Netflix's big movie release this past week was In the Tall Grass, based on a short story by Stephen King and Joe Hill, and directed by Vincenzo Natali. To say much about the plot would spoil the fun of a first viewing, but there is already an incredible amount of information about the making of the film online.
Natali told SyFy about acquiring the option from King and Hill for a dollar, only to see the project seemingly reach a dead end:
Usually, these kinds of high-profile options run can five to seven figures, but that's not how they do it in Maine.
“You option the material for a dollar, but you have to reach certain benchmarks,” Natali said. “It's a very clever thing he does, because he avoids getting his projects trapped in development hell. You have to reach certain benchmarks, and if you don't then you can lose the option.”
One of those benchmarks is a tight turnaround time on the writing of the script. Natali was given three months to deliver a draft, but the timing of the deal was problematic for the writer/director. He had already committed to some TV projects, which meant that he had to bang out the first draft in just about three weeks.
“The very thought that Stephen King would read something I wrote, let alone something I had to write in three weeks, was really, really frightening,” he said.
But he met his deadline, and while he'll never know for sure if either King or Hill actually read the script, the option continued to the next step, which was to get it set up at a studio or production house in a timely matter.
But Natali soon found out that this story wasn't exactly studio material. It's one part psychological horror and one part gorefest, which includes violence inflicted on a pregnant woman. There's a particularly gruesome moment in the short story that he wouldn't bend on, calling it the “raison d'etre of the whole thing.”
Nobody wanted to make the movie, and having not met his obligation, Natali technically lost the option. This was five years ago.
Fortunately, the success of It changed everything, and soon Netflix came calling.
Natali told GQ about the filming in the magical field that provides the setting for almost every moment in the film:
How much of Tall Grass was filmed in an actual field and how much of it was it constructed on a set?
You know, I'm kind of reticent to say. I don't know if I like when a film gets deconstructed as soon as it comes out. There's a certain kind of magic that gets lost, I think. I will say: we shot in a real field as much as we could, and it's all real grass. There's no way to synthetically manufacture that stuff. And it's pretty wild to step into. When we were shooting, the crew had whistles so that if they got lost we could find them. I wanted to make nature a character in the movie, and a lot of the beauty just comes from the natural setting.
And this article at Decider goes into great detail about the most gruesome scene in the movie:
None suffered more than De Oliveira, who actually got hypothermia while filming the scene . . . in the rain. “She didn’t need to go to the hospital, but she needed to leave the set because her body was shutting down,” Natali said. “But she really was amazing—even when she was diagnosed with hypothermia, she didn’t complain.”
Natali has posted concept art, storyboards, and the script from the film.
There's even cupcakes that would be perfect for a viewing party:
You can watch the trailer below: