Verdict: This absurd adaptation highlights director Vincenzo Natali’s great visual eye.
You can stream this on Netflix.
We currently have no shortage of movies adapted from legendary horror writer Stephen King’s novels. However, you may not know that the novelist has also teamed up on two occasions with his own son Joe Hill who has a great reputation as an author himself. The second of their collaborations, In The Tall Grass has now been made into a feature-length Netflix film directed by Vincenzo Natali. The Canadian director has previously worked on the 1997 thriller Cube. Quite similar to the events of In The Tall Grass, Cube revolved around a group of people trapped in a massive labyrinth with their only hope of escaping being to solve a mind-bending mystery. The 1997 film successfully delivered the thrills as it took audiences into the maze-like scenario, but will the director be able to do it once again?
What’s In The Tall Grass About:
Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are on a cross-country drive to San Diego. On their journey, the siblings pull over because of the very pregnant Becky’s nausea. As they stop in a desolate road they hear a young boy calling out for help from a massive stretch of very tall grass. Named Tobin (Will Buie Jr.), he and his parents seem to have lost their way back to the road. Becky and Cal decide to help the young boy but once they enter the field, things don’t seem quite right. Very soon night sets in and so does the exhaustion. Becky bumps into Tobin’s father, Ross (Patrick Wilson), who is willing to help but also seems untrustworthy at the same time. As the hunt for the exit continues, we also encounter Ross’s wife, Natalie (Rachel Wilson), and the father of Becky’s baby, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson). As the group begins to learn about the eerie field, it becomes more and more evident that it defies the rules of space and time.
The book that In The Tall Grass is adapted from features a typical Stephen King setting – an ordinary-looking location with deep and dark secrets. Director Vincenzo Natali manages to replicate that in the film with the level of dread and disorientation escalating as the characters go deeper into the maze. He treats us to some great visual perspectives – the most memorable being when the siblings are separated and they jump up with their arms in the air to locate each other but are quickly introduced to the reality of their situation when their locations completely shift the second time they do it. However, Natali does approach the plot of the film in quite a different way than the book. Once the field’s ominous powers are established, the focus completely shifts to Travis’ point of view, a character who isn’t a part of the book. As he becomes the film’s central arc, the film deviates from the looming terror and hopeless of the book, eventually ending the film on a completely different, more satisfying note.
In terms of performances, it is the most recognizable face of Patrick Wilson which overshadows the rest of the cast. Although the other characters do keep up the feeling of uncertainty and fear, it is Wilson who brings out the chaos.
What Could’ve Been Better:
After around the first 30 minutes of In The Tall Grass, it’s obvious that director Vincenzo Natali should’ve settled for a short feature instead of a full-length film. A film about a group of people getting stuck in a field of the titular tall grass is already outlandish enough but Natali’s interpretation goes from being wild and mind-bending to just plain strange. The random bits featuring supernatural CGI are also unwarranted and a bit corny.
Why You Should Watch:
In The Tall Grass is a thriller that leans deep into the absurd and paired with Natali’s great visual eye, it can be an interesting watch once you leave your discernment behind.