In the Tall Grass
During a cross-country trip, siblings Cal and Becky Demuth stop to investigate the sounds of a child calling for help from the surrounding field of grass.
What follows is tense, exciting, and mysterious as the siblings become separated, lost, and disoriented, not knowing where the child is or how to make it back to the rest stop they parked at. In the field of grass, they encounter strange people and things that test the limits of their sanity.
This intense novella was collaboratively written by Stephen King and Joe Hill. It carries the grim foreboding of some similar King stories, such as Children of the Corn and N., as well as the descent into madness found in H.P. Lovecraft. But, it feels different enough. So if you like those, it’s fairly safe to assume you will like this.
One of the highlights of this story is the tall grass itself. It’s very much a character, taking on sinister characteristics. It seemingly manipulates the siblings like an intelligent and sadistic trickster. The looming, oppressive atmosphere created heavily by the grass consumes the characters and reader alike.
The tall grass has its own implied back-story, which adds to the mystery and depth of its character. Attributes of incomprehensibility and complete maliciousness add to its haunting nature. You get hints at how long it may have been the way it is and other colorings of its mythology. Although featured little, the rest stop makes for a great setting also—it’s always a great starting point for a horrific tale.
Both authors are experts working tension, pressure, and fear, and the reader gets a heavy, condensed dose of that in this novella.
The pressure to escape, especially since the sister is pregnant, is high. The tension stays taught as the siblings struggle with wanting to help the little boy, but not losing themselves in the process. They want to find a way out of the grass and understand what is happening, but can’t.
The authors effectively portray the fear of being separated, and the fear when your brain fully clicks over to realizing you cannot escape. And of the fear of incomprehensible, overwhelming menace and horror, dizzying the brain with the surreal reality that rationalization just will not work in these situations.
Keep in mind, this story is intense and probably not for everyone. It is very graphic, brutal, and gruesome at parts. But it is a creepy good time. Also, make sure to check out another collaboration by Joe Hill and Stephen King called Throttle.