Movie Review: In the Tall Grass

April 07, 2020

NETFLIX has so many horror movies based on the works of fright master Stephen King, definitely the most prolific writer on earth. Two of them are “In the Tall Grass” and “1922”.  We’ll review the first one here. It is based on a magazine serial King wrote with his son, Joe Hill.

It opens with brother and sister, Cal (Avery Whitted) and Becky (Laysla de Oliveira), on their way to an aunt in San Diego. Becky is 6-months pregnant and feels like throwing up, so they stopped by this huge field of tall grass in the middle of nowhere. 

They then hear the voice of a child frantically asking for help, saying he got lost. They decide to go inside the wilderness of grass and help the boy, but it’s a big mistake, as anyone who gets inside the field of grass no longer gets to come out again.

The boy introduces himself as Tobin (Will Buie, who’s creepy and grimy wide eye looks are perfect for the role) and says he is lost and cannot find his parents. They decide to help the boy in looking for his parents, but they quickly discover that this is not just an ordinary field of grass but a deadly maze where one can be trapped forever. 

They later meet the boy’s parents, Ross (Patrick Wilson) and Nathalie (Rachel Wilson), who seem to be fighting. Becky’s rocker boyfriend, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), starts looking for Becky and Cal. When they meet each other, he informs the brother and sister that they have actually been missing for two months. 

And things then got weirder and… very violent. Time and space and the laws of physics are all easily bent and strangely circumvented inside the field of grass. Even people who have died suddenly return to life again.

Ross takes them to a huge monolith and tries to convince them to touch it. The huge rock is said to be so ancient and has a special power that urges them to murder one another.  The movie is directed by Vincenzo Natali, who also adapted the screenplay, and he keeps on introducing innovations in the plotting. 

The visuals are good, specially those high drone shots showing the characters hopeleslly trapped inside the field of grass that can be quite scary.  The film has only one main setting,  the field of grass, and we don’t know if they used real grass of it’s just CGI. but it’s truly scary and is a totally ominous character in itself. 

But the results, when you watch it on screen is a hodge podge of ideas that don’t jell well. There are some truly creepy moments, but overall, the storyline lacks cohesiveness and will just confuse you a lot of times. It eventually loses steam as it lurches towards the confusing conclusion and you’d wish we were given more background information. 

What the ancient rock is never fully explained. Did it come from an alien planet? Does it have supernatural or mystical properties? You just have to draw your own conclusions to make sense of what’s going on. 

We have a feeling that the brutal violence (the head of character is just squished by hand by another character) is added to make the movie more attractive to mainstream audiences who might chance upon while flicking through the list of Netflix titles.

The performances are mostly perfunctory, with Patrick Wilson going a bit over the top in chewing the scenery as the sinister husband and father who seems to be so happy to join the other side (whatever that is.) Well, he’s a veteran of the horror genre with films like the “Insidious” and “The Conjuring” series, so to his credit, he knows exactly how to tackle his kind of role in a campy bit of way. The film itself is obviously made mainly for diehard Stephen King fans and scare flicks aficionados.