The one good thing I noticed when looking at this was that it was based on a novella and not an entire book. Trying to adapt entire Stephen King books into movies very rarely goes well, especially when you are trying to get it all in one go. While I’m sure that there would be more time spent on character motivations and interactions in the novella; the movie manages to get pretty much everything you would need or want to know about the people without belaboring anything. If there is one single note of praise that I can possibly give a Stephen King adaptation, it’s that it doesn’t overstay its welcome and manages to end fairly well.
The titular tall grass is located on a stretch of nothing road in the middle of the country. We follow a brother and his pregnant sister driving to San Diego when they pull over and hear a child calling for help in the grass. Once they get inside, though, nothing seems to make sense anymore. They can’t find the kid and they can’t even find each other. The field seems to be moving around them even if they stay still. Location isn’t the only thing that isn’t stationary once you get into the grass, though. Soon we meet the family of the lost kid and eventually even the father of the sister’s child. Everything seems to be converging together but with no way out.
Spoilers from here on out: It’s difficult to talk about this movie without getting into some specific details in regards to things like time travel, possession, obsession, and the stone at the center of everything. While the movie makes it pretty clear from early on that you’ll be dealing with some time shenanigans when you meet Tobin, the kid, and he already knows things that are going to happen. However, once Travis, the boyfriend, shows up and meets a Tobin from earlier in the timeline, things start to get a little confounding. It appears as if Tobin’s family, Travis, and the siblings (Becky and Cal) are all caught in a time loop where Tobin calls the siblings in, Travis goes looking for them, and then Travis calls Tobin in from earlier in time. We see the characters’ dead bodies at certain points and are told that “the field doesn’t move dead things” which means that there’s no telling how many times these people have been sucked into the field and killed.
The theme of redemption and religion in here really makes you start to think of this is basically being Children of the Corn but we got rid of the children and it’s just the field that’s spooky now. I like that there isn’t an explanation for what’s going on with the rock. There is even question some of the events that we see are temporally connected even when they seem to follow chronologically. Apparently there is a timeline where Tobin touches the rock instead of his father, since we see that when he meets Cal. There’s no telling if maybe there was a timeline where Cal touches the stone and goes crazy or any other possibility. It’s only Travis touching the stone and using Tobin as a messenger that allows him to break the time loop by keeping Becky and Cal out of the field, which would ultimately save at least one version of him if not the one currently in the field. Sadly, Tobin’s family is just kind of fucked.
Now, with all that nonsense going on, the question is does it make for a good movie? I would say there are definitely several things that are in its favor. The acting is good across the board but Patrick Wilson really knocks it out of the park as Tobin’s dad the real estate agent turned prophet of the grass. I’d also say that there is just enough gore/violence shown to be shocking but not gratuitous and it leaves a lot of the action to your imagination when you can’t see through the tall grass. I think it can definitely get a little confusing if you aren’t paying attention and that can lead to feeling bored and frustrated. For my money, though, the movie is a good blend of atmosphere and action.
Score: 4 out of 5. Being able to take a setting that is outdoors and make it feel claustrophobic is no small feat. While it didn’t quite suck me in as some of my favorite horror films have, I think it’s definitely worth watching and makes for good discussion fodder if you watch with friends.