‘In The Tall Grass’: Vincenzo Natali’s New Stephen King-Penned Horror Thriller Is Tense, But Underwhelming [Fantastic Fest Review]

The Playlist | 9/21/2019 | Kristy Puchko
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Vincenzo Natali broke onto the horror scene with “Cube,” A high-concept thriller that created a suspenseful sense of claustrophobia amid a sprawling labyrinth of death traps. 22 years later, he brings this same kind of tension to Netflix’s upcoming “In The Tall Grass,” a horror-thriller set solely in a field, expansive yet suffocating.

Based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King and Joe Hill, “In The Tall Grass” begins with a deeply loyal brother-and-sister duo on a fateful road trip. Cal DeMuth (Avery Whitted) simultaneously drives and fusses over his twenty-something sister Becky (Laysla De Oliveira), who is six months pregnant and unsure what to do about that. So, the hangdog duo is on their way to San Francisco to meet with a couple who could adopt the brewing baby Becky’s made with her irresponsible rocker boyfriend Travis (Harrison Gilbertson). But their trip goes off the rails when they happen to pull alongside a vast field of tall grass.

Grass - Inches - Stalks - Voice - Boy

This grass is so thick you can’t see but a few inches beyond its first stalks, and so tall that there’s no looking down into it. So when the panicked voice of a young boy (Will Buie Jr.) erupts from the whispering rushes of wind through the blades, Cal and Becky decide they must go in to help the lost boy out. But once inside, they too become impossibly tangled in this merciless maze of greenery. And they soon discover they are not alone.

This premise might seem a bit thin for a feature film. After all, how scary can being lost in a field be? Yet, Natali gives his natural setting an unsettling surreal mood through production design, sound design, and a bit of CGI. Like “Cube,” the sets look the same. Again and again, our heroes are caught in...
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