This story has a climax that is shocking. And the rating of this review depends on what happens. And there is no way to discuss this story in a review without discussing the finale. So if you want no spoilers, you may not want to read this review. But I feel this twist would make a lot of people angry, so I suggest maybe you should read on to know the issues in this story.
The Tall Grass by Joe Hill
A couple years ago, when the economy wasn’t broken I was doing some freelance group work at the local USDA office. Together we had to survey and soil sample on this plot of land that had this crazy tall grass that stretched couple feet above our heads. For twenty minutes I got separated from my group and briefly discovered how easy (and scary it is) to get disoriented and completely lost in an environment like this. It was noon and with my phone water damaged, so I had to follow the sound of the cars to find my way to the road to get my bearings again. Sometime later I heard that Joe Hill tackled this theme, and I was curious. Because if there was a disorienting place to have a horror story, it certainly is in the tall grass. So I was curious about how Joe would tackle this concept. Here is my review of Joe Hill’s in The Tall Grass.
What is it about? It follows brother and sister, Becky and Cal. Becky had unintentionally become pregnant. And her brother is driving her home from college to their parent's home so she can sort out what to do about all of this. But on the way home, they hear a child’s voice calling for help. The two decide to help. They proceed into the tall grass. The boy’s voice gets further and further away and the siblings lose each other in the tall grass. Soon they cannot find each other as the grass seems to magically be shifting them from place to place randomly every couple minutes. They try to find one another but instead run into strangers who are menacing and constantly speak about the Great Rock.
The good? These characters are great. Becky and Cal are very likable. And the beginning is great as well. They really felt like real people. Also the feeling of disorientation when they enter the grass as well. The tone was fantastic. And when they run into the strangers, it’s a nice tense new mystery.
The bad? Well first of all, this does seem a bit aimless. Much like a lot of the shorts in this Full Throttle collection unfortunately. It is rough certainly born of stream of consciousness writing. But here; the biggest issue is not that. It’s a spoiler but it has to be discussed.
In this story, one of the strangers kicks Becky (who is six months pregnant) in the stomach multiple times to cause her to have a miscarriage in the tall grass. And after Cal has been corrupted by the “Rock” he eats it and even feeds her parts of the still born baby. This is told in grotesque body horror fashion. It makes the reader squirm and uncomfortable and for me I felt it the story pointless. This was the climax. It felt more like an experimentation on writing body horror than coming to the close of any sort of story arc. And because of it having no real meaning, something felt insanely wrong about this miscarriage climax. I felt like I had to take a shower after reading this. And I believe most people will really not like this story much after the climax. Something like this can be done, if done right and has a meaningful purpose in the context of the story. This instead felt like Joe Hill was challenging himself as to make a miscarriage as grossly detailed as possible in a writing exercise. I feel many readers can’t stomach this.
Overall, it has a good start with likable characters. But it leads to tasteless body horror that will leave many readers feeling ill. Despite the good start, I cannot recommend this. This story is really feels pointless and is difficult read because what happens. It feels so wrong and frankly most people are going to hate it.
2 smoothies out of Five
Overall Rating: A Horror tale with a Promising Start and Ill Conceived Climax.