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.
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 who desecrates their burial ground. When that tale fails to impress Deeds, the second story, also by Morrison, tells about a man who helps a seductive seemingly pregnant woman in trouble. Deeds, disgusted by the second story, responds with the only non-supernatural story of the three, about a homesteader family whose father is forced to participate in a lynch mob. Finally, after feeling challenged by Deeds' story, Morrison tells about a gunslinger haunted by a gunman 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.
Tropes in Grim Prairie Tales:
- Afraid of Blood: The Gunslinger Martin hates getting blood on him. After rival gunslinger Colochez—whom he had shot through the throat—collapses on top of him and bleeds all over his face and clothes, he undergoes a Villainous BSoD. That night he has a nightmare of Colochez bleeding on him, and when he wakes up and finds blood on his face and hands, he panics. When he discovers that the blood had come from the Soiled Dove he spent the night with who had started her period during the night, he becomes furious and throws her out of the room and starts stripping all of the bedclothes.
- All Deserts Have Cacti: This is more a case of 'All Western Locales Have Cacti' as there are saguaro cacti in the prairie where Morrison and Deeds are camped. Especially strange as Deeds is supposedly travelling from Seattle to Jacksonville, so his route should not take him anywhere near a saguaro cactus.
- Bling-Bling-BANG!: The Gunslinger Martin carries a nickel-plated Colt Peacemaker with ivory grips. There is a long loving shot of Martin cleaning and reassembling the revolver before his Showdown at High Noon
- Boisterous Bruiser: Morrison is a huge bear of a man, who likes drinking and telling stories, and boasts of the pleasures to be found in the sin palaces of the various towns he's visited.
- Bounty Hunter: Morrison is a bounty hunter who does not seem to know where he is going, but who is carrying the body of his latest kill with him. At the end of the film, Deeds points out that the body does not match the description on the wanted poster. Morrison killed the wrong man.
- Buried Alive: Colby gets sealed alive inside a burial mound by the tribe whose graveyard he desecrated.
- Carcass Sleeping Bag: When warning Deeds about how cold the nights get, Morrison tells him a story about how he almost froze to death in Cherokee territory and only survived by killing a buffalo and crawling inside it.
- Cattle Baron: Horn, the richest man in the territory, who is holding a contest for the position of being his new hired gun. Rich enough that he rolls right over the objections of The Sheriff that what he is doing is tantamount to murder.
- Clerk: Farley Deeds is a clerk travelling from Seattle to Jacksonville to meet up with his wife, who gets caught up in a storytelling competition with Boisterous Bruiser Bounty Hunter Morrison. The fact that the central character in Morrison's second story—a clerk in a hardware store named Tom who falls victim to a Vagina Dentata—bears a strong resemblance to him is not lost on Deeds.
- Comforting Comforter: In the second story, Tom gives Jenny his jacket because she looks cold. When she goes to sleep, she takes the jacket off and wraps it round herself like a blanket.
- Dangerously Close Shave: Martin insists on shaving before going to finalize the contracts with Horn, much to Blue's annoyance. While shaving, he nicks himself and then seems to lose control of his arm. When Martin looks in the mirror, he sees the ghost of Colochez holding his arm trying to force the razor across his throat. He ultimately loses the struggle and slashes his own throat. But was it Colochez's ghost, or did Martin go mad and kill himself?
- Deranged Animation: The dream sequence where Martin has a nightmare where he is a bullet that is loaded into a gun and fired by Colochez. This is the only animated sequence in the entire movie.
- Determinator: Colochez gets shot through the throat during a Showdown at High Noon. Despite this, he manages to stagger the length of the dusty street, knock Martin to the ground, half choke him to death, and then start trying to gouge his eyes out. It is only the fact that he dies from blood loss before he succeeds that stops him from being the Implacable Man.
- Determined Homesteader: This is what Arthur initially seems to be in Deeds' story. However, as the tale goes on, it seems there is also a darker side to the man.
- Ear Ache: The dying Indian bites Colby's ear and tears a big chunk out of it.
- Extremely Short Timespan: The Framing Device encompasses a single night. None of the individual tales spans longer that two days.
- Eye Scream: Determinator Colochez attempts to gouge Martin's eyes out but dies of exsanguination before he can succeed.
- Frontier Doctor: Dr. Leaderman is both the doctor and The Sheriff of the tiny town where the fourth story takes place. He is not very good at either role.
- Horny Devils: Morrison's second story is about a man who meets a young pregnant woman on the lonely plains. They talk, get to know one another, and eventually curl up by the fire. The man is awakened in the night by the woman, no longer pregnant, achingly beautiful, and begging for sex. He goes to work, only to be sucked into her stomach through the vagina, making her pregnant once again as she begins to digest him.
- The Gunslinger: Martin is a Quick Draw so confident in his abilities that he only loads a single bullet in his gun before a gunfight: although this is also a mind game he plays on his opponents to psych them out.
- Indian Burial Ground: Colby tries to make up lost time by cutting a across an Indian burial ground. Had he just kept riding, he might have been fine, but he just had to stop and pay Last Disrespects to a dying Indian. He then finds himself the target of a terrible vengeance from the tribe.
- The Klan: Arthur is recruited in a proto-Klan gang to help them murder a black homesteader family.
- Last Disrespects: Colby finds an old Indian lying on burial platform in the Indian burial, and decides to mock him. Bad move.
- Made of Iron: Colochez gets shot through the throat during a Showdown at High Noon. He manages to stagger over to Martin, knock him to the ground, half strangle him, and almost gouge his eyes out before expiring from blood loss.
- Man Bites Man: The dying Indian bites Colby's ear and tears a big chunk out of it.
- Mirror Monster: When Martin is shaving, he loses control of the hand holding the razor. When he looks in the mirror, he can see Colochez (or his ghost) holding his arm and attempting to give him a Dangerously Close Shave. But there is no sign Colochez in the room, only the mirror.
- Mundanger: While the other stories feature supernatural horror, Deeds' story is solely about the horror that men can inflict upon their fellow man and themselves.
- Neat Freak: The Gunslinger Martin is fastidious and meticulous in his personal appearance and hygiene; believing that this distinguishes him from the common ruck of killers. After the slovenly Colochez dies and bleeds all over him, he scours his skin and can be seen painstakingly picking out every trace of blood from beneath his fingernails.
- Overalls and Gingham: Arthur and his family dress this way as befits their status as Determined Homesteaders. Shame about the Town with a Dark Secret.
- Quick Draw: Martin is a gunslinger who considers himself completely removed from the common run of killers. He is an extremely fast draw who only ever loads one bullet in his gun before a gunfight, boasting that he only needs one shot to kill an opponent.
- The Sheriff: Dr. Leaderman is both the sheriff and Frontier Doctor of the tiny town where the fourth story takes place. He is not very good at either role.
- Showdown at High Noon: Horn settles who will become his new hired gun but arranging a showdown between the two remaining contenders, Colochez and Martin: the survivor getting the job. While the time of the showdown is not specified, everything else plays out according to this trope.
- Slashed Throat: While shaving, Martin is compelled to cut his own throat with straight razor. But was he forced to do so by the ghost of Colochez, or did he go mad and do it to himself?
- Town with a Dark Secret: The town where Arthur and his family chose to set up their homestead is populated by Southerners who moved west after The American Civil War. They now murder any black families who attempt to homestead in the region. Arthur is immediately dragged into their murderous activities.
- Vagina Dentata: When Tom starts having sex with Jenny, her vagina swallows him and her becomes her next 'pregnancy'.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Jenny appears to be a heavily pregnant woman travelling alone on the prairie. This attracts men like Tom, who feel compelled to protect her. And this provides her with a steady supply of victims.