In the Tall Grass on Netflix: Explained

In The Tall Grass was originally a short story written by world-renowned author Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. The book was published in two parts in July and August of 2012 in Esquire Magazine and told the story of an inseparable pair of brother and sister whom their parents called “The Irish Twins”. The two ventured into a field of Grass and upon discovering there was no way out, essentially lost their minds.

This story was brought to life in 2019 by Netflix which had many viewers puzzled and got mixed reactions by critics. This article isn’t about whether the movie was good or bad, or how we felt about it. It’s for the average viewer who got confused and needs some answers. Let’s go!

The story

The movie starts out with what appears to be a couple who are driving through what appears to be the countryside. We soon find out the two are brother and sister who are on their way to San Diego to meet the couple who was going to adopt the sister’s baby.

The brother was named Cal and the sister was Becky. They stop at the side of the road across from an old church where Becky hears a young boy say “Help! Please help me! I’m lost” in a panicked voice. At first, she thinks it ss the wind but Cal hears it too, so they decided to go into the over seven-foot-tall grass to “haul him out” as Cal jokes.

Cal pulls off the side of the road into the church’s parking lot where there are a couple of old cars but no one in sight. Becky shouts to the kid asking him if he can hear but he replies saying “Yes! Help me! I’ve been in here for days!”. Becky and Cal are both confused since it sounds like he was close to the road but figured since the grass was so tall, he didn’t even realize.

As she is about to step into the field, she hears the voice of a woman chip in, somewhat faint, warning her not to come in and telling the little boy who she calls Tobin to keep quiet. Finding this odd, Cal and Becky ventures in to look for Tobin and the woman. Becky tries to get a 911 operator on the line but before she can even get a sentence in, there was static disturbance and the line goes dead.

In their hesitation to find Tobin and get back on the road, they lose sight of one another and they are each alone.  They shout to him and tell him not to move so they can find him, but it isn’t long till they realize that something is wrong. Even though it sounds like they were practically on top of each other, they can’t see or find each other. Then, suddenly their voices sound further apart even though the other insists he isn’t moving. Becky has an idea. Why not jump so they can know which direction to head into? It seems simple enough and on the first jump, she realizes hey, he’s right over there. Only a few steps away. She asks him to jump again so that she will be sure about which way to go but this time, they are meters apart. They are both bewildered. That’s impossible. Cal sees a dead dog in the field of grass and now he’s in full panic mode and is desperate to find Becky.

After roaming around for what seems to be hours since night turns to day, Becky who is now exhausted and out of breath meets Ross, Tobin’s father who tells her that he is looking for his wife and kid and that he can help her find Cal. He only has one rule: Don’t lose sight of me.

Cal runs into Tobin who is dirty and kind of creepy-looking but he says he can help find her since the field doesn’t move around dead things. That’s another rule. Instead, he leads Cal to a huge rock in a clearing in the grass and tells him to touch it. He hears whispers and sees carvings which draw him to it and as he was about to touch it, he hears Becky scream.

The scene switches to the same country road but instead, a car is being driven by a new character who we later learn is Becky’s baby father, Travis. He stops at a gas station with a picture of the two and asks if anyone has seen him. He gets back on the road and as he is passing the old church, he sees the red Mazda that they were driving. He pulls over and explores the church. There’s nothing much to see here except for a locked door that he doesn’t pay much attention to. He looks into the car and finds an old sandwich, then glances down and sees Becky’s book. He decides to head into the grass to search for them.

He ties blade of grass together to help him find his way back but alas, they untie themselves. He quickly notices something is wrong when he looks up and midday is at his back and afternoon is in front of him. Still, he continues, day turns into night, and he comes across Tobin who knows his name and where to find Becky. He introduces rule number three: If you don’t pay attention, the voices in the grass go away. We can’t hear them if they’re not connected.

Tobin brings him to Becky who is dead and rotting and he remains there until he falls asleep. He is awoken by the sound of people calling out. These people are Tobin’s family who has not gone into the grass yet. They are clean and have stopped by the side of the road for some reason.

Travis calls out to Tobin and Tobin is puzzled as to how he knows his name. We see the dead dog Cal saw alive. His name is Freddy and he belongs to Tobin. He runs into the grass and Tobin follows. His mother, Natalie rushes in after him and soon does his father, Ross. She says “Honey I’m scared” but he reassures her by saying “It’s only a field. It’s that guy I’m not so sure of”. Travis tries to warn them not to come in but it is too late for that and again day turns to night.

The movie seems to rewind to Cal and Becky at the side of the road where someone is watching them. They head in and the same actions take place, but this time Travis is there, and he hears Becky singing and Cal talking. He shouts to them and they are confused as to how Travis is even there before them. Cal is visibly annoyed at this but soon they find each other, and Becky and Travis share a moment.

Cal interrupts, and Travis lets them know that everyone was worried about them. Cal thinks they’ve only been there for about two days, but Travis lets them know it has been two months. They decide to figure that out later and Travis has Tobin hop onto his shoulders to guide them to a building they passed on the way there. Cal is highly critical of Travis since he didn’t let anyone know where he was going and that he had found the car. The two clearly don’t get along.

The group gets a call from a panicked Becky who warns her not to let Cal hurt Travis or else they will keep on making the same mistake. The call cuts out suddenly and the static causes Becky pain. She has a vision of the sky turning to blood and the grass laughing at her before she collapses. The group panics and Ross emerges from the grass and resuscitates her. He claims to have found the road and lets them know that things don’t work the same in the grass as they do in the real work and they are free to follow him. He leads them to the rock which he claims is the only way out.

Cal reaches towards the rock but is stopped by Natalie who warns them that Ross is dangerous and is a liar. She sees Becky and is shocked since she saw her lying back in the field dead, and shares that ross tried to hurt her. He tries to talk her down and to convince the group she is crazy, but Becky feels some stomach pain and has a vision of an evil Ross amongst the grass. She tells the group that they need to leave but Ross isn’t having it. Travis tries to intervene, but Ross loses his friendly demeanor. The grass stops moving and Travis attacks him so the group can escape. He breaks Travis’ hand with the super strength he now has and crushes Natalie’s head with his bare hands.

They run away from him and see an alive Freddy who leads them to the building. Everyone is scared and Tobin says they are grass. They keep dying and coming back. The tension between Cal and Travis overflows and it is revealed that Travis wanted Becky to have an abortion. Becky tries to deescalate the situation and Travis gets upset at the weird relationship Cal has with his sister claiming no one will ever be good enough for her and that he should stop trying to play hubby to his little sister. They begin to tussle but stop when they hear Ross breaking down the door.

They head to the roof where they see the road and Freddy. He walks behind a patch of grass, disappears and reappears on the road. They finally found a way out! Travis loses his footing and hangs on to Cal who seemed to help, but then changes his mind and lets him go. Travis falls and Tobin sees everything. He tries to chase him down but is distracted by Ross who is climbing to the roof. Cal finds Becky and tries to convince her to go through the grass and escape, but she is more concerned about Travis. His demeanor and attitude let her know that something is very wrong, and she runs away from him.

Ross is now chasing Cal who tells him holes are everywhere. He catches up to him and pins him down and lets him know that no matter what he did he would die since it had happened before. Cal glances over and sees several dead bodies, but they are all him. He dies.

Travis awakens and heads back into the grass to find Becky. They have a little moment even though they are not together, but it is soon broken up by Ross. She runs from him and is cornered by grass people who bring her atop their shoulders to the rock. It is now raining and she makes a phone call to Becky. The same phone call she heard earlier, warning her about Cal. She goes into labor and passes out.

She awakens to the sound of her brother’s voice who is nursing her. She feels her stomach and realizes her baby bump Is pretty much gone but Cal comforts her and shows her the baby (which isn’t even crying). He begins to feed her something crunchy and when she asks what it is he says it’s just grass and cows do it all the time. She looks over and realizes the swaddling cloth her baby was in is now flat. Suddenly Ross is over her and confirms she just ate her own baby.

Travis finally catches up to Becky and realizes what has happened. Tobin arrives and says he found Cal. His father kills them over and over again and it is never going to stop. Suddenly Ross appears and attacks Travis. Ross pulls a bone from the mud and stabs him with it, saying Travis needed redemption the most. Becky attacks him and stabs him in the eye with a necklace and Travis gets up and bashes his head against the rock before strangling him with the grass.

Becky is now dead, and Travis decides to touch the rock, despite Tobin’s warning. The rock reveals its network and Travis leads Tobin away. He lets him know that he can never leave, but he can save him and Becky. He gives Tobin Becky’s necklace and pushes him through a hole which leads into a room. Tobin unbolts the door which turns out to be the same locked door in the church that Travis tried to open.

He hears Becky outside and stops her from going into the grass, giving her the bloody chain Travis gave to him. She realizes what it means and tells Cal that they need to leave. They get into the car and turn around. The movie ends with Travis watching in the grass, happy before he is consumed by it.

Why couldn’t anyone find the road?

If you have ever been lost somewhere like a forest, then you know how hard it can be to find the road. Nevertheless, it should happen eventually but that’s not how the field works. The field is full of holes and walking into one will teleport you somewhere else. The field also moves things around so you may be standing here one minute, and the other you are yards away. The only constants are dead things that the field cannot move.

Another take is that the field doesn’t actually move things but interferes with the mind. They are all there within meters of each other, but the mind games of the field make them believe they are far away.

How is Travis there before Tobin if Tobin is the one who lured Becky in?

Time is not linear in the grass and there are multiple timelines.

This means reality does not work how we are used to. One event doesn’t follow the other in chronological order. Remember, Travis would not have come to the grass if Becky did not go missing, but Tobin would not have been in the grass if Travis had not called out to him.

It appears as though the cycle starts with Travis which is why he had to be the one to break it. Travis is the one who abandoned Becky so he would have to find redemption.

What are the markings on the rock?

You may have noticed some weird carvings on the rock which Cal mentioned. While Becky is giving birth, the camera shows what appears to be a prophesy. A child would be born, but the child would die. Whenever someone touched the rock the prophecy would be revealed to them. This is why the first Tobin and Ross were adamant the others touch it. That is also why Ross did what he did in order to fulfill the prophecy.

Why is Ross so evil?

 

Ross behaves like that because he is trying to fulfill the prophecy. He was also a prick before he went into the grass, so are we even surprised?

Is Travis still alive?

The grass has them in a sort of cycle that continues over and over again until it is broken. Many versions of them have entered the grass as Tobin revealed, and that was proven by the number of dead Cals we saw.

The Travis in the grass will exist in the grass forever. There are also other versions of Travis in the grass that are dead, as are Beckys, Tobins, Freddys, and Natalies. Ross is a unique case since he only dies once. Therefore, there might only be one of him which is connected to the grass.

There may also be a Travis which has not come to the grass yet since the cycle is broken, as Becky does not come in and he will not have to go to the grass to find her.  That might have also been the final version of Travis. It all boils down to how you interpret it.

What happened to Tobin’s parents?

Even though the cycle is broken, they still went in after Tobin who was following Travis’ voice. Ross still touched the rock which means he is connected forever. Tobin is the only one from that cycle that escapes.

Are Becky, Cal, and Tobin alive?

Tobin escapes with the help of Travis and stops Becky and Cal from ever going in to rescue that Tobin. They turn around and never enter the grass so those versions of themselves are still alive.

Does the story follow the book?

Not completely.

  1. In the movie, Becky gives birth near the rock and is fed the baby by Ross. In the book, Ross and her fight and he kicks her in the stomach then she runs away, and she gives birth. She is discovered by Tobin and Cal who eat the baby then feeds her some and forces her to touch the rock.
  2. In the movie, Ross leads them to the rock, but Natalie stops them from touching it. In the book, Natalie is already at the rock, dead and half-eaten,
  3. In the movie, Becky tries to stab Ross with car keys. In the book, Cal had the keys.
  4. In the movie, Travis saves them all. In the book, Travis does not exist.
  5. In the movie, there is day and night. In the book, there is no light, only eternal afternoon.
  6. In the movie, Becky has visions while she was in the grass. In the movie, Becky reveals she has premonitions about the grass two months before getting there.
  7. In the movie, we only see one person who lived in the town and it is otherwise abandoned. In the book, there is an entire community and businesses, but they know to stay away from the grass.
  8. In the movie, Tobin escapes the grass in the end and Becky and Cal never go in. In the book, no one escapes.

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