There are a lot of scary things in the world like global warming, mass shootings, those little fish that might swim into your hooha if you pee in a river… the list goes on and on. Now Stephen King and his son, author Joe Hill, have decided to add something else to the list: grass. Yes grass. It’s not enough that you have to mow it and that it can throw out more allergens than a room full of long haired cats. Now you have to worry about it killing you too.
At least that’s the idea behind the new film (based on King and Hill’s collaborative short story) In the Tall Grass. Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) are on a long drive across country to San Diego. Becky is 6 months pregnant and plans to give up the baby for adoption to a couple they will meet in San Diego. She isn’t sure that’s what she wants to do, but it is revealed that her boyfriend, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), wasn’t ready to accept fatherhood so she’d broken up with him. Now she believes giving up the child is the best thing to do.
While stopping by the side of the road near an old church, they hear a child calling out for help. The voice seems to be coming from very close by, just inside a field of extremely tall grass. They also hear another voice warning the child not to call for help because “he’ll hear you”. Despite the ominous nature of the other person’s warning, Cal decides to enter the grass to help. Soon after entering he finds himself disoriented and lost, the voice of the child seemingly moving around him.
Becky soon enters the grass as well. She’s worried about Cal and only wants to find him. She too becomes lost in the tall grass. Hearing Cal’s voice close by she tells him to jump up on the count of three. The grass is tall, but they think they can see above it if they jump. On three the pair pop up and see each other only about 20 feet apart. Happy to have found each other they jump up again to get their bearings. Only this time they are hundreds of feet apart. This is the first true sign that there is something supernatural going on in the field of grass.
Cal and Becky are freaked out by this and continue yelling each other’s names and trying to find one another. This doesn’t seem to help though and the day wears on. Soon Cal stumbles upon a little boy named Tobin (Will Bule Jr.) holding a dead crow. Tobin explains that the grass doesn’t move dead things and then buries the crow in the path. He then tells Cal that he can take him to the rock and the rock will help him find Becky. Tobin takes him to it and Cal is amazed by the strange rock. It stands tall in the center of a small clearing and is covered in pictographs that seem ancient and ominous. Tobin tells him to touch the rock and all will be revealed, only Cal is distracted just before he touches the rock and heads back into the grass to find Becky.
Meanwhile Travis arrives outside the field. Even though only a single day has passed to Becky and Cal, outside the pair have been missing for two months. Travis has somehow tracked their route to this point and he find’s Cal and Becky’s car parked by the church. He enters the grass looking for them. This is when we realize that time is behaving even more strangely than just the two-month gap would indicate. Will anyone escape the tall grass?
In the Tall Grass is an interesting horror film. It creates a strangely claustrophobic atmosphere for the viewer, even though almost all of the film takes place outside. It seems somewhat ludicrous that a field of grass could be that frightening. However, this is Stephen King and he’s managed to make everything from a field of corn to a towel folding machine into a nightmare, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he can do the same with tall grass.
Overall the film is pretty good. It builds quite a bit of tension and the characters are developed enough to make it engaging. However, the film falls somewhat short of being great, that mostly stems from the fact that the characters spend so much screen time doing nothing but shouting each other’s names as they move through the grass. This is supposed to be an effective element to build tension, but it gets old pretty quick. That said the concept behind the movie (and the much darker story that it was based on) are good, but the film just doesn’t quite hit a home run for horror.
In the Tall Grass is a pretty good horror movie that would have been great as a 60 minute or so long episode of The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror. So if you’re in the mood for a pretty good plant-based horror film and don’t have a taste for Triffids, check out In the Tall Grass. For fans of Stephen King and Joe Hill you won’t be disappointed. Even if you’re not a big fan of those two authors, that’s ok you’ll probably like it too, if for no other reason than it’s almost like a good public safety video about the importance of lawn maintenance.