Rating: 1 out of 5
October inevitably ushers in a new string of mediocre horror films attempting to cash-in on the holiday spirit. In The Tall Grass threatens to transcend this phenomenon with an interesting concept but fails in virtually every other category. This is a mediocre film. Its lifeless and limp: the acting is uniformly terrible, the cinematography could not be less inspired and any hint of plot coherence is exchanged for lame twists. The logic of this film is inconsistent and unfair to the audience, any detective work the viewer does is wasted, there are not enough satisfying clues to merit as big a reveal as In The Tall Grass attempts. The time-bending conclusion is eye-roll inducing and predictable. In The Tall Grass, is a failure of the lowest order, a film without intention or purpose.
The first fifteen minutes of the film are tense, the setting of the impressively tall grass makes for an uncomfortable claustrophobia. Initially the maze feels impenetrable and mysterious, the protagonists losing their way in an ever changing labyrinth is good fun. The screenwriters have great difficulty moving past this point. This trick is scary for the first act, but by the second act, I couldn’t help but hunger for more substantial scares. They introduce a time-loop fairly early on, which proves too unwieldy and intricate for the writers to follow themselves. While plot-holes in science fiction and horror are largely forgivable, a film with as many gaping discrepancies of logic as this is just annoying. There are several moments where the characters either should have all been dead or already arrived at a solution, the time-loop only serves to drag out the limited narrative material.
The acting in this movie isn’t all terrible. The young boy (Will Buie Jr.), Tobin, is actually quite fantastic, he is the most compelling character in the film, he understands the warped logic of the grass in a distinctly childlike fashion. Positives aside, the brother and boyfriend in this film, Cal (Avery Whitted) and Travis (Harrison Gilbertson) are truly abysmal at emoting genuinely onscreen. Cal’s incestous obsession with his sister is never justified by the actor, as if he was in disbelief at the subliminal sleaze of his own character. Travis was overly serious and not half the hunk the film wanted to make him out to be, he was shockingly lame and dull. One of the films most overt weaknesses is the thinly drawn characters. There is not a memorable character in this film, or one that is even slightly surprising.
In the Tall Grass is not terribly long but it certainly feels exhaustive in how much the writers felt they needed to explain the presence in the maze, and while it does lead to a horrifying five-second visual during the conclusion, preserving some of the mystery and ambiguity of the powers of the grass might’ve been more effective. Instead we are treated to a fifteen minute expository climax that confirms just about every theory the viewer has had up until that point. The twist doesn’t feel like a radical change for the story, rather its appropriately frivolous and obnoxious as the rest of the film preceding it.
Nothing about this film is remotely successful or engaging. The horror genre deserves so much more than this. The concept at the heart of this film is not an inherently bad one, but after being ravaged with such shameless unoriginality, there was no possibility for it to succeed. The scariest part about In The Tall Grass is how little it cares about providing is audience with a stimulating experience. You are much better off getting lost in some tall grass yourself, that would ensure a more exciting and unpredictable journey.