Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grim Prairie Tales (1990)

I was suffering from a bad case of insomnia. I had a few hours left until my shift began, yet I couldn’t fall asleep. I was tossing and turning and counting sheep to no avail. As each minute passed, I kept thinking of how much time I’m wasting. If I’m not sleeping, I might as well be doing something. Therefore, I decided to pop in “Grim Prairie Tales”, which I had settled on being my next review.

If there’s one good thing to be said about “Grim Prairie Tales”, it’s that it cured my insomnia. After approximately forty-five minutes, I was out like a light. It didn’t give me a lot of sleep for work, but I at least got some. I can thank Wayne Coe’s anthology thriller for that. Which is about the only thing I’m thankful for about this movie.

The only reason it took me forty-five minutes to finally doze off was because of Brad Dourif and James Earl Jones. Both are clearly picking up paychecks, but are playfully chewing up the scenery. Their sets together are laughably overacted, though I’m pretty certain that was their intention. Both are fantastic actors who have churned out good performances in terrible movies. Them not putting forth a satisfactory performance in the traditional sense makes me believe they were rightfully phoning it in. If not, they’re gifted enough that they can badly chew up scenery, yet make it work.

They play Morrison (Jones) and Farley (Dourif), two travelers who happen upon one another at a campfire. Not being able to sleep, they tell one another scary stories. In between the tales, they bicker back and forth. Jones frightens the shit out of Dourif, while Brad comes back with weasely insults. These scenes are worthy of a Youtube collection, which is the only way I’d recommend watching them.

As for the stories themselves, they’re as frightening as an episode of “Sesame Street”. All of them revolve around the prairie lifestyle and they all suck. The first centers around a man who messes with an Indian burial ground and has a curse put upon him. The second is of a man’s newfound friendship with a pregnant woman who harnesses a deadly secret. The third is of a daughter who discovers her loving father is actually a cold-blooded murderer. The fourth and final one revolves around a gunslinger haunted by dreams of being killed by his sworn enemy.

Not a single one is built up well. Each drag by slowly, which would be fine if tension were built. The only thing built is boredom. Each has a twist ending, which most likely gave M. Night Shyamalan an erection. All of them seem to have been built around their endings, as if Coe thought of them first, then poorly built a story around it. The only tale closely resembling quality is the final installment. By then, I could barely bring myself to care to pay attention.

If I should give any pointers, it’s that I thought I had the ending figured out earlier on. I’m referring to the closing of the film that inevitably features Dourif and Jones. Coe caught me by surprise with a rather calm ending. Once the credits rolled, I began to wonder if the “predictable” ending would have been better. I didn’t think for too long. I wanted to get this film out of my memory fast.

MVT: Both Brad Dourif and James Earl Jones. If I had to pick one, I’d go with Jones. His loud, cantankerous demeanor was fun to watch, whether or not it was intentional. It’s hard to dismiss Dourif, though, as he constantly spoke for the audience by criticizing the lackluster stories. Flip a coin and choose who the real MVT is.

Make or Break: The first story. It may be unfair to single this one out, as it’s not the worst one. Granted, the first three run together in shoddiness, with the fourth barely striding forward. I’m choosing the first solely because it signified the type of stories these would be. Those being horrible ones.

Final Score 3/10

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