For anyone who’s ever wondered what Field of Dreams would look like as a horror film, wonder no more! This latest Netflix original film adapts a novella co-written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. While the plot begins as simple and straightforward, it goes down a trippy rabbit hole that we’ve come to expect from the master of horror.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
The film opens with Cal (Avery Whitted) driving his pregnant sister Beck (Laysla De Oliveira) cross country to San Diego, where she intends to meet with a family who is interested in adopting her baby. As they’re driving through middle of nowhere, USA, Cal pulls over for Beck to be sick on the side of the road.
While stopped, they here a boy named Tobin calling for help from the field of tall grass next to them. Without hesitation, both Cal and Beck venture into the field to help the poor boy. And what a mistake that was! As they traverse the thick vegetation, Cal and Beck find themselves just as lost as Tobin.
Soon enough, Beck’s ex-boyfriend Travis (Harrison Gilbertson) enters the field looking for them, and as they find Tobin, they also come across his father Ross (Patrick Wilson), who seems to be going mad from the field itself. In many ways the field seems like a character itself, and exists in a void that defies the laws of space and even time!
Field of Screams?
Much like King’s other writings, In the Tall Grass keeps the characters (and the audience) unsure as to what is real or not. We the audience feel that we’re just as lost in explanation as these characters, and also like them, yearn for a simpler time before entering this cursed field. One of King’s greatest strengths is his mysterious buildup, and writer/director Vincenzo Natali does a great job of translating this to screen.
Normally, it would get pretty boring just watching characters walk through a field for 100 minutes, but Natali’s direction and brilliant cinematography do a great job of making the field itself an intimidating force, which makes it all the more interesting for the audience.
All the Usual King-isms
There’s a reason why Stephen King is the most financially successful American author in history. That said, he can also be known for relying on several of his own clichés and tropes. It’s more apparent in some stories than in others, and In the Tall Grass really only demonstrates this with some of the awkward dialogue.
And despite the screenplay being written by Natali, it sounds like much of it was taken directly from the source novella, as it has King written (no pun intended) all over it. The actors do the best they can with this, and some even find a way to shine. By far the best performance in this is given by Patrick Wilson, who goes all out into his character’s descent into madness.
Surprisingly, he was a last minute replacement for James Marsden, who had a scheduling conflict. But after watching the film, it’s hard to picture anyone other than Wilson giving that unhinged performance. As all the other characters keep trying to escape the cursed field, Ross finds some sort of enlightenment and insists that everyone else must give in. Add him to the long list of psychotic zealot characters that King writes so well.
Overall, In the Tall Grass has its awkward/cheesy moments, but between the overarching mystery, and Wilson’s crazed performance, it’s definitely worth sparing the 100 minutes and streaming on Netflix!