Based on a novella written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, In the Tall Grass is a twisted, confusing and undeniably insane story that will leave you with more questions the harder you think about it.
Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, In the Tall Grass follows a brother and sister who are lured into a seemingly innocent field of tall grass, but soon come to notice that there may be no way out and no escape from the evil lurking within. As it’s a Stephen King story, it becomes a lot more than that, but the fun is in the mystery.
In the Tall Grass comes to the table with a great premise that gets you asking questions and trying to pinpoint exactly what’s happening from the opening minutes. From here, the story unfolds into a thrilling mystery, and as time passes, more and more questions are raised giving you bits and pieces so you can to try to figure things out. The mystery element makes for a really engaging story that keeps you invested even if the characters themselves can’t. But there is a point… well, in this film there are a couple of points… where the story takes a turn and goes in some crazy directions that will shock you to say the least.
As time goes on, it continues to pile on the weirdness with some very dark and disturbing scenarios, so just when you thought you were figuring things out, you really weren’t. It goes full-on twisted Stephen King, and even though it’s a bit of a mess in terms of how quick it goes from 0-100, it’s somewhat enjoyable just watching the chaos unfold. Also, where the characters weren’t as engaging early in the story, their backstories become a little more fleshed out so you start to have an added investment in their wellbeing going into the fast paced finale. It really does exponentially pick up pace as it nears the end, the complete opposite of the crawling pace in the first act… but it works.
As far as the performances go, everyone in here is fine and none of the main cast really stand out too much. The most prolific actor in here is of course Patrick Wilson and he’s the one who stands out the most thanks to a very exaggerated and emphatic performance. Not necessarily because it’s a great performance, but predominantly because it’s very loud. Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted play siblings and the two of them do an alright job at carrying the film and bringing some emotion to the story. Their performances have highs and lows, moments where they shine and moments of dialogue that are a little off, but they work for the most part.
When Harrison Gilbertson is introduced, that’s where it starts to pick up in terms of having a fresh character to root for. Of everyone, I enjoyed his performance the most as he made me care about his character more than any others, and did so in less time. The dialogue is a little shabby and lazy, so everyone’s performance is hindered in that respect, but Patrick Wilson and Harrison do their best to bring life to the lines and push through the writing.
One successful element is that it’s well filmed to bring off a very claustrophobic and tense feel throughout the entire film. It loses some of that tension once the third act goes a bit crazy but up until that point it does well to hold your attention.
If you want the best experience from this film… it’s best not to think too hard. The mystery elements are great and they’ll keep you engaged where the characters can’t, but if you think too hard about the laws and mechanics at play you’ll just confuse yourself more. It’s a slow but fun ride, hindered by some lazy dialogue and a third act that is messy in pacing and execution. For a film that has been stretched from a very short novella to an almost two-hour long feature, it’s well handled. Definitely check this one out if you’re a mystery thriller fan and enjoy Stephen King’s twisted mind.