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Patrick Wilson, Harrison Gilbertson, Laysla De Oliveira and Avery Whitted in Netflix's In the Tall Grass.

Courtesy of Netflix

  • In the Tall Grass
  • Directed by Vincenzo Natali
  • Written by Vincenzo Natali, based on the novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill
  • Starring Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted and Patrick Wilson
  • Classification N/A
  • 101 minutes

rating

If you were so compelled, a straight line could be drawn from Canadian director Vincenzo Natali’s 1997 feature debut Cube and his latest, the Netflix-produced In the Tall Grass. Both films focus on strangers bound together by unseen forces; both prove their gore-hound bona fides early on, and both are set in confined spaces that don’t play by the rules of the natural world. But whereas the ultra-low-budget Cube’s lack of resources was a feature, not a bug, In the Tall Grass is a case of unchecked excess – more blood, more jump-scares, more mythology that goes not much of anywhere.

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Natali’s not entirely at fault here, as he’s adapting a novella by father-son horror masters Stephen King and Joe Hill. But the authors’ work fell short of novel-length for a reason. There’s something undeniably spooky about a group of people trapped in a field of tall grass with no hope of escape. But to stretch that idea of eye-high rural isolation to feature length, there has to be more to care about than the menacing shade of green blades.

Natali’s In the Tall Grass only offers one standout character – that’d be Patrick Wilson’s gleeful villain, who gets to bellow lines like, “All flesh is grass!” – and a menacing style that starts off strong. Yet Natali’s aesthetic exercise eventually outgrows his narrative trappings, and he’s forced to add unnecessary and foggy backstory to the source of the overgrown greenery. The grass is mighty tall, and it could use a trim.

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In the Tall Grass is available to stream on Netflix starting Oct. 4

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