The Reel Review

C-

Terrible and spooky things happen when, hearing the cries of a panicked young boy, a brother and sister traveling cross country enter a grassy field in a remote stretch of Kansas to rescue him. The Netflix original horror film is based on a novella written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill that was published in Esquire magazine in 2012.

Interesting visual effects and some cleverly creative camera work fail to compensate for a story frustratingly scant on explanation. The plot feels more like a bizarre bit of performance art stuck in a time loop (or maybe just an undeveloped idea) than an actual, fully-baked horror story. Patrick Wilson (The Conjuring) plays the villain with a cast of unknowns providing the fodder in this tedious game of run, die, repeat.

While the homages to other King stories are fun for fans – a huge field reminiscent of Children of the Corn, a mad father reminiscent of The Shining, a spooky car in the church parking lot reminiscent of Christine – for non-fans, all these homages feel more like reaching into an all too familiar bag of unoriginal tricks. Plus, there are just too many questions that remain unanswered – like why are we not seeing the other people who previously entered the grassy field? (There are a lot of cars parked at that church.) And what is supposed to be the role of that church, named after the mysterious rock in the field? In sum, In the Tall Grass is just a frustrating (and sadly, all too familiar) Netflix miss.

REEL FACTS

• The movie adaptation of In The Tall Grass has a happier ending than the novella.

• Filmed near Toronto, Canada, In The Tall Grass is the third of four Stephen King stories to be adapted into films in 2019, along with Pet Sematary, It: Chapter Twoand next month’s Doctor Sleep. 

• Patrick Wilson replaced James Marsden on the project after scheduling issues arose with Marsden’s role as Burt Reynolds in 2019’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which ironically, director Quentin Tarantino cut from the final version of his film.

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