The Daily Gamecock

Review: 'In the Tall Grass' sees good intentions cause trouble

Movie: "In the Tall Grass"

Release Date: Oct. 4, 2019

Director: Vincenzo Natali

Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes

Rating: B-

In Vincenzo Natali’s adaptation of Stephen King’s horror novella "In the Tall Grass," Cal (Avery Whitted) and his pregnant sister Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) find their good intentions met with undeserved terror and suffering. All of this takes place in — you guessed it — tall grass. 

While on a road trip to California, the pair stops beside a seemingly never-ending field of tall grass and is subsequently lured in by the sounds of a young boy screaming for help. As is expected of scary movie stars, Becky and her brother make the stupid decision to look for the boy themselves. 

The two roam through the grass without marking a trail, the first clue things are bound to go wrong. Inevitably, they become separated and encounter many terrifying people and events, most notably the main antagonist Ross (Patrick Wilson), who we soon learn has been possessed by sinister powers.

It soon becomes clear that the characters are trapped in some sort of complex time loop, which restarts multiple times throughout the film. It shows the characters lost in the grass, often suffering unfortunate fates, then starts again in the morning with them deciding whether or not to enter the field. 

With the introduction of more characters and subplots in each new loop, the psychological thriller becomes almost too confusing to be thrilling at all. Rather than being swept up in fear and captivation, the viewer is more likely focused on trying to comprehend what is actually going on. It feels as there is some sort of message, but it's lost in the plot. 

Those who have seen the 2016 movie "Arrival" know that unique manipulations of time can lead to intriguing plots and even add a depth the film would have otherwise lacked. In this case, it seems to do just the opposite. The repetitive loop hinders the audience from keeping track of the main characters and their individual experiences. Just as they begin to understand what is going on, the loop begins anew and viewers are lost once again.     

Despite the complexity of the story line, the other elements of the film are simple. Nearly the entire movie is dimly lit, almost to a fault, and takes place in the field of grass. The script lacks in meaningful dialogue, both in terms of quantity and quality. When the characters are not screaming, their conversation fails to add any substance to the overall story. If they had said nothing at all, it would not have detracted from the plot.

The characters, though never deeply developed, all seem to show glimpses of both good and evil, making it hard to distinguish the protagonists from the antagonists. Consequently, it is difficult to feel attachment or sympathy for any of them, further diminishing the emotional experience that audiences look for in a film. 

Psychological thrillers seem to be increasingly popular over traditional horror movies, as their generally more realistic story lines make for an eerier experience. While the idea of “In the Tall Grass” is enticingly creepy, the film left me confused, but not invested enough in the characters or plot to care enough to try understanding. For those in search of a scary movie this Halloween season, “In the Tall Grass” might be worth a try if you are looking for something different, but not if you want something that will truly have you on the edge of your seat.