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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. While the novel by Hill was more impactful, the Netflix movie has enough of the same feel to make it a great addition to any Halloween watch list.

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. That family 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 are all your questions answered.

What Is the black rock in In The Tall Grass?

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. It is an actual touchstone that powers the best and worst of humanity.

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 or 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 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. The constellation known as the Ursa Major or the Big Dipper is a testament to a never-ending bear hunt. Just as the field of tall grass and the rock at the center lure people into an endless hunt the stars in the sky perpetuate an eternal struggle.

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. It is a real representation of ashes to ashes gust to dust. The rock powers the field and the field powers the rock with life. Some of that life is human and some is plant or animal.

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. Whether anyone ever actually escapes is up to the viewer. Your view on life and Travis’ act of heroism in particular.

With the grass’s ability to manipulate reality, it is also a possibility that Travis created a happier reality for Becky, Cal, and Tobin to live in.  In this reality, they all escaped back into the real world. 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. In this reading of the story, there can’t ever be escape for anyone regardless of their actions or innocence. Only perception would matter.

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. 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 spawned again while simultaneously being dead already. Living things don’t duplicate rather they spawn at the exact place and time as their initial entry into the field.

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. In essence, they become Schrödinger’s cat, both alive and dead until another perspective confirms one reality or the other. 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, in 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. They didn’t all disappear at once but over time. The lure of those voices calling for help from those inside the field was too great and 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 assuming you believe this happened. 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. The better-kept church seems to lend some credence to the fact that this is just another reality and is not the real world.

Why Choices Are Important in In The Tall Grass?

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 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 to 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 is 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.

6 thoughts on “In The Tall Grass Explained-All Your Questions Answered: Uluru Rock And Time Loops

  1. You mistakenly said Uluru in The Northern Territory in Australia is 600 billion years old. That’s older than the known universe, let alone earth itself.

  2. Thanks. I’m a sucker for details, especially when it comes to films. There are so many films and books that start with ‘The’ that you automatically write that. I suppose it’s not about THE Cube (which is the one from Hellraiser most likely, or perhaps the one from Rubik), but merely A Cube.

  3. We already discussed the rock at length in some thread, but I always felt it was more like a sacrificial place than something from outer space. The whole story had that Children of the Corn vibe of sacrifice for me. To keep it in line with his other one word titles Natali can always call it ‘Grass’, or would that sound too much like a film about weed and hippies?

  4. I take it everyone has seen the trailer? It looks terrific. The church that was mentioned in the story seems to play a bigger part in the movie. In fact it looks like the church may be there BECAUSE of the rock in the field. Hopefully we find out more about what the rock is and why it is there.

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