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Grim Prairie Tales Movie Review

coe jones brad dourif

Grim Prairie Tales is director/screenwriter Wayne Coe's first movie and his heart, if not his maturity as an artist, is definitely in the right place. Brad Dourif plays the sort of innocent who would have provided fodder for a monster in a different sort of movie. As it is, James Earl Jones comes barreling into his camp with a dead body in tow. Although Jones is armed with a full arsenal of death-dealing weapons, he proposes instead that he and Brad tell each other stories next to the campfire all night long. Only in the movies! The stories have the raw and unfinished feel of promising first drafts, but who knows what tales emerged from 19th century travelers when they didn't have pesky movie reviewers to evaluate their yarns? Coe's artistic, political, and sexual sensibilities belong strictly in the 20th century, however. For one sequence, he even thought it would be neat if the character had an animated nightmare. Not only is the animation poor, but the context is all wrong. Occasionally, Coe stumbles onto chilling home truths. His tale of a good family man who also happens to be a lyncher is well told from the perspective of the man's horrified daughter and deeply troubled wife. I also liked the dark little story about a misplaced act of chivalry resulting in an unexplained but definitely weird sexual encounter. Except for Dourif and Jones and the little girl who plays the lyncher's daughter, the casting could have been better, although Marc McClure, William Atherton, and Lisa Eichhorn fare the best.

1989 (R) 90m/C Brad Dourif, James Earl Jones, Marc McClure, William Atherton, Scott Paulin, Lisa Eichhorn; D: Wayne Coe; W: Wayne Coe; C: Janusz Kaminski. VHS, LV

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