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The Ending Of In The Tall Grass Explained

Netflix's 2019 horror-drama "In the Tall Grass" starts simply enough: on a beautiful country road, on a beautiful summer day. It quickly devolves into a terrifying survival story, which comes as no surprise when you know that it's adapted from a novella co-written by horror master Stephen King and his son, horror writer Joe Hill.

"In the Tall Grass" appears to tell its story with a non-linear narrative, cutting between three separate groups at different points in the film's storyline: a pregnant Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her brother Cal (Avery Whitted), who are traveling to San Diego; Tobin Humboldt (Will Buie Jr.) and his parents Ross ("The Conjuring" star Patrick Wilson) and Natalie (Rachel Wilson); and Becky's child's father Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), who's trailing after her and first encounters the Humboldt family before they enter the grass in the first place.

However, as is usually the case when Stephen King is involved, the more the story unfolds, the more one realizes there's something a weird about it. In the process of showing viewers what happens to each character, "In the Tall Grass" bends the very concept of time, leaving the group confused and leaving viewers with as many questions as answers.

Let's take a look at what happens in "In the Tall Grass" and what it means. But beware: There are spoilers ahead.

In Netflix's In the Tall Grass, space and time don't function like normal

When the story begins, Cal and Becky pull over on the side of a country road when she begins to feel carsick. After they hear the voice of a child screaming in the grass next to their car — followed by a woman's voice calling after him — they decide to see if they can help.

While walking amongst the tall grasses and trying to locate a disembodied voice is challenging enough, Becky and Cal also have to deal with further disorientation: They lose track of each other, and quickly become lost. When Becky calls out for Cal, at first it sounds like it's coming from one side of the field, and then the other. This, naturally, leads them to both panic and begin to frantically search for one another.

During their separation, Becky encounters Ross, who says he'll lead her out of the field; Tobin ends up finding Cal — who, in turn, stumbles across Travis, mourning over Becky's decomposing body, despite the fact that Cal and Tobin heard her crying for help only a few moments earlier.

To say the already-weird situation gets even weirder from that point forward is an understatement. When the characters eventually all meet up, they realize that something is amiss. Travis, for example, seems to have both entered the field of grass before Cal and Becky, but also after them. It all starts to feel even more sinister when it becomes apparent that the grass has a mind of its own, and seems to be manipulating the characters into further confusion and chaos.

The rock at the center of In the Tall Grass has mysterious, sinister roots

In the end, it all comes down to a huge rock sitting in the middle of the tall grass that holds a terrifying power over anyone who encounters it. The ensemble of "In the Tall Grass" eventually learn that the grass in question is actually an extension of a big rock with mysterious and seemingly prophetic carvings, which Tobin shows to Cal right before they find Travis and Becky. The exact purpose of the rock is never made clear, though a glimpse at the local Church of the Black Rock Redeemer seems to indicate it might be a focus of worship.

If you're confused, you're not alone. As "In the Tall Grass" proceeds and the characters try to make it out alive, it becomes apparent that the rock is working just as hard to keep them there. The characters encounter terrifying human-like creatures with faces made of grass — seemingly the spirits of other people who didn't make it out alive.

The rock wreaks havoc on the film's characters by controlling the grass and giving it a way to ensnare anyone who enters the field. It even has the power to take control of humans, which we learn after Ross touches it and becomes an extension of its evil. Ross ultimately kills the others when they refuse to touch the rock as well, but because the film's story is cyclical and nonlinear, that doesn't mean it's the end for them — at least, not all of them.

At the end of In the Tall Grass, the characters break the loop

The characters battle the time loop that keeps them trapped in the grass and suffering horrible deaths up until Travis chooses to sacrifice himself by touching the rock and allowing it to make him a part of the grass. Before he succumbs, Travis sends Tobin to the church, where he's able to intercept Becky and Cal before they enter the grass — saving their lives and the life of his unborn child. In the last moment, Travis collapses in relief and lets death take him as he listens to their car drive away. The grass seems to fold in around him, claiming one more victim.

"In the Tall Grass" doesn't answer all the questions it presents to its audience. While we understand why the characters' experience was so chaotic at the beginning of the film, the origins and purpose for the rock and the chaos it causes remains elusive. How long has it been there? Why is it there? Has Travis destroyed its power by breaking the loop?

Likewise, it's unclear exactly what, if any, symbolic representation the rock may hold. Is this a story about the dangers of assimilating to societal pressures can lead to becoming stuck in situations that are less than ideal? Is the rock an allegory for the dangers of putting too much power into a single entity? Rather than forcing viewers to read more deeply into its themes, "In the Tall Grass" leaves room for speculation, while also just letting the movie be what it is: a scary story that ends on a bittersweet — and somewhat ambiguous and thus confusing — note.