In The Tall Grass Explained-All Your Questions Answered: Uluru Rock And Time Loops
Netflix’s In The Tall Grass which premiered yesterday is a surreal trip through Middle America. Think Children Of The Corn with a Lovecraftian twist. Based on the novella by Stephen King and son Joe Hill it is a mindbender of epic proportions. Becky who is six months pregnant and her brother Cal are driving from Topeka, KS to San Diego, CA to meet the adoptive parents of her unborn child. They enter a massive field of tall grass to help a child they hear crying for help. That child Tobin, is lost in the field with his mother, father and dog. They entered the field when Travis called to them from the field for help. Travis the father of Becky’s unborn child enters the woods two months after everyone else searching for Becky. If you aren’t confused yet you weren’t paying attention. Each individual enters the woods as a good Samaritan but quickly becomes an unwitting co-conspirator. It is a gorgeously weird film that is as confusing as it is entertaining. Here’s all your questions answered.
What Is the black rock?
The rock at the center of the ever-changing grass field has hieroglyphics that appear ancient. As events unfold and Becky goes into labor the rock exposes a bottomless connection of roots and more alarming, writhing bodies. Ross Humboldt explains the rock predates man and has been around since the beginning of Earth itself. Ross believes the rock lays in the center of the Earth and offers redemption. In reality, the rock has supernatural powers that amplify the strongest traits of those who touch it. Ross is not a good human being. He is selfish, resentful, and easily angered. Desperate for a “better” life the rock makes him feel powerful and unrestricted. As a result, he wants nothing more than to feed the rock the blood of anyone unfortunate to be lost in the grass. Like the Uluru or Ayers Rock in Australia of The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, USA just the sight of it alone is enough to make the hairs on your arms and neck stand up. The Uluru is over 600 billion years old and is massive. As much surface area that is exposed, more than half remains underground. Smaller monoliths called the Olgas in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park are thought to have been part of the huge whole that through erosion and earth-shifting broke apart. The Devil’s Tower in Wyoming is just as mysterious. You are likely familiar with the rock formation from Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounter Of The Third Kind. The tubular structures that are a hallmark and the sheer size allow for an imagination to run wild. Native Americans have legends about The Great Spirit making stars out of girls and Great Bears.
Who Are The Grass People?
The people with whirling grass faces and hands are manifestations of the grass and rock. Those bodies produced when needed to do the rock’s bidding are more Golem than living creatures. As Travis succumbs to his stab wound after saving Tobin, Cal, and Becky he became one with the field and rock as well. The grass and rock is connected in a tangling root system of mud, biological plant material, and blood and guts from unsuspecting humans.
What Is With The Time Discrepancies?
Along with shifting grass mazes and disappearing buildings time is malleable in the field. In the field it is a closed loop that wraps around itself. A Dr. Who level time incongruity that makes each person their own savior and enemy. It is both time and alternate realities that are created which is what allows for escape. All of Ross’ kills have happened before and will happen again unless they escape the loop. With the grass’s ability to manipulate reality however it is also a possibility that Travis created a happier reality for Becky, Cal, and Tobin to live in. It is no more real than the other reality in the field. In this way, they never leave the field they just perceive they do. It is a much more nihilistic view of the ending that would be truer to the novella’s ending.
Why Do Dead Things Stay Put When Everything Else Changes?
Tobin explains that he buries dead animals in the field as a way of creating landmarks in the field. The grass is constantly changing. Travis attempts to tie knots in the grass to keep his bearings, but the grass unties itself. Everything but dead things move. This is never explained but it is implied that once something is dead it gets sucked into the time loop to be reborn again while simultaneously being dead already. With this theory in mind, Cal, Becky, Tobin, and Travis would all still exist in the real world alive while also being dead in the field. Cal, Becky, and Tobin are stopped from going into the field and return home where Travis is waiting having never left. He had no reason to leave since Becky has not been missing for two months. Despite Travis’ sacrifice at the end, he will actually have the chance to be a father to his child.
Courtesy of Netflix
What Is The Church Of Black Rock The Redeemer?
In addition to the church with all the abandoned cars, there is also a decaying bowling alley and gas station. These are both empty and were left to decompose because the people who previously worked there became part of the field. Similar to the colony at Roanoke everyone simply disappeared without leaving any sign of what happened. The lure of those voices calling for help from those outside was too great and over time one by one the townsfolk entered the field until the entire town was empty. The church acts as a portal between the field realm and the real world. This is how Travis is able to save Tobin. The church Tobin comes out of at the end has intact windows but the one seen by all parties before entering the field at the beginning has broken windows showing that the church exists just as the people do both in and out of the loop at different times.
Why Choices Are Important?
Ross points out life is made up of endless forking choices that each have consequences. It doesn’t take much for a person, even a mostly good person, to become corrupted by a series of bad choices. This is seen most obviously in Ross who is perverted by the power of the rock and the possibility of ditching his structured life. His fall is immediate and overtly evil. Cal’s fall is more subtle. The film ends on an unexpectedly positive note especially for those who have read the novella, but many are left wondering how Cal will behave the rest of his life given what we saw in the field? The inter-connectivity of time in the field creates endgame scenarios for decision-making in a condensed time. Everything that happens in the field could happen in real life, or it could be avoided by making different choices. Since Cal never entered the field he has no knowledge of his choices there. Maybe he will never be asked to make life or death decisions and will find someone the love and make a family with. If that is the case he may live the rest of his life as a good brother and uncle and never demonstrate the seriously inappropriate behavior he did in the loop. The moral of the story being don’t be a dick dude because it will haunt you and irreparably change the course of your life.
Netflix’s latest genre film is a strong addition to rural, ambiguous horror. It is a strong adaptation of the short by Hill and King with just enough changes to deliver a new experience. It is beautifully shot and well-acted. With more questions than answers, this is my kind of film. We were lucky enough to see it at Fantastic Fest. Read our full review here. If you love this kind of time-bending film check out Triangle on Shudder. Stream In The Tall Grass on Netflix now. Check out our full review here.
Tyler has been the editor in chief of Signal Horizon since its conception. He is also the Director of Monsters 101 at Truman State University a class that pairs horror movie criticism with survival skills to help middle and high school students learn critical thinking. When he is not watching, teaching or thinking about horror he is the Director of Debate and Forensics at a high school in Kansas City, Missouri.