The latest Stephen King novella to get a film adaptation, "In the Tall Grass" loses itself in a maze of senseless thrills.
"In the Tall Grass" was originally a two-part short-story published by Esquire Magazine in 2012, written by horror-guru Stephen King and also his son, Joe Hill. On the page, it might have been an eery, claustrophobic adventure into the unknown, but on-screen, it can't really see the forest for the trees...or grass, rather.
Cal (Avery Whitted) and his pregnant sister, Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) are travelling through the countryside when they are forced to pull-over due to Becky's pregnancy-related nausea. That's when they hear a young boy calling for help from among a patch of tall grass. Inexplicably (why not just keep talking until the boy finds them?), they decide to enter into the tall grass themselves to find the child, and that's when things start to get weird.
Cal and Becky suddenly can't find each other. Strange occurrences start to happen. There's a dead dog. Then, the boy, Tobin (Will Buie Jr.) meets up with Cal and leads him to a mysterious giant rock. Meanwhile Tobin's dad, Ross (Patrick Wilson) finds Becky and tries to lead her to safety. Things get increasingly scary and gory, until it culminates in a wildly unsatisfying yet predictable ending.
The grass maze doesn't make us feel claustrophobic on-screen as intended, and instead it just becomes a redundant visual. The worst horror of all is that this tale doesn't seem to have a point, and it definitely doesn't make all that much sense in the end...there are no underlying themes or lessons to find, try as you may, when navigating the tall grass.
"In the Tall Grass" comes across clearly as a short-story...there just isn't enough depth or purpose in any of its characters or ideas to make it feel like a fully-fleshed-out movie. It's scares for scares' sake, and a plot that seems much better suited for a magazine than a movie, or in this case, TV screen. It's available on Netflix this weekend, and if you hear it calling your name, just keep driving by.
Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller.
Run Time: 1 hour 41 minutes.
Starring: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr.
Based on the novel by Stephen King and Joe Hill.
Written and Directed by Vincenzo Natali ("Haunter," "Splice," "Cypher").
"In the Tall Grass" is available on Netflix as of Friday, October 4th, 2019.
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