Vincenzo Natali’s In The Tall Grass will be released to the streaming world October 4, 2019 but Austin, Texas horror fans were among the first to see the film at Fantastic Fest 2019. Adapted from a novella of the same name by Stephen King and Joe Hill, In The Tall Grass is the story of several people trapped in an unpredictable maze of tall grass that has more in common with The Bermuda Triangle than a field of crops. It’s a strange film that unfortunately doesn’t ever top it’s opening act, and follows a familiar story-beat structure that we’ve all comfortably began referring to as “Netflix Films“.
Don’t get me wrong, Netflix isn’t a genre but there’s no denying that they are movies you could practically set your watch to. Ooo, that’s intriguing- we must be at the 20 minute mark (where viewers are statistically most likely to move on to something else if they aren’t given a surprising twist). Oh, I didn’t know Patrick Wilson was in this (Which is super convenient because this movie was just about to lose me). The “Netflix Movie” feels like a passive slot-machine that doles out just as many rewards as you need to stay hooked and in your seat- but enough about that.
Cal (Avery Whitted) and his very-pregnant sister Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) are driving across country to deliver her baby Juno-Style to two loving parents. The father of her baby, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), isn’t in the picture and Becky fears that she won’t be able to provide for her baby all on her own. When they are forced to pull over for an unexpected bought of morning sickness, Becky and Cal hear a little boy in the tall grass along side the road calling out for help. Before Cal can talk her out of it, Becky goes running after the lost child’s voice, eager to bring the boy to safety. In short time, Becky and Cal also become lost in the tall grass but there’s something wrong about this whole situation. There voices swirl around each other and there seems to be no way to navigate, as though the grass itself is transporting them at random throughout the massive field.
And that’s kind of about it. Our characters struggle to find their way through a maze that moves around them, while also trying to navigate their way around a few characters straight of the King playbook. The mystery of the grass is explored in pretty extensive detail which may or may not raise an eyebrow or two but at the very least, does provide an answer. it’s hard not to see similarities, but the films does feel a lot like Cube (Natali’s first feature) but in grass. Chunks of the field move around, seemingly at random until a pattern emerges. Characters are driven mad, and dead bodies become markers. That said- there is a twist in the telling of this story that does make for a very interesting development that takes those mysteries of The Bermuda Triangle one, impressive step further.
“In The Tall Grass is not a movie that was made for live-long fans of the genre, looking for something they’ve never seen before but it does offer some interesting paradoxes”
In The Tall Grass is exactly the kind of movie I expect to see coming from Netflix. It’s quick, it’s clean, and it’s what I’m watching before what I’m watching next. Which breaks my heart because Natali and the cast clearly poured themselves into this project. They planted the concept, cared for it, nurtured it, and harvest it when it ripened. From the emotion in his introduction you would think this was a movie Natali has been trying to get made his entire life. Unfortunately, it feels just as disposable as every other film coming from the streaming giant, despite it having some really interesting ideas at it’s core. I can’t help but feel a connection with the characters in the film, trying to make sense of the endless acres surround them because it’s exactly how I feel every time I log onto Netflix. In The Tall Grass is not a movie that was made for live-long fans of the genre, looking for something they’ve never seen before but it does offer some interesting paradoxes that will spur discussion online before the film is lost in it’s own maze of endless content.
In The Tall Grass celebrated its World Premiere at the 2019 Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube) and adapted from a novella by Stephen King (Maximum Overdrive) and Joe Hill (NOS4A2), In The Tall Grass stars Laysla De Oliveira (Locke & Key), Avery Whitted (The Vanishing of Sidney Hall), Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring 2), Harrison Gilbertson (Upgrade), and Will Buie Jr. Read all our coverage of the festival HERE, and join the conversation with the Nightmare on Film Street community over on Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!