Film & TV

Grim Prairie Tales (1990) – Western Horror Film

Grim Prairie Tales is a 1990 American independent Western horror film, written and directed by Wayne Coe, and starring an ensemble cast including James Earl Jones, Brad Dourif, Will Hare, Marc McClure, William Atherton, and Lisa Eichhorn.

Western horror filmIt is an anthology film of four separate stories, told by two travellers around a prairie campfire. Morrison (Jones) is a grizzled bounty hunter carrying a body, while Farley Deeds (Dourif) is a clerk on the way to a romantic reunion with his wife.

The first story, told by Morrison, is about an Indian tribe’s revenge against a grouchy old man (Will Hare) who desecrates their burial ground. When that tale fails to impress Deeds, the second story, also by Morrison, tells about a man (Marc McClure) who helps a seductive seemingly pregnant woman (Michelle Joyner) in trouble. Deeds, disgusted by the second story, responds with the only non-supernatural story of the three, about a homesteader family whose father (William Atherton) is forced to participate in a lynch mob. Finally, after feeling challenged by Deeds’ story, Morrison tells about a gunslinger (Scott Paulin) haunted by a gunman (Bruce Fischer) he has killed in a shootout. The next morning, Deeds points out to Morrison that the body he’s carrying doesn’t match the description on the wanted poster; Morrison cuts the body loose and rides out.

At the time of its cinema and subsequent video release it was marketed as a straight horror and not Western horror, and reviews of the time consequently focused on its lack of scares. Stephen Holden from New York Times wrote, “Grim Prairie Tales aspires to be a sort of western Twilight Zone, but the stories it tells are so flat and lacking in tension and atmosphere that the movie generates no tingles.” Hal Hinson from Washington Post offered the film similar criticism, stating that the film wasn’t particularly scary.