Netflix Film Review “In The Tall Grass” (2019) @Netflix #Horror

In the Tall Grass is based on the novella co-written by one-man-novella-industry Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It’s a high concept mystery-horror-thriller that seems like it would have made a cracking little episode of The Twilight Zone.

We meet a dilapidated and forsaken church, as much a character in this story as any of the humans, whose carpark is a de facto layby for weary travellers. This is the only thing for miles around apart from motorway and countless acres of thick, tall, grass. When heavily pregnant Becky (Laysla de Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) stop to rest, they hear a small lost boy (Tobin, Will Buie Junior) stuck within the thick growth pleading with them to help him get out. So far so simple. But when they enter the tall grass, they find themselves trapped in a nightmarish and constantly-changing maze where the very grass seems alive with an evil presence which is determined to keep them captive.

Such a high concept could backfire (see M. Knight Shyamalan’s The Happening). But In the Tall Grass initially worked quite well, particularly since it seemed like we were watching the marvellous Triangle (2009) but rebooted on a farm instead of the open sea. A silent, evil presence at the centre of the shifting grass maze had serious shades of King’s own The Tommyknockers and was quite convincing.

Unfortunately, what wasn’t convincing was some of the acting, particularly that of the usually great Patrick Wilson. Wilson hams it, chewing up the scenes like a demented Ash from Evil Dead III. Unfortunately, that acting did not sit tonally at all well with the rest of the film. As my wife put it when Wilson cracks open the can-o’-ham, “This is just silly now”. She left the room.

From this point onwards, the film really struggles with its own lack of source material, although this needn’t have been a problem: King’s own novella Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption proves that a novella can be weighty enough for a magnificent film treatment. Sadly, this novella just didn’t have enough to it. The whole venture descends into a shlocky slasher movie. There is some surreal and disturbing body horror, however, which was gruesome and great!

The film does manage to just about pull itself together for the conclusion which is satisfying. And, Wilson and Whitted aside, the acting is compelling and convincing. But the whole thing just about careens off the tracks as it finishes. It would have benefited greatly from curtailing its length from 101 minutes to an old school 90, maximum; 81 would have done fine. Even if Wilson hadn’t channelled Army of Darkness, there’s no escaping that this film was a Twilight Zone episode spread too thin. A very uneven, albeit enjoyable, result.

3/5

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Netflix Film Review: Nanny Cam [SPOILERS!!!] @thefilmreview @KermodeMovie #NannyCam @Laura_AllenLA @IndiaEisley1029 @MKnightShyamalan

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Nanny Cam is the tale of two parents, Linda and Mark Kessler (played by Laura Allen and Cam Gigandet), working impossible hours and struggling to raise their child. Downsize to just the two bedrooms, or find a nanny to raise their child for them? This is USA!, buddy; you know what the answer’s gotta be!

Unfortunately, super-nannies are hard to come by. But just as our young capitalists might have to consider no longer over-reaching themselves, in steps the too-good-to-be-true Heather (India Eisley) who is snapped right up. This being a film, and not real life, it turns out — oh plot twist of plot twists! — that the new nanny is too-good-to-be-true! In fact, she’s a possessive nutter hell-bent on wrecking the Kesslers’ perfect family.

Her evil behaviour, such as encouraging the daughter to funnel her creative energies into literature instead of the mother’s treasured violin (seriously), lead our couple to do what any couple would do: badly hide CCTV cameras all over the house and secretly watch literally nothing evil happen. This of course prompts the nanny to do what every jealous nanny would do in retaliation: drug the husband, in full view of camera, and ride him like a bull at the rodeo.

The plot twists come thick and fast. And the reason for Heather’s behaviour is the type of twisted genius that would make 2015 M. Knight Shyamalan cry with awe and envy, but 1999 M. Knight Shyamalan just cry.

The movie has a workable if not very original idea. It merely isn’t very well-made. I’m not sure if the actors are third-rate or whether they are just embarrassed to be taking part (which is my suspicion); either way, unconvincing lines are unconvincingly performed. Everything that’s wrong with the film can be summed up by its twist ending.

Femme fatale nanny on the coach after having made her daring (impossible?) get-away. Doddery old codger toodles up to her and says, ‘Excuse me, I hope I’m not bothering you. But he is so beautiful.’ Reveal: small new-born baby next to femme fatale. ‘Thank you. He’s called Mark. He’s named after his father’.

Why spoon-feed the audience? We’re not idiots. Just have her sat on the coach, quietly content, and then reveal the baby. We’ll put two and two together. And if you really must have the old codger dialogue (for whatever reason), just have our tempress say, ‘He’s called Mark’. Again, we’ll know that the husband is called Mark and this is likely his child. Don’t take a sledgehammer to the walnut and finish it with, ‘He’s named after his father’.

Dodgy acting, some unnatural and flabby film-school writing, this film is a mediocre realisation of an okay idea. At least Laura Allen is beautiful to look at — who would be tempted by the puppy fat of India Eisley, anyway!?

2/5

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from rottentomatoes.com