Tell Tale (2009)

I want to say that I found this movie by looking up superhero movies. Tell Tale is a film written by Mr. Dave Callaham, who is credited as the writer on Wonder Woman 1984, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse 2. Hell, Callaham also wrote 2021’s Mortal Kombat and all four The Expendables movies–no, you’re not having a stroke, the fourth one hasn’t come out yet. Or that I found it looking up movies based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. All those are things I would talk about here, so it would make sense. But no, I discovered this obscure movie in a way that leaves me honestly feeling a bit embarrassed…

As the title suggests, Tell Tale is very, very loosely based on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” A dad named Terry gets a donated heart, but the ticker starts acting up when he’s around people involved in the original owner’s death. This complicates things with his doctor girlfriend (Lena Headey) and a cop who investigated the original murder (Brian Cox, AKA William Stryker from X2). Goaded on by his vengeful ventricles, he starts offing the killers–mostly hospital staff–as he uncovers a conspiracy. Turns out so many people were involved in the murder of this old man because it was an organ harvesting operation with the victims being people who would die eventually, but not fast enough. Ohhh… I see what the twist is. The higher-ups in the scheme eventually realize Terry is onto them so they prepare to kill him. But Terry’s heat resists the drugs they pumped into him, allowing him to fight back and end this nightmare once and for all. Except right at the end we find out that Lena Headey paid those guys to find a heart for Terry, inadvertently causing all of this. A single tear falls down his face as his heart ominously beats, then the screen goes black. I’m sure she’ll be fine.

A post credits scene has Terry running into Jessica Alba’s character from The Eye, where she offers him the chance to join her Frankenstein Initiative. Not really, but wouldn’t that have been fun? Two movies about supernatural organ transplants a year apart? One can dream.

Very recently, actor Michael K Williams–known probably best as Omar on The Wire–passed away. I missed doing anything relevant on the blog when Ed Asner died a bit ago, so I wanted to do something to honor a man that by all accounts was an amazing person. The thing is, he’s generally known for TV roles and I didn’t want to start a show when that backlog is already so bad (Revolutionary Girl Utena episodes should return this weekend, I’m so sorry I fell so far behind on those). After narrowing down his filmography I was looking at Triple 9 where he’s tenth credited, Wonderful World where he falls into a coma and Matthew Broderick bangs his sister, or this Poe-inspired story. I clearly went with Tell Tale, only to find out Williams was in the movie for less than 5 minutes before he gets pushed in front of a subway. Well shit. He was in the trailers! They made it look like he had an actual part and more than two lines! Maybe the diabetic coma movie would’ve been a better call…

As for the movie itself, Tell Tale is… fine. It’s fine. It’s perfectly fine. Terry’s daughter is how he met Dr. Lena Headey as she has a rare and terminal medical condition, but that didn’t have as large an impact on the story as I think the writer wanted so I skipped over her entirely during the summary. Brian Cox’s detective also falls short of having much to do, spending most of the movie encouraging Terry to kill people before he himself dies. Honestly, the cleverest thing the movie did is something so minor that IMDB trivia doesn’t even mention it. The original owner of the heart was a man named Vieillard, which is an incredibly French name that stands out. I started to wonder, did that have anything to do with the original horror story? The answer is yes and no. “No” in that none of the characters in “The Tell-Tale Heart” are ever named–it’s a narrator and the old man he murders–but “yes” in that it turns out “vieillard” is a French word that roughly translates to “old man.” That’s… actually kind of clever. The rest wasn’t anything special, but I might remember that name trick long after I’ve forgotten everything else about the film.

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