WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for In the Tall Grass, streaming now on Netflix.
Netflix's In the Tall Grass embodies the weird yet effective horror we've come to expect from Stephen King and his son, Joe Hill. Director Vincenzo Natali adapts their 2012 novella, depicting the sinister field of the title as a time loop -- Purgatory to be more specific -- that entraps victims, for a mystical rock to judge.
But because of the arc involving Becky (Laysla De Oliveira) and her ex-boyfriend Travis (Harrison Gilbertson), the film serves, in effect, as an anti-abortion public service announcement. It takes the stance that aborting a fetus is a sin punishable by death.
It's a bit extreme but, it's nevertheless thought-provoking because of how Natali frames his characters in this story. A teenage, pregnant Becky gets trapped in the field with her brother Cal (Avery Whitted) en route to San Diego, where it's revealed she's going to give her unborn baby up for adoption. They later meet Travis in the field after he comes looking for Becky. And while it seems he was tailing them and was just a few minutes behind, months have actually passed.
After the siblings went missing, Travis was worried about Becky -- and, more so, about the fate of their kid. In his search for her, he spots Becky and Cal's car and gets lured into the grassy maze too. At this point, the trio begin an emotional journey and Cal ends up spilling the beans about Travis wanting Becky to abort the baby, sending her into a depression. She left home to get away from him and her judgmental parents, and is scarred after almost following through.
However, the field is judging her for this sin, too, and the rock isn't letting her escape the fact that she almost made the choice -- so much so there's a unique cult of humans with grass for faces that kidnap Becky when she comes close to leaving. They brin her back inside the grass for Ross (Patrick Wilson) to attack. Ross was possessed by the rock and is basically acting as its weapon of destruction because the field believes he was a good dad to his own son, Tobin.
All this comes to a head when Ross shapeshifts into Cal, and a bruised and battered Becky, looking for food and slipping in and out of consciousness, is fed what appears to be leaves, dirt and bugs. The shocking reveal is that it's Ross feeding her the stillborn baby, the most fitting punishment he could concoct to teach her a lesson in the time loop.
Ross also haunts Travis, torturing him and attempting to murder him for his sins. Ross doesn't like that Travis was the one who wanted Becky to get the abortion. And now, he wants Travis has to pay the ultimate price for not valuing life. We later discover the rock that corrupted Ross lies in the center of America and acts as its heartbeat, feeding the nation like a mother does a baby. This is why it took serious offense to what Becky and Travis almost did to their unborn daughter, Ginny.
That's also why the rock judges sinners who pass by the field on the highway. Proximity offers it a chance to test humanity, its psyche and overall condition. After all, the grass and the rock don't believe in mankind. So as the field retaliates against Becky and Travis for spitting on parenthood, it becomes clear this acreage of nature believes in nurturing children from seed to blossom, not in terminating them when circumstances aren't in one's favor. It might be a harsh stance but the field is the embodiment of a kind of judgment that comes off as biased and close-minded.
Written and directed by Vincenzo Natali, In the Tall Grass is now streaming on Netflix, and stars Patrick Wilson Laysla de Oliveira and Harrison Gilbertson.