Grim Prairie Tales

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Grim Prairie Tales
Grim Prairie Tales.jpg
Promotional poster
Directed byWayne Coe
Written byWayne Coe
Produced byRichard Hahn
StarringJames Earl Jones
Brad Dourif
Will Hare
Marc McClure
Michelle Joyner
William Atherton
Lisa Eichhorn
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński
Edited byEarl Ghaffari
Music bySteven Dancz
East-West Film Partners
Academy Entertainment
Distributed byImage Entertainment
Release date
September 24, 1990
Running time
86 minutes
CountryUnited States

Grim Prairie Tales is a 1990 American independent horror Western 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.

It 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 demon 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.



The film was the sole directorial outing from Coe, a storyboard artist and set decorator. At one point, Coe was considering making a sequel entitled Grim Prairie Tales: Rescue Party. The film was the feature film debut of future Academy Award-winning cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, who at the time worked as a lighting technician and 2nd unit director under fellow DP Phedon Papamichael.

Atherton appeared in the lead role in the 1978 NBC television western miniseries Centennial. Tom Simcox appeared in Grim Prairie Tales as the wealthy rancher Horn. In an acting career from 1962–1991, he appeared in eight Gunsmoke episodes and in other television Westerns.


At the time of its cinema and subsequent video release it was marketed as a straight horror,[1] 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."[2] Hal Hinson from Washington Post offered the film similar criticism, stating that the film wasn't particularly scary.[3]

Actors on set and audiences Coe subsequently encountered consistently viewed the film as a feminist western rather than a horror, and it has a cult following based on that interpretation.[1]

In the UK its reputation as a cult classic was cemented by its inclusion, in 1993, in the Moviedrome TV strand, where it was introduced by Alex Cox.[4]


  1. ^ a b Reesman, Bryan. "Observer: Analog Gems". observer. Retrieved February 16, 2019.
  2. ^ Holden, Stephen. "Review/Film; Ghost Tales in Cowboy Lands – The New York Times". New York Stephen Holden. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  3. ^ "'Grim Prairie Tales'". Washington Hal Hinson. Retrieved June 19, 2018.
  4. ^ "Moviedromer: Grim prairie tales". Retrieved February 16, 2019.

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