Eventually, we will all come to the realization that most horror film and TV has and will continue to become nothing but adaptations of unearthed Stephen King properties that will be continually re-adapt until there's no room for improvement. In The Tall Grass plucks from the shelf a novella by King and his son, Joe Hill, and tries desperately to turn a thin premise into something worthy of 90 plus minutes.
Retaining the bones of the novella, writer/director Vicenzo Natali brings his visual panache to an inherently bland landscape--a field of grass. The titular greenery is essentially the sole setting. A brother and sister are lured into the grass with the cries of help from a little boy. Once they've entered the field they find it increasingly difficult to find their way back out, turning their rescue attempt into a fight for survival. Along the way we get stuff like a big black rock that seems to carry supernatural properties, a scene chewing Patrick Wilson, and grass people.
The unavoidable cloud hanging over the film is the fact that this story would be best suited as a segment in an anthology. Natali's script attempts to expand on King and Hill’s story, even if it borrows heavily from other cinematic entities including a bit from one of Natali's lesser circulated chillers, Haunter. There are tweaks, of course, making this churn along at its own pace, and yet, the zags seemingly do little but unnecessarily pad the film's length causing much of its plot to feel monotonous and repetitive.
Unsurprisingly, Natali's vision hints at a mythology that's left unexplored in the novella and is merely seen in passing, leaving plenty of space for speculation. The supernatural force lurking in this patch of earth invites intriguing ideas of a living space that defies our planet's natural laws of time and space. The disorienting geography which plays with character's and viewer’s sense of place is portrayed in quick glimpses, while overhead shots add an otherworldly shine over the field of grass, making the mundane something a little more alien.
In the Tall Grass is a King adaptation that, unfortunately, feels every bit the protracted version of a short story that it is. Likely not to be the last attempt to visualize the story cinematically, it's at least a commendable first pass by a filmmaker not afraid to take risks. Natali manages to deliver a film that is not treading new ground creatively, but creates a visual aesthetic which feels even more inspired than its source material as a whole.