Patrick Wilson seems to relish scaring the pants off of audiences. Ever since 2010’s Insidious, the actor has either starred or appeared in such horror projects as The Conjuring, Insidious: Chapter 2, Bone Tomahawk, The Conjuring 2, and Annabelle Comes Home. Now, he’s returned to the genre once again with Netflix’s In the Tall Grass.
Based on the creepy novella by father-son masters of macabre Stephen King and Joe Hill, the movie finds Cal (Avery Whitted) and his pregnant sister Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) trapped in a vast field of grass in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, they soon discover they are not alone.
Typically, Wilson portrays characters on the receiving end of all the nightmarish mayhem. However, the tide has turned. This time around, he’s the fiendish Ross, a murderer who believes a power resides within a giant rock located in the middle of the field. And he’s targeted Cal and Becky as his latest victims.
During an In the Tall Grass set visit last August, Wilson spoke to SYFY WIRE about his newfound love of the horror genre, replacing James Marsden as the lead, playing the sinister villain Ross and the hazards of filming in tall grass.
Insidious marked your first full-fledged horror film, but you’ve followed up with a few more including The Conjuring. What have you grown to enjoy about that genre?
99 percent of that genre is tied to James Wan. It’s hard for me to separate the two. He really represents the best in horror for me. If I look back when Insidious was being put together, commercially-successful horror at the time was riding the paranormal wave. You were in that found-footage era, where everyone was trying to find the new gimmick. Not to take anything from those, but that time had come and gone. James is a classic filmmaker that really appreciated classic horror or thriller movies.
What I really relied on is character and story, not that I didn’t know that before. I’ve done films on $1 million-budgets and whatever The Conjuring budget was, but the attention to detail and story is the same. Then, when you are talking Stephen King, who writes such amazing, complicated characters in, yes, horror, science fiction, and supernatural situations, that’s exciting.
My first experience with being terrified of any type of movie was Salem’s Lot.
James Marsden originally signed on as the lead but had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. So, when the script came your way, what did you find riveting about the story, or were you simply captivated by the pedigree behind it?
I hadn't worked since Aquaman. I hadn’t worked in about 10 months and was enjoying my time off. Between Aquaman and The Conjuring being pretty deep into Warner Bros., I don’t have that desire to go off and do four or five independent movies nobody sees anymore. That doesn’t really appeal to me. My time is precious, especially with kids.
For this, I saw Gerald’s Game, which was fantastic. When the whole process was sold to me... it’s this very small cast, it’s from this novella, Netflix.. it’s like I could see it all. I read the script and then went back and read the short story. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but if I’m going to jump into something, I don’t want it to be easy. This scared me. There was enough outside my comfort zone that I felt would push me.
Introduce us to your character Ross and what makes him such a great addition to King’s pantheon of ghouls.
In the short story, Ross is bad news from the beginning. I think what director Vincenzo Natali wanted to do was when you open up the world of this and make it into 100-something pages of a script, it’s “let’s hold off on that.”
You see him as a father and a husband first, certainly preoccupied with his own job. We are meeting him on the phone and not enough time for people. The demise and the journey he takes, he seeks the truth in a very distorted way. What this rock inside the grass becomes to him is very spiritual. I probably would have gone a little further as religion, but...
With Ross, we were conscious of creating a little bit more of a past that he didn’t have in the short story and how that suited his actions. He becomes a fun, disturbing, violent ghoul. But, of course in his mind, he’s trying to show everyone the awakening he’s had.
You mentioned how you appreciate challenging yourself. How tough of a shoot has In the Tall Grass been?
I was only running through the grass a couple of days, but it’s unrelenting. Avery, who plays Cal, he showed me pictures. It’s tough. This type of grass is serrated on one side. You are running through that and at the end of the day, there are cuts all over. Being dirty and the fighting, I have no problem with that. The strangling, without giving too much away, that was exhausting.
And, because of the injuries sustained during the course of Ross’ journey, it required some makeup changes and prosthetics. Specifically, when you are dealing with your vision and having pieces glued on and you can’t see out of one eye, that’s tough. It’s disturbing.
In the Tall Grass is now streaming on Netflix.