In The Tall Grass did its best to adapt a relatively short story into a feature-length film, and even though it added many elements and characters, it didn’t leave behind the most controversial (and disgusting) scene. Written by Stephen King and Joe Hill, In The Tall Grass is a horror novella originally published in two parts in the June/July and August 2012 issues of Esquire, and was later released in e-book format.
In 2018, it was announced that Netflix was working on an adaptation of the story with Vincenzo Natali (Splice) attached as writer and director. In The Tall Grass follows siblings Becky and Cal DeMuth who after hearing a young boy’s cry for help go into a vast field of grass. Little do they know, it’s no normal field of (very tall) grass, and they soon realize that there’s no escape and the grass has some truly creepy effects on them and everything around them. The source material includes a very disgusting scene that was included in the film, in all its disturbing glory.
During the third act of In The Tall Grass, Becky awakens in the part of the field where the ancient rock is, and realizes that she has given birth. There she sees Cal, who looks after her and feeds her something. When Becky asks what she’s eating, Cal says it’s grass, but she soon realizes that she’s eating her stillborn baby, and that Cal is actually Ross. Earlier, the film established that those who enter the field get trapped in a time loop, with Ross showing Cal all the times he has killed him, and that those who touch the rock are driven to insanity. The reason for Ross to make Becky eat her baby is left open to interpretation.
In the original In The Tall Grass story, however, Cal gives in and touches the rock, making him lose his last bits of sanity. As such, it’s Cal who tricks Becky into eating her baby, as she was weak and dehydrated and needed to get her strength back. After realizing what she did, Cal and Tobin tell her that if she touches the rock, she’ll see that the baby is fine, understand the grass, and become part of it, as they have. She gives in and hugs the rock. The reason behind eating her baby is not explained either, but given that the grass and the rock drive people to insanity, and that there are a lot of dead bodies everywhere, it wouldn’t surprising if they are forced to commit cannibalism as part of their “be one with the grass” cycle.
Being trapped in the grass also sends the characters back to a primitive state, and with the right push (like the weird power of the rock) they can easily fall into cannibalistic practices, no matter if a baby is involved. Or it could also be a sacrifice to the very powerful rock, which can control the grass and those brave enough to touch it. All in all, In The Tall Grass managed to include that scene in a less disgusting way than the source material did, which saved it from being (more) controversial.