In The Tall Grass proves a solidly spooky film, seeded with some tantalizing moments of terror. But it never grows to outright terrifying.
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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.
This should be a haunting, claustrophobic nightmare, but Natali over-complicates the source material — just like his characters, our reasons for investing in what happens next get lost in the fields.
Vincenzo Natali’s film divests itself of stakes in the name of total meaninglessness.
The strong atmospherics and performances aren’t quite enough to keep In the Tall Grass from feeling like, well, wandering through a bunch of tall grass.
In the Tall Grass is just a few minutes old before the emptiness beneath its Escherisms creeps up into the soil, and the movie only grows more enervating with each new wrinkle Natali introduces.
In the Tall Grass is at least impressive on a technical level. Cinematographer Craig Wrobelski manages to find every conceivable way to make tall grass visually ominous, with Mark Korven's spooky score and the ambient sound design making valuable atmospheric contributions as well.
The movie is a mixed bag, well shot and well acted enough to mostly keep the viewer’s attention, but meandering enough to frustrate at the same time. It’s bookended by flat, brightly lit, purely functional scenes that don’t quite erase the memory of the surrealist horrors that unfold at its peak, but do come close.
The film loses much of its lean, mean narrative drive when we get into group dynamics — who can you trust, who has been drinking the tall grass KoolAid — and the whole supernatural mumbo-jumbo “explaining” what they’re dealing with, and how they can escape it, takes over In the Tall Grass.
Natali whips up an atmospheric frenzy in kind, but every new addition is a subtraction. Two characters condemned to an eternal game of “Marco Polo” is scary enough on its own.