Written by: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: Harrison Gilbertson, Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Will Buie Jr., Rachel Wilson
When one finds themselves in a horror film, one of the rules to follow is not to follow any voice you hear desperately crying for help in the distance. No matter what good intentions you possess, it most likely will end up poorly. Of course, the characters in any horror film like In the Tall Grass do not know they are in one, leading to the horrors in this film. Unfortunately, the film gets far too convoluted in its plot that it loses any momentum the narrative attempts to build throughout.
On a cross-country road trip, Siblings Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and Cal (Avery Whitted) stop near a church next to some terribly long grass. When they hear a young boy screaming out for help, they enter to try and assist and discover this grass field has something special about it seeing as they cannot make their way back to their vehicle or to each other.
In the Tall Grass operates in some very intriguing areas with the horror it utilizes. Getting lost in an unknown place serves as a feat for many but being lost in a place where one cannot see where they are going and proves to be an unending path brings it to a whole other level. Personally, getting lost in the middle of nowhere in some tall grass would certainly be a nightmare and when the film delves into the early stages of how the grass operates it shines, but once it starts expounding about the intricacies and involving other characters, it all goes off the rails.
Serving as one of the better scenes of the film is a moment where Cal and Backy try to find each other in the grass after separating. Calling out to each other and walking toward the sound of the other’s voice does not help so they decide to jump as high as possible to see if they can pinpoint each other’s location. In the first jump, they get a decent idea of the location so they attempt a second jump, which solemnly shows they have somehow gotten even farther apart. When the feature works in this element it plays with something truly horrifying and worth exploring. With grass working like this an explanation needs to arrive in order to make sense of all of it and propel the feature forward. However, power lies in some ambiguity when it comes to horror, and when it gets to explaining everything regarding the grass and how it operates, control and any modicum of competent storytelling go completely out of the window.
The precipitous decline begins to occur when other characters enter the fray like the young boy, Tobin (Will Buie Jr.), whose voice initially lured in Becky and Cal. Then you have others like Tobin’s father Ross (Patrick Wilson) and his mother Natalie (Rachel Wilson). The film then digs into what causes all of this and begins to deal with different timelines and loops that could theoretically make for a richer story but just does not come together in a meaningful way and simply muddies the water to the point where it becomes difficult to distinguish whatever transpires throughout the film. Different elements continue to flip and alter what we believe represents reality. While no film necessarily needs to be clear-cut in handling everything when the emotional stakes of the feature depend on it, some sense of clarity needs to exist.
This all leaves for a messy film willed with moments where their meaning becomes confusing with the characters intermingling in ways that fail to serve in any meaning all leading to some structure being at the center of it all. None of it feels composed in a proper manner and it does an injustice to a story written by Stephen King and his son deserving more of a coherent retelling in order to tell this story. This narrative comes with a great concept with quite the bevy of potential to tell something meaningful and with some excellent thrills but what we receive fails to fulfill any of it leaving us with this empty and mostly unenjoyable horror film. I mean, why would you bring on Patrick Wilson, Ed Warren himself, into a horror film only for him to be so misused? Certainly not one to recommend and I mostly forgot about it shortly after watching it.