(My review of “In the Tall Grass” (Part 1) is available here.)
On the cover of the August 2012 issue of Esquire magazine in which the second part of Stephen King and Joe Hill’s novella appears, there’s a caption under the story’s title that says “Now it gets weird.” True, but an even more accurate phrase would be “Now it gets dark.” Because there’s one element to the concluding chapter of this tale that is as dark as King (and Hill, for that matter) has ever gone – we’re talking Pet Semetary-levels of bleakness here.
No, I’m not going to spoil it for you. I want you to discover it the same way I did. Let it dawn on you with the same sort of creeped-out, oh-no-they-didn’t realization in which it dawned on me. It’s not gratuitous, it’s not over-the-top – it’s a subtle reveal that proves that when the King men get together, they aren’t messing around.
But let’s back up for just a second. When we left off in Part 1, the DeMuth siblings (Cal and Becky) were just beginning to understand how much trouble they were in. They’d gone into a field of tall grass next to a seemingly abandoned church to try and find a young child who was calling for help. They soon realized that something is toying with them, bending the physical rules of reality they’ve known their entire lives in order to drive them in circles, always tantalizing close but oh so far away from each other.
In Part 2, things progress from bad to worse. There are echoes of another King story in “In the Tall Grass,” particularly in this final part. In “N,” King wrote about a Stonehenge-like circle of stones that were a portal to some sort of mad, Lovecraftian God. There’s a stone in “In the Tall Grass,” too – just one, but like its cousins in “N” it wreaks all sorts of havoc on those who cross its path. This stone isn’t keeping something out; rather, it seeks to draw things in, like a cunning and ageless spider that’s had its fill of food but keeps spinning its web just because it can. It’s remorseless, and the things it drives people to do – well, you’ll see.
It’s clear that King and Hill had a blast working together on this, and they seem to feed off of one another to produce something that’s even darker and more purely horrific than either of their recent solo works. Here’s hoping these two continue to work together to bring us the kinds of simple, effective, good old fashioned horror stories that they are so clearly adept at writing.