Every month seems to bring a new Stephen King adaptation to watch. In the Tall Grass is slightly different from the rest. The horror novella is a collaboration with his son Joe Hill. Directed by Vincenzo Natali, the latest King offering was shown at Fantastic Fest before its official Netflix debut.
In the Tall Grass starts with pregnant Becky and her brother Cal driving to San Diego. When the two stop at the side of the road, they hear a child (Tobin) screaming for help from inside a field of tall grass. The two think it is a simple matter of finding Tobin and bringing him out. They soon realize things are not what they initially expected.
Natali is known for the some of the most mind bending science fiction movies of recent years, such as Cube and Splice. There has always been a strong connection between horror and sci fi and In the Tall Grass is in his wheelhouse. Natali does a masterful job and looks like a a long time horror director. The use of color towards the end of the movie is very nicely done. Though it is more horror, the movie blends elements of both genres.
Where In the Tall Grass succeeds is in keeping things from confusing the audience. There are times when viewers do not know what is happening, but this is intentional. Instead of being frustrating, the story has anyone who watches the film wanting to see more. This can be difficult in a film with so much going on. Many times, things can get convoluted. Even when new elements are just thrust upon the audience, it works within the structure of the plot.
In the Tall Grass also makes sure to not fall into any of the tropes found in the genre. This is basically a haunted woods tale. These kinds of stories are a part of much traditional folklore. They are so love since the setting is perfect for jump scares and cheap thrills. The movie never goes this route, however. The scares here are earned and more satisfying. In a rarity for horror movies, the jump scares are unexpected.
The first two acts of the movie are exceptional. It never gets over complicated while still offering plenty of questions. Scenes build off each other, adding to the story while making audiences try to figure out what is happening. Which makes it all the worse when things falter in the final act. The introduction of the Big Bad may be expected by some, but many times it seems tacked on. Things also tend to drag with multiple fights that seem like the finale. Worst of all is the odd reveal of Cal’s feelings about his sister. It’s a Stephen King Special that is as unnecessary as usual.
In the Tall Grass starts off as a suspenseful ride that keeps audiences guessing. It builds a natural tension without resorting to old tricks. There are some pacing issues during the third act, but it is definitely a worthy addition to the Stephen King adaptation library.