In the Tall Grass follows a young pregnant woman, her brother, her ex lover, and a family of three as they become eternally stranded in a field of tall grass that breaks the laws of space and time. A mysterious rock at the center of the maze of grass holds a dark secret, but may also hold the key to their freedom.
In the Tall Grass Review
Netflix has made every attempt to make Stephen King stories feasible and coherent for cinema. First there was Gerald's Game and then 1922. Both were on the positive side of King adaptations, but didn't really hold a candle to the recent successful theatrical IT films. They did boast powerful performances from Carla Gugino and Thomas Jane, respectively, but lacked the strength and cohesion of IT.
In the Tall Grass is more of the same, though the subject matter is some of King's hardest to translate. The magical expanse of grass doesn't follow most conventional laws of physics and is seemingly tainted by a giant evil rock. As things go from weird to a tribe of grass people, you know there isn't going to be much sense to make of it all. And believe it or not, this stuff is so crazy it's starting to make sense.
King is mad, but there is a method to his madness and an off-beat rhythm to his chaos. With every new attempt, that language is becoming more and more accessible and easier to understand. Though Tall Grass doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface, it isn't supposed to, as most King novels will attest. The complete lack of explanation for most of the happenings is part of King's appeal, as we see the characters struggle with their comprehension and sanity in sometimes surreal, sometimes human ways.
King has this way of delivering the concept of "possession" with a unique approach. In almost all cases, the person is still themselves, but is just a bad, messed up version of themselves. They don't come in and out of self-awareness, they are simply on a morbid plane of tainted enlightenment that makes them commit acts of evil and chaos through a distorted logic. This is on full display in Tall Grass as well and drives most of the apparent horror elements.
The acting and writing have to drive a story like this because the antagonistic setting soon rules itself out of interest when it becomes impossible to comprehend. There is still that inherent struggle with dialogue present that is a regular issue in King adaptations, but the acting holds together well throughout and lacks the usual problems associated with the script. It helps to have the talent of horror vet Patrick Wilson on board, but the rest of the cast holds their own most of the time.
The twisty time elements do eventually calm down and we get some semblance of a comprehensible ending. But the struggle with films like this comes when you fail to feel engaged knowing you're never going to 100% follow the intricacies of the situation and therefore the decisions of the sanity-deprived individuals trapped within. It can be draining, but is also entirely familiar within a King world.
In the Tall Grass is a solid King effort for Netflix and is hopefully just another entry in a long line of attempts for the streaming service. Netflix has made quite a regular occurrence of producing and/or retrieving horror material and may prove a valuable option during the coming streaming service wars, as many of these up-and-coming streaming services may not be quite as open to a horror market (looking at you, Disney).
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 8/10
Horror Quality: 5/10
Film Quality: 6/10