In the Tall Grass is a collaborative supernatural-horror short story by father-son duo Stephen King and Joe Hill, and it hearkens back to King’s earlier short stories such as ‘Children of the Corn’, when he was at the top of his game.
While on a road trip to stay with some relatives, brother and sister Cal and Becky DeMuth hear a child’s voice calling for help from deep within the ominous-looking field of tall grass by the road. Despite another voice - presumed to be the boy’s mother’s - warning them to turn back while they still have the chance, Cal and Becky decide to venture into the grass to help the boy find his way out. But the grass is not all that it seems; its supernatural nature means that they soon become separated, and can’t seem to find one another again - then panic sets in, and the siblings realise they have made a big mistake.
In the Tall Grass starts out as creepy and disorienting, progressing steadily to a shocking and gruesome final quarter - the level of gore in the latter part is so extreme and disturbing that some readers might find the material highly offensive. The first half is great; it is intense, highly suspenseful and succeeds at tapping into the common fear of becoming lost and separated from our loved ones in precarious or potentially dangerous situations. The grass makes for a foreboding and dangerous foe; it is approximated by Becky to be about 7 feet tall - a suffocating, dense maze of green closing in on the characters as they cycle through several emotions - frustration, fear and panic being at the forefront. The authors play not only on the anxiety of getting lost, but also the uncomfortable idea of lurching into the unknown: the pair have no idea what might be lurking within the forbidding greenery - smelly mud, biting bugs, slithering snakes, a lunatic or two perhaps, maybe even a monster...the possibilities are endless.
This 60 page story is certainly not for everyone; you should not read this if you are easily offended or squeamish. However for fans of King’s oldies who have a strong stomach, this is a fantastic short story that is definitely worth your time. It even includes extracts from King’s upcoming release Doctor Sleep and Hill’s new book NOS4A2, as an added bonus.
To sum up, In the Tall Grass may be sick, twisted and gruesome, but I loved it; the concept is original and scary, and the writing is skilful, tight and engaging. It elicits a profound feeling of disorientation, claustrophobia and panic, culminating in some grisly blood and guts.