Portmanteau-a-go-go #13 – Grim Prairie Tales

 

grimprairietales5This 1990 anthology horror movie is a little different to the norm. Grim Prairie Tales is a collection of four spooky tales set in the Old West and uses the good, old-fashioned campfire setting as the hub for the tales.

*Spoilers ahead*

The linking story features Brad Dourif as Deeds, who is clearly a bit of a city boy as he has glasses and is dressed smartly. He’s travelling across a prairie, trying to make his way back to his wife when he encounters Morrison played by James Earl Jones. Morrison is a rough and ready bounty hunter who initially rubs Deeds up the wrong way but before long, Morrison begins to tell him a spooky story.

At this point the movie sort of unravels.

The first tale shows a grumpy old bastard riding through a sacred indian burial ground. He’s grumbling about how he gives zero fucks about the legends and curses associated with that particular type of short cut and before long he calls it a night, right in the middle of dead chief country. Uh oh.

As he sleeps, the tribe come along and erect a bit of a structure around him which they then cover over. The next morning, the kids from the tribe are jumping all over said structure which wakes up the old fella who then realises he’s been buried alive.

It’s certainly a quick-fire tale but has hardly any build up and the ending is over in a flash. It’s quite rubbish but we aren’t alone in thinking this. Deeds tells Morrison that the tale was rubbish, at which point Morrison ups the ante.

grimprairietales3The second part tells the tale of Tom, a polite chap not unlike Deeds who is making his way home when he comes across Jenny who is vulnerable and scared. He convinces her to let him take her to the nearest town. She’s grateful to him for his kindness and they make there way onwards.

That night, they camp out and she seduces him. At this point, the weirdest ever thing ever happens. As they have sex, she absorbs him right into her vag. He’s sucked in like she’s some sort of super-powered Dyson. Bloody hell. Bonus points for my missus walking in at that point and saying ‘what the fuck are you watching?’

What the fuck was I watching? Again it was a very quick tale with a very abrupt ending. It was a little different though and is probably the film’s best segment, even if it wasn’t very good.

At this point, Deeds decides he’s not impressed and tells his own story. Arthur (played by Walter Atherton, from Ghostbusters and Die Hard) is a homesteader who takes his wife and daughter out into the middle of nowhere to show them where he intends to build their new home. They have dinner together and are getting ready to settle down for the night when four of his acquaintances show up and insist he joins them.

grimprairietales2After a row with his wife, he slaps her and rides off but his daughter follows (albeit without a horse, which seems odd). She finds him and the men lynching another man and is horrified.

When she gets home she confronts him, to his horror, and eventually her mother explains that Arthur doesn’t want to do these things but has no choice. The daughter is none too impressed but goes to sleep. The next morning her and Arthur ride into town together at which point she says ‘I love you, Daddy’ and hugs him.

I know. That’s no kind of story or ending. Deeds explains that it’s a different kind of tale to the ones Morrison has been telling and, inexplicably, Morrison agrees and says he’s going to out-do him on the final tale.

The final segment of this portmanteau introduces Martin, a sophisticated gunslinger who happens to be about the best the in the business and he’s auditioning for a job as the main man’s number two. Money, women and booze await if he can win a six man tournament of High Noon-style dueling.

He wins his duel but when he finds blood on his hands that night (from the menstruating lady next to him) he freaks out. The next day he is late for his first day at work.

He decides to shave and when he cuts himself, he freaks out again but this time imagines the dead man is behind him, holding his arm. He slits his own throat and that’s the end of that.

The film ends with Deeds and Morrison riding off, having realised that the dead man on Morrison’s horse wasn’t the man he thought he was hunting. It doesn’t really matter.

So, what you have is four poorly constructed stories. Two of the parts have potentially interesting premises but nothing here is well-executed. Of all the portmanteaus we’ve covered here at T8MC, this might be the worst which is odd as it frequently makes folks’ top tens in the genre, for some inexplicable reason.

3 thoughts on “Portmanteau-a-go-go #13 – Grim Prairie Tales

  1. […] at the hands of vengeful spirits, this is played entirely for scares and completely succeeds. Grim Prairie Tales […]

  2. Lee

    Why is it good? Two reasons: Dourif and Jones. They’re the heart of the movie, two complete opposites forming an unlikely friendship. I could watch them spar and bicker all day.

  3. It’s great. I saw it on the big screen years ago. It’s well structured and asks: “What is horror?” Which means it gets to ask where horror is – in an old Indian legend that Western men refuse to contemplate seriously, a kind of ‘otherness’, a prejudice? Or is real horror inside us all – in our racism, in our violence?

    Really cleverly written and beautifully performed by two fine character actors, clearly enjoying themselves. Watching it felt like sitting alongside side them, trying to stay warm, around the same camp-fire.

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