There are few brands, not just in horror, but in all of entertainment, that are as strong as Stephen King right now. Not that the legendary author should simply be boiled down to a brand, but thanks to the success of movies like IT, we're in a new era of peak King. Netflix is once again getting in on the action with an adaptation of In the Tall Grass, which King wrote with his son Joe Hill. The result? Thanks to director Vincenzo Natali, it ultimately, after a great deal of meandering, becomes a compelling and unusual addition to the long, varied history of King adaptations.
In the Tall Grass centers on siblings Becky and Cal, who answer the cries of a young boy lost in a field of tall grass. After deciding to venture in and rescue him, they also find themselves ensnared by an unknown force that quickly disorients and separates them. Separated from the world and lacking a path of escape, they become desperate and it becomes very difficult for everyone to know who, or what, to trust.
For starters, this isn't exactly a jump scare filled romp. Nor is it the overtly horrendous and bloody type of horror flick. It's heady, at times peculiar, and even delves into the realm of sci-fi. It's a strange movie and a bizarre story. It's also worth mentioning that Vincenzo Natali, who adapted the story for the screen in addition to his duties as director, really takes his sweet time to get to the meaty center. That said, there is certainly a hearty, albeit pretty odd, destination that comes from the seemingly endless initial wandering.
This is a movie that starts out by, rather simply, delivering on its premise. A handful of people wander into some rather tall grass in the middle of nowhere. They get lost. Bizarre things start to happen. They can't find one another and yell out familiar names over and over again. Wash, rinse, repeat. For some, this gimmick may run out of gas before this thing gets to business. I get that. However, I'd still argue that the wacky and intense turn in this tale is so very faithful to the most delightful sort of Stephen King story that it's well worth it. Plus, Joe Hill brings along his audacious and brutal horror sensibilities as well. Natali fully embraces the crazy that drives this story.
This is a Netflix tale that relies on a very small ensemble with virtually no supporting players. That means every single person sharing the screen must deliver for it to work. Arguably slow start aside, everyone here does a great job with what they're given. Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted as the brother and sister duo at the heart of it all, Will Bule Jr. as the creepy kid Tobin. It's all good. But Patrick Wilson, who feels like an often underrated aspect of any movie he's in, is the unquestioned MVP here. Wilson really goes out on a limb here with an over-the-top performance that delivers the fun factor, as well as the creep factor.
At the end of the day, this feels like an installment of an anthology series, think The Twilight Zone with some Tales From the Crypt thrown in there for good measure, only stretched out to a feature-length installment. At times, it's easy to see how one could think the length gets in the way a bit, especially in the first half of the movie. For King fans, it's probably going to fall somewhere between the best of the best and the worst of the worst. Where it ranks will depend largely on one's sensibilities as a viewer, but those ready to embrace the weird should find this to be a welcome adaptation. In the Tall Grass arrives on October 4 from Netflix streaming service.