Yesterday, the news broke that Vincenzo Natali (Splice, Cube) had signed on to write and direct an adaptation of Stephen King and Joe Hill's novella, In The Tall Grass. Even as we speak, the film (slated to go in front of cameras this September somewhere outside of Toronto) is being prepped for pre-sale at this month's Cannes Film Festival. It--
Hold up. What the hell is In The Tall Grass?
I'm glad you asked! Prior to the announcement, I'd never heard of it, either. And speaking as a dude who considers himself something of an expert on the ever-expanding oeuvre of Stephen King (and a burgeoning fan of Joe Hill's work), this struck me as odd: how had such a thing escaped my attention? Well, turns out that In The Tall Grass started life as a two-parter published in Esquire back in 2012 (ah, so that's how I missed it), and has since been made available as an eBook. I downloaded it to my iPad last night.
And holy shit, you guys: In The Tall Grass is amazing.
Here's the setup: a brother and sister are traveling across country when -- somewhere in Kansas -- they drive through a field where they hear a little boy screaming for help. They immediately stop to render aid, only to encounter...well, I'll leave that for you to discover, but rest assured that it ain't pleasant. Here's how Natali's describing the project:
“Who would think that grass could be frightening? Trust Stephen King and Joe Hill to find a way. They have transformed an otherwise innocuous Kansas field into a stage for some of the most disturbing horror fiction I have ever read.”
He ain't lying! This has gotta be one of the darkest pieces of writing King's been involved with in years. In The Tall Grass is bleak, weird, and left me legitimately rattled. That said, I have no idea how its ~60 pages are going to support an entire feature film; if anything, this material seems like it'd be best suited to an extended short. A lot of the action (as it were) is internal, and when the story gets to where it's going, shit gets ugly. Real ugly. Like, how-do-you-expect-to-get-this-past-the-censors ugly. Natali's got a steep hill to climb on this one.
But, hey: I'm an immediate fan of this source material, and I've enjoyed a lot of Natali's work in the past (both Cube and Splice have held up well, and Natali's contributed strong work to NBC's Hannibal). As such, I'm rooting for it. If he pulls this off, we have something very special -- and deeply horrific -- to look forward to.
Note: I've linked to the eBook on Amazon below. It is well worth your $3.99. If you consider yourself a King fan (or a Hill fan! Or both!), I cannot recommend this novella enough. If you've already read it, feel free to back me up on all of the above in the comments below.