Hideous Hearts Need Not Apply

Naturally when I came across this title when surfing TV the other night, I knew I had to DVR it for future viewing.  I mean, it had to be some kind of re-telling of Poe's classic short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, right?   And seeing as how that is my favorite of Poe's stories, I hit record.
Having just finished watching Tell Tale, I can assure you:  this is not a "version" of the Poe tale.  They have used a few elements of the story within the film (in particular the character being able to hear heartbeats, albeit it is his own heart), and one character even says aloud the famous line: " is the beating of his hideous heart!" But other than that, this film is unrelated.  That being said, it really wasn't a bad movie.  It had its moments.  Apparently the film couldn't find studio funding so went straight to DVD.  I'd never heard of it until now.

Terry Bernard (Josh Lucas) is the lucky recipient of a new heart.  His transplant came on the heels of another man's murder, however, and just after surgery Terry has some strange experiences in which he can "see" his donor's last moments, including the faces of a few unknown assailants. 

As if Terry doesn't have enough to worry about, his young daughter Angela has Scleroderma (a chronic systemic autoimmune disease in which the connective tissues and internal organs harden to the consistency of bone) and apparently her mother couldn't handle that and up and left them. Bitch.
Thankfully she has a wonderful doctor (Lena Headey of '300' fame) who not only gives her superior care, but has taken an interest in Dad as well.  How convenient.

Anyway, just as Elizabeth (super-doc) and Terry are starting a relationship, Terry starts having more "memories", essentially visions or flashbacks, if you will, of his donor's death. Triggered by running into a skeevy paramedic in an alley outside the hospital, Terry has a vision of said paramedic and begins to question him to see if he knew his donor, which causes an altercation in which the paramedic tries to harm Terry with a piece of broken bottle. They struggle and the paramedic ends up with the glass in his chest, drops to the ground and promptly dies.

This situation only causes Terry's visions to amp up. He delves into the death of his donor by contacting the detective who was on call the night of the donor's death.  Detective Van Doren is wary at first, but when Terry explains his flashbacks well enough that they coincide with the details of the crime, Van Doren takes an active interest in the case again. 

Unfortunately, the further Terry investigates into the crime, the worse off his life becomes.  His burgeoning relationship with Elizabeth starts to falter, as she senses something is wrong but he won't produce any information and starts to alienate her.  His daughter has to depend on Elizabeth to take her to school and other activities because Terry is either sleeping off a flashback or in search of more clues. In fact, he often becomes almost like another person when he is in the grips of these flashbacks.

His digging lands him in deep trouble when his donor's killers finally get wise to his actions, though they have no way of knowing the real reason Terry is so curious as to his donor's last moments.  They start putting pieces together, but so does Terry - leading him to actually commit acts of murder on his donor's behalf. Obviously that's where the film takes a bit of a dark turn.

If it all seems far-fetched, that's because it is.  But Lucas's performance is compelling enough that it kept me interested and dare I say, entertained.  Lucas kind of ran the gamut of emotions within the film, and it was the most interesting when he would track down one of the men involved in his donor's murder and "take care of them".
 It was almost like he became his donor for those moments - and in fact Terry's own doctor said that he had "adopted" his donor's blood-type after the transplant.  Meaning that his blood type had switched to the type his donor had. I've never heard of this, so doubt that it can happen- even though Terry's doctor did mention that that occurrence was exceedingly rare but can happen. Hmm......

There is a bit of a surprising twist in the very last moments of the film that I wasn't expecting.  It added a little more to the ending for me and kind of put things in perspective.  All in all, I wouldn't give this an Oscar or anything, but it held my attention for an hour and a half, and you could do a lot worse.


James Gracey said...

Hmmm. I had never heard of this until I read your review. I'm intrigued. 'Donor-recipient' horror has a genuinely creepy premise - someone else's organs in your body. Gah! I usually enjoy them. And I do like Josh Lucas and Lena Headey. Plus, any allusions to Poe's work is okay by me.

Christine Hadden said...

James: Like you, I'd never even heard of this and came upon it quite by accident! And I agree, it would be quite unnerving to have someone else's parts inside you...very weird indeed.
I did enjoy this one, and think you would as well- but definitely keep in mind that I didn't see too much that reminded me of Poe's original story - though the film was still a decent watch :)