Without any metaphysical spice a la Stephen King, the idea of getting lost in the open field of tall grass is already harrowing to even imagine. From such idea, King and his son, Joe Hill, craft a puzzling horror story channeling the real-life dread of being lost in an open space and combining it with the bizarreness of otherworldly entity which, as in other King’s stories, predates humanity. Canadian director, Vincenzo Natali (Cube), adapts, writes, and directs In the Tall Grass into a 100-minute horror, which is quite frightening in the beginning, but dwindling down to only become frustrating at the end.
Natali’s In the Tall Grass jumps into the terror as quickly as the movie begins. A pregnant lady, Becky (Laysla de Oliveira) and her sibling, Cal (Avery Whitted), are en-route to give up her baby. There’s no explanation of the character’s motivation and no backstories. And yet, within the first 10 minutes, the protagonist has already been lost in the titular maze—an expansive green field full of grass taller than adult humans. While pulling their car over a field, they start to hear some innocent scream asking for help from the tall grass; unbeknownst to them, certain danger is lurking from the seemingly non-dangerous tall grass. As quickly as the terror begins, it quickly deteriorates.
In one of the movie’s most dreadful moments, the siblings get separated from each other. As the grass is taller than both of them, what they can do is to jump to locate each other. The thing is, such a maneuver might be dangerous for the pregnant Becky; but, they do it anyway. When they first jump, they learn that they’re close; but, on the second jump, they cannot see each other. Such a bizarre moment is what Vincenzo Natali attempts to feed us audiences during the movie’s lurid first act. But, then he begins to run out of gas. By the time that Patrick Wilson’s character arrives on the screen, we barely care about the whole narrative anymore.
Lack of well-exposed backstories does the character no justice. You will be surprised by how Natali’s interpretation of King’s novella and how he takes complete freedom to expand the story. From the introduction of Harrison Gilbertson’s character (father of Becky’s baby) to the sparks of Cal’s incestuous feeling towards his sister. If not for Natali’s well-crafted spectacles that he’s managed to waste on the first act, it’s hard to imagine what kind of mess In the Tall Grass would be. Once again, the idea of getting lost in the field of tall grass is undeniably scary enough, but the attempt to keep the story “enough” for a hundred minutes has made the scare itself faded.
In the Tall Grass is available on Netflix.