Writer-director Vincenzo Natali is certainly no stranger to making a horror movie that involves a few random strangers trapped in a surreal, maze-like setting. That movie in question was none other than Cube, the 1997 low-budget cult classic which also marked the American-Canadian director’s promising debut.
More than 20 years later, it’s nice to see Natali revisits the similar premise again in a title called In the Tall Grass, which is based on a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill. But instead of a cube-shaped room, six random strangers — siblings Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and Cal (Avery Whitted), along with the Humboldt family (Patrick Wilson’s Ross, Rachel Wilson’s Natalie and Will Buie Jr.’s Tobin) and Becky’s ex, Travis (Harrison Gilbertson) — find themselves stuck in a vast field of tall grass with seemingly no way out.
On paper, it could have been a great horror film in the making, given Natali’s familiarity for such a premise and the fact that any Stephen King’s past/recent work turns into a feature-length adaptation is hard to ignore these days. In fact, In the Tall Grass actually starts out promisingly with a well-crafted opening stretch as Becky and Cal overheard a boy’s voice shouting somewhere within the field. Like any other horror movie, they end up entering the field full of tall grass while attempting to locate the voice but eventually got lost themselves as well.
Well, if only Natali is able to sustain my interest for the rest of the movie, In the Tall Grass would have been a great addition to his filmography. It doesn’t take long before the movie starts to grow repetitive during the second act, particularly with the supposedly fascinating introduction of a time-loop scenario.
Among the biggest problems about this movie is Natali’s insistence to overstretch Stephen King and Joe Hill’s 60-page novella of the same name into an overlong 101-minute length that could have used some serious editing work. Coupled with its increasingly convoluted plot and bland characters (except for Patrick Wilson’s fine supporting turn as Ross), the result feels like a tedious slog struggling to reach the finish line.
From the technical point-of-view, at least Natali does a fine job with the movie’s otherwise limited setting. This includes Craig Wrobelski’s atmospheric cinematography that manages to capture the ominous look and feel of the tall grass field as well as Mark Korven’s eerie score.