The problem with Vincenzo Natali’s “In the Tall Grass” is that it sets up so many questions and ideas, but never executes them well enough. “In the Tall Grass” feels very much in the vein of Stephen King’s “Children of the Corn” where a massive field of innocuous grass becomes the sight of a supernatural gathering. King and Joe Hill are very good about creating terror out of domesticity, and for the first thirty minutes Vincenzo Natali’s film had me hooked. Then it just about runs out of steam with too many undercooked concepts and never quite won me back.
When siblings Becky and Cal hear the cries of a young boy lost within a field of tall grass, they venture in to rescue him, only to become ensnared themselves by a sinister force that quickly disorients and separates them. Cut off from the world and unable to escape the field’s tightening grip, they soon discover that the only thing worse than getting lost is being found.
I was very fascinated with the plays on time and looping of the present and the future. There is also a lot of plays on fate, and feelings of the grandiose in the face of an unseen force, but so much of it is underdeveloped. What begins as a really eerie and creepy narrative involving a somewhat omnipotent field of very tall grass descends in to an ugly, an often confusing slog in to just pure absurdity. After the first half of Natali’s treatment of King and Joe Hill’s narrative, much of what unfolds just doesn’t make a lot of sense.
There are implications of a whole cult of people living within the grass, hints at a church that worshiped the tall grass, and characters begin to pop up suddenly. Nothing is ever really explored or developed beyond these mere introductions and inexplicable overtones about incest and abortion that never amount to anything worthwhile. Despite the narrative occasionally meandering to explore the apparent source of this benevolent tall grass, “In the Tall Grass” pretty much drags its feet to the finish line. It’s a muddled, tedious, and unpleasant horror tale that not even Patrick Wilson can save.
Streaming exclusively on Netflix.