In the Tall Grass (2019) – Vincenzo Natali

In the Tall Grass a novella by horror legend Stephen King, and his son Joe Hill makes for a fascinating and unnerving watch, even if the film version leans towards a kind of happy ending that wasn’t even brushed on in the original source material.

And speaking of, horror novels work on a whole different level than horror films, they play out in the theatre of the mind, we’re reading the characters, and consequently project ourselves into the story. That doesn’t always happen with film adaptations, and explains why some of King’s works are great reads, but flounder as films.

This one is no different, though Natali who adapted and directed the film, works to keep some of the unexplainable other-worldliness that mess with the reader in the text.

The premise is simple enough, what if you go into a grass field, and then can’t find your way out? Of course in the hands of King and Hill this becomes something more sinister and frigthening, and Natali does a fairly nice job at translating that to the screen.

It all starts when pregnant Becky (Laysla De Oliveria) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) arrive in the middle of nowhere. There’s a large green field on one side of the two lane road, and a chuch call the Church of the Black Rock of the Redeemer. Becky hear a young boy, calling himself Tobin (Will Buie Jr.) calling for help from the field, saying he can’t find his way out.

Once the pair go in, they too find themselves trapped, with sound, time, and space not running in a linear fashion. There’s a great moment when Becky and Cal jump up to see if they can spot one another, after a succesful first attempt, their second shows them impossibly farther apart.

And soon, they learn they aren’t alone in the field, not only is Tobin wandering around, running, and trying to elude his now homicidal father, Ross (Patrick Wilson) who is intent on welcoming everyone to the field, and the horrifying black rock at its centre.

A character created for the film, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson) is introduced as Becky’s deadbeat boyfriend who comes looking for her, and is drawn into the field as well.

And while there are differences from story to screen, a lot of it is similar, and definitely conveys the eerie horror that was at work in the text, while providing no concrete explanations to hang rationality on, which makes things even scarier. There are some truly horrifying moments in the film, and Wilson is perfectly cast as Ross, making him incredibly terrifying, even as the story plays with timelines and the possibility that this grass, whatever it is, not to mention the rock at its centre, is spreading.

I really enjoyed this one, I thought it conveyed the right amount of creepiness, and it delightfully messed with my mind. It was fun, unnerving and I dug it!

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