Anthology films are a hard nut to crack and often times they are mixed results but Grim Prairie Tales (1990) represents one of the best of the genre. It is the old west and two travelers’ paths cross on the desolate landscape of the American west. Farley (Brad Dourif) is a clerk on his way to reunite with his wife and James Earl Jones is Morrison, a bounty hunter with his latest catch. These two can’t trust each other but they find a common ground in the fact that they both like to tell stories and herein start the strange competition between the two to tell the best story.
I won’t go into detail about the stories only that some hit the mark while others take a detour but all are interesting in their own right and show a side of the storyteller in the types of stories they like to tell. Morrison is more interested in the horrifying story and telling a good fright whereas Farley is more interested in the deep psychological horror that stays with you.
One of the most interesting aspects of the execution of the film is the fact that the wrap around segments with Farley and Morrison are actually more interesting than the stories they tell each other as their love for storytelling and telling scary stories allows great interaction between the two characters as well as provide interesting character development not normally associated with the anthology format. Dourif and Jones are magical together and gel this film when any other two actors could’ve made a mess of the whole thing.
Being a western also brings something else to the dynamic of the film as it gives the stories atmosphere and depth that most anthologies set in modern times do not have. This is a timely anthology that still manages to impress and pack a punch over twenty years later on a film I recommend to fans of the anthology format.