It’s been over 20 years since Canadian director, Vicenzo Natali left a highly impressionable mark with his directorial debut, Cube.
It’s fair to say, that since then he has never quite had the same response from his movies, but always has a visual style that he draws upon to create his vision.
With In The Tall Grass, Natali’s sixth feature length feature (excluding the cancelled Tremors TV movie last year) it may have proven to be a step too far in translating a novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill into a 1 hour 40 min running time, as he stretches his vision across a broad canvas and in doing so, loses its appeal.
The premise is a simple one. A heavily pregnant Becky and her brother Cal are travelling to San Diego to give up her baby for adoption, when they pull up alongside a field of tall grass.
It is here that the siblings hear the voice of a young boy calling for help. As soon as they enter the mysterious void, they fall into a labyrinth of despair that calls upon their wits to fight their way out.
Laboured with strong theology throughout, Becky and Cal must weave their way through the strange and everlasting land, but are constantly confronted by their own inner inhibitions.
Doomed to repeat their actions with slight changes, the audience is treated to an insight into how often they try alternate methods, only to be lead back to the centre of the field and a mysterious rock that feeds on energy and life.
Accompanying them in the field is another family (a father, mother, and their son, Tobin), equally lost in their myriad of emotions and history.
They are lead by an evangelical father figure, played by the magnificent Patrick Wilson, and his hammed up rampage is a much needed pulse to project the narrative forward.
Also introduced into the fold is Travis (Australian Harrison Gilbertson) Becky’s ex and father of the unborn child to provide some depth and dynamic interaction, as their fervour reaches fever pitch and leads the audience on a twisted, convoluted journey of redemption.
Natali seems to love project his protagonists into a tangled web of fear and resolution that shows the kernel of humanity at its core.
In The Tall Grass propels this theme further, but is constantly bogged down in a merky plot that draws on and feels repetitive and predictable as it draws to its conclusion.