Director: Vincenzo Natali. Writer: Stephen King
Starring.Laysla De Oliveria, Avery Whitted, Patrick Wilson, Will Buie Jr. Harrison Gilbertson, Tiffany Helm, Rachael Wilson. Canada. 1h 41m.
The penny dropped after the first hour of watching vivid scenes of tall grass swaying and screaming at lost desperate people in this slightly weary thriller, my eureka moment came when I realised I had seen this set up before, in a well known and once brilliant sci fi movie, The Cube (1997) and fuck me sideways, it’s the same director!?! I might have finally learnt my lesson in doing the technical research before settling into a movie. In a nutshell, that’s it, a folk version of The Cube in a field, and despite it’s best efforts, it’s not much more. The film eludes to lots of probabilities to the origins of its mystery but fails to really give solid answers and ends up as a messy mix of dead ends.
Starting off unassumingly, a brother and sister are driving to new horizons, Becky (Oliveria) is heavily pregnant and her brothers greasy burger causes her stomach to erupt, outside the vehicle they hear a distant young boy shouting for help as he’s lost in a field of long grass, being on the verge of motherhood the pairs caring instincts kick in venture into the wall of grass to find the boy and then things begin to get weird.
Hunting through the greenery becomes an impossibly task, it seems to dwarf anyone or anything that enters, dead things are apparently easier to find but how dangerous could some grass be? It’s almost impossible to get your bearings without any landmarks and the sun seems to come from all directions, this maze is very fluid.The confusion surrounding the siblings, and the little lost boy Tobin (Will Burie Jr.) become problematic when his parents start prancing around, his father Ross (Wilson) doesn’t seem too concerned with finding the boy, so what are his motives and what’s the massive Black Rock about, a way out or a way in!?
In all fairness it does and doesn’t matter, the movie is cleverly designed to draw you into all the possibilities open to you in this Eden like labyrinth in which everyone is trapped, separated and somehow frightened out of their wits even when nothing is really stalking them like i was expecting to happen.
In all fairness I really enjoyed watching the movie, I saw in anticipation, eager to see where it might lead, it was only in the final dying throes of the story that I felt slightly cheated, but it really did manage to capture and hold my attention, kick start some imaginative ideas. Patrick Wilson’s character really comes alive, as the puzzle begins to unwinds, the heroics become a group effort but it was pioneered by a new contender who enters half way through the movie, the father of the baby bump, Travis (Gilbertson) who had been labeled as a loser by everyone before he even arrived. The grass and accompanying Black Rock begin to show their true colours and release some vegetation beings at one stage but really the psychological effects seem to be more frightening and the special effects take over as the landscapes literally tips into a dream sequence, one really striking scene sees the roots of the grass open up into a biblical mass of writhing bodies that go on for miles like a muddy descent into hell, it’s pretty effective but with the origins and meanings behind the whole fiasko being so vague it seems quite pointless to go through so much trouble to describe a dead end.
Natali makes a lot of attempts to build up and change all the characters in the movie several times, as time and space is warped and changed, but the failed attempt to give personality to field itself is one of the biggest let downs. Often landscapes are described as being part of the cast in any decent movie but in a movie where the landscape is literally a player on the stage, it seems to have movies but little character. He did play down the deep connections between the Black Rock and the Black Rock Church on the outskirts of the field of tall grass but hopefully you’ll be able to pick up on this and many other easter eggs, any reason to get the viewer to watch twice huh!
In hindsight it lacks a winning punch, but it’s totally understandable why this team were set up, Kings previous writing and Natali’s previous connections to this style of story, but I was hoping for that blow to the gut ending that really could have saved the film for me and made it something to watch, maybe chuck the Creeper in there for a laugh.. i dunno, but a bloody dark folklore secret would have really polished it off, instead the highlight, for me, is the scene where Patrick Wilson sprouts some dark erotic poetry..
R – The Cube (1997), Splice (2009), Children of the Corn (1984), ABC’s of Death 2 (2014), Labyrinth (1986)
L – It’s all a little bit of history repeating.
5s – Stephen King,