‘Something evil lies’
In the Tall Grass is a 2019 Canadian horror feature film adaptation of a short story written by Stephen King and his son, Joe Hill, that was published in two parts in Esquire magazine in 2012.
Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Tremors, 2018; Hannibal TV series; Haunter; Cube) from a screenplay co-written with King and Hill, the Mosaic-Copperheart Entertainment production for Netflix stars Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring franchise), Harrison Gilbertson, Rachel Wilson, Will Buie Jr. and Tiffany Helm.
Siblings Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and Cal (Avery Whitted) are en route to San Diego, California. The pair stop off by a large grass field in Kansas when heavily pregnant Becky feels nauseous.
Hearing a young boy calling for help somewhere nearby, the two venture in and discover that the grass holds more secrets than they could have ever imagined… and they may never find their way out again.
“In the Tall Grass certainly will make you wary of walking into any sort of vegetation that you cannot see your way out of, but the movie fails to capitalize on such a strong premise. This is a movie that is not quite ambitious enough which ends up making it feel pretty generic.” Arrow in the Head
“Ultimately, In the Tall Grass is handsome and frequently very well acted, but it feels more like a missed opportunity than a successful adaptation […] it’s so obsessed with keeping the audience unmoored and off guard that the meaningful connection or even just a powerful payoff Natali hoped to elicit from King’s work ends up staying similarly out of reach.” Birth. Movies. Death.
“For this adaptation, Natali studied the novella extensively and created his own sumptuous yet sinister beast, but it often feels as if he wanted to make the viewer feel just as crazed and lost as the characters within the tall grass. Namely because while he nails the menacing tone, and it is fascinating to watch, the characters are massively underdeveloped.” Bloody Disgusting
“Natali adds some dramatic layers by making the grass’s influence more about the anger inside than the evil surrounding the characters, but it doesn’t develop into a compelling complication, acting more as superfluous conflict added to an already tedious viewing experience. Under Natali’s control, In the Tall Grass doesn’t build to any disturbing highs…” Blu-ray.com
“Time bends and bad things happen, but far from a dramatic high, In the Tall Grass doesn’t deliver a consistent sense of jeopardy, and there’s even less clarity in the rules of what’s happening and why. That’s all exacerbated by the need to blow what at its best might have accommodated a half-hour Twilight Zone episode into a 100-minute movie.” CNN
“The film peaks a bit early, but the ideas are ambitious, imaginative, and artfully presented taking King and Hill’s contained short and transforming it to a more expansive, sometimes confounding universe of horrors. In the Tall Grass doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s compelling and gorgeous…” Collider
” …In the Tall Grass goes bold with its macabre and haunting aesthetic appeal, while the story that sits at its center is one of faith, hope, and redemption—much like many of King’s written works. The end result is a movie that never provides clear-cut answers, and that is likely to polarize audiences while inspiring intelligent debates.” Cryptic Rock
“Without a strong investment in the characters, In the Tall Grass is nothing but a cool, gross, weird, horror movie. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a movie that can legit freak you out just by showing a screen full of green grass. But still, Natali definitely aspired to more.” Gizmodo
“Wilson’s crazed performance helps ground the happenings to something tangible from time to time, and a few compelling driblets of context are galvanized with some proper ultra-violence […] but the film’s broad gestures towards family bonds and past mistakes never sprout into anything more than a trail of wayward seeds.” IndieWire
“Occasionally frightening and packed with jaw-dropping visuals, there’s a lot to dig with In the Tall Grass, but Natali’s return to horror doesn’t land quite as strongly as you’d hope, thanks to an overly confusing plot with rules that aren’t planted firmly.” Killer Horror Critic
” …despite the handsome Craig Wrobleski cinematography, and despite a typically fine performance by Patrick Wilson as the lost kid’s dad — slowly going mad in the bush — In the Tall Grass runs too long and repeats itself too much to be as gripping as its source material.” Los Angeles Time
“At times, it’s easy to see how one could think the length gets in the way a bit, especially in the first half of the movie. For King fans, it’s probably going to fall somewhere between the best of the best and the worst of the worst.” Movieweb
” …far too many sequences of protagonists exploring their seemingly inescapable environs – with the padded-out atmosphere sporadically alleviated by a series of revelations and character interactions […] an overlong mess that might’ve worked as a short but has virtually no business running 101 minutes.” Reel Film Reviews
“Horror has a long history of using the natural world as its enemy. In the Tall Grass is at its best when it follows this tradition […] As it gets less relatable, it gets less interesting, but there’s still Wilson’s all-in performance and Natali’s craftsmanship to keep us engaged, stuck in the grass, praying for a way out.” RogerEbert.com
” …beneath the body horror is the lingering sense of insanity – the type of cosmic insanity that H.P. Lovecraft made so famous, where nothing is as it seems, and the very act of encountering the horrors within are enough to drive one mad. But In the Tall Grass still comes up short.” Slash Film
Vincenzo Natali’s seemingly sincere attempt to adapt Stephen King and Joe Hill’s short story is certainly not without style – particularly in some of its close-up details of insects, undulating grass, writhing dead bodies and monsters – all captured beautifully by cinematographer Craig Wrobleski.
Unfortunately, for all the intriguing themes revolving around timelessness, fertility, nature’s power, paganism and how human beings simply need to work together to overcome their differences and issues, the overly long-running time (101 minutes) and needlessly repetitive time loop narrative will ensure that many viewers will have zoned out long before the un-climatic conclusion.
Despite some good performances, particularly by Laysla De Oliveira and Patrick Wilson, there is simply not enough material here for the cast to get to grips with even if this was a shorter affair.
Adrian J Smith, MOVIES & MANIA
In the Tall Grass premiered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas on September 20, 2019. It was streamed on Netflix on October 4, 2019.
Director Vincenzo Natali wanted to make a film adaption of In The Tall Grass back in 2015 when he proclaimed:
“Who would think that grass could be frightening? Trust Stephen King and Joe Hill to find a way. They have transformed an otherwise innocuous Kansas field into a stage for some of the most disturbing horror fiction I have ever read.”
Cast and characters:
- Laysla De Oliveira … Becky DeMuth
- Avery Whitted … Cal DeMuth
- Patrick Wilson … Ross Humboldt
- Will Buie Jr. … Tobin Humbolt
- Harrison Gilbertson … Travis McKean
- Tiffany Helm … Gas Attendant
- Rachel Wilson … Natalie Humboldt
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- 101 minutes
- Aspect ratio: 2.35: 1