A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that In the Tall Grass is a 2019 horror movie in which a sister and brother on a cross-country road trip get trapped inside a field that seems to bend space and time. It's adapted from a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. There are some violent and gory moments, including scenes in which a woman is killed when someone presses her skull together, a character stabbing another in the eye with fingernail scissors, and stabbings. A character falls to his death and another is choked to death. There's disturbing imagery, especially for younger and more sensitive viewers, such as a dead pet dog covered in flies. Rape is threatened in one scene, and "f--k" is used several times. Cigarette smoking is also seen.
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What's the story?
IN THE TALL GRASS begins with Becky (Laysla DeOliviera) and Cal (Avery Whitted), adult siblings traveling across the country from New Hampshire to San Diego. Becky is pregnant and en route to meeting with a family who might adopt her baby. On a lonely rural road in Kansas, Becky has Cal pull over next to a field so she can throw up. While outside of the car, she hears a boy's voice in the field crying that he's lost and begging for her help. Unable to see him through the tall grass of the field, Becky and Cal go in to rescue the boy. In a matter of minutes, Becky and Cal also become lost, and then separated, and as they try to reconnect, it seems that their voices abruptly shift direction and they grow more distant. They eventually find the boy, Tobin, who speaks of bizarre happenings in the field, and leads them to a mysterious boulder. Soon, Cal and Becky meet Tobin's father, Ross (Patrick Wilson), who seems a little too excited about the field and what the boulder has to offer. Meanwhile, two months later in ordinary time, Becky's ex, Travis, has been on the road in search of the missing siblings. He finds their car parked in an abandoned church across from the field, and is soon also lured in. As Ross tries to lure them all to their deaths, Travis, Becky, Cal, and Tobin must find a way to escape the field.
Is it any good?
This is a good, if not great, horror movie. Adaptations of Stephen King stories (this one co-written with his son Joe Hill) are a mixed bag, and this movie is a mixed bag of some interesting ideas counterbalanced by groan-worthy dialogue, engaging suspense versus gratuitous gore, and an engrossing mystery contending with self-indulgent images (blood drops ribboning downward through clear water). While the literary-minded might get a kick out of Patrick Wilson (who steals almost every scene as the over-the-top real estate salesman turned possessed bad guy) talking about the field as a "garden of forking paths" in a subtle reference to the classic Borges story that explores similar themes of labyrinths, choices, and space/time, the movie itself doesn't quite strike a working balance between Deep Themes on one end and Spurting Blood on the other.
That said, In the Tall Grass, even at its slowest or most meandering moments, doesn't fail to entertain. Even as Wilson steals the show, the other actors more than hold their own or do enough with the archetypal characters they're given to work with to make the audience care what happens to them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in horror movies. How did the violence in In the Tall Grass compare with that of other horror movies? Was the violence necessary to the story, or did it seem gratuitous?
What would be the challenges in adapting a novella into a feature-length movie?
What are some other examples of movies that explore the idea of time and space shifting? How does this one compare?
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