Friday, October 11, 2019

Chills & Thrills: In the Tall Grass (2019)

Movie Name/Year: In the Tall Grass (2019)
Genre: Horror
Length: 101 minutes
Rating: TV-MA
Production/Distribution: Copperheart Entertainment, Netflix
Director: Vincenzo Natali                         
Writers: Vincenzo Natali, Stephen King, Joe Hill
Actors: Laysla De Oliveira, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr., Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachel Wilson

Blurb from IMDb: After hearing a young boy's cry for help, a sister and brother venture into a vast field of tall grass in Kansas but soon discover there may be no way out...and that something evil lurks within.

Selina’s Point of View:
I was looking forward to seeing In the Tall Grass. After all, what could be better for some serious Halloween watching than a bit of Stephen King (It, Cujo, Pet Sematary)? At the very least, you know there’ll be a decent plot. If the movie creators stick close to the book, the writing shouldn’t be that bad either. Right?

If only.

If I could sum up what I just watched into one thought it would be that the film was made as an excuse to show tall grass in various perspectives with everything else as an afterthought. I can appreciate unique camera angles and interesting lines in a picture, but none of the artistic choices for cinematography seemed to enhance anything in the movie – except for one near the end that heightened the terror aspect. It’s like the director opted to use the pointless grass shots as padding to make In the Tall Grass longer.

I believe this film is going to disappear into my memory completely. I’m not going to remember it at all in about a week.

Quite frankly, you could watch it or read it and still not spoil the other method of taking in the story. I can only recommend the book though. It’s a novella, so it won’t be a huge project to undergo.

Cat’s Point of View:
I was very excited that this movie was released in time for – and made it onto – our Chills & Thrills viewings this month. The trailers alone gave me the heebie-jeebies… but that’s also partially based on my own phobias. Amplify that feeling and tension by 100… or few… and you get the level of dread that permeated this movie for me. It was exciting!

As I was watching, I thought to myself that the feel of the story was much like a Stephen King (Under the Dome, It, Gerald's Game) story. Lo and behold, the film is actually based on a novella King wrote with his son. I’m going to have to look that up. Seriously. I’ve been a longtime fan, but haven’t read this one yet. I can’t wait to see how the feel of the tale is different on the written page vs. the screen.

I’m actually a bit glad that I’ve experienced this story in this order. I’ve encountered several of King’s works this way – inspired by a movie or mini-series to find out what elements of the story were left on the cutting room floor. Considering this movie was based on a novella, I imagine that it’s in the vision of translating the page to the screen and how the story was interpreted that will make the difference. For instance, when The Stand (1994) mini-series hit TV, it broke a roughly 8 hour movie into 4 parts, and there were entire chapters left out from the final version that audiences enjoyed.

I digress…

Based on the trailer, I was expecting something more along the lines of Children of the Corn (1984), and was pleasantly surprised that the story didn’t replay that theme to its full extent. You can see shades of influence throughout the film, but it’s on par with common elements within King’s stories. I also got a little bit of the feel from The Tommyknockers (1987) – though I’m referencing his book, and not the 1993 TV mini-series. That property has recently been optioned by Universal, so I’m hoping it will get better treatment in the future… but that’s beside the point.

Aside from the fact that the movie truly felt like one of the great masters of horror had his hand in it, the story stands alone rather well. It’s a bit of a crazy head-trip with elements that spin you around as everything unfolds. We normally see the typical horror trope of campers in the woods getting scared by noises made by things unseen. This movie flips that by throwing the characters into a seemingly unending sea of monstrously tall grass. When tensions are high and visibility is next to nil, one would imagine your mind starts playing tricks on you. From a personal standpoint, that’s terrifying. Though, I have literally no basic sense of direction to speak of. I sometimes get turned around in my own neighborhood – and I’ve lived here 95% of my life.

The cast was solid in their performances. I believed every minute of their bewilderment and fear. I also have a great appreciation for the practical effects here. While there were some effects necessary to communicate some of the underlying nuances, it didn’t require anything super flashy to get the point across.

Though, there were some flashes within the film that were a little odd and took me out of the moment on a few occasions, I don’t feel like the overall movie suffered for it.

I would definitely give this film a solid referral, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the e-book.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 40%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – None
Metascore – 46/100
Metacritic User Score – 6.2/10
IMDB Score – 5.5/10
CinemaScore – None

Trust the Dice: Selina’s Rating – 2/5
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 4/5

Trust the Dice Parental Advisory Rating - R
Movie Trailer:

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