NOW ON THE DAILY WIRE! There couldn’t be a better title for Michael Polish’s western thriller, Terror on the Prairie, starring Gina Carano. If you like your westerns gritty, violent, and viscerally brutal, you’re in for a fun popcorn night at home.
Carano stars as Hattie McAllister, a former city-woman living with her husband Jeb (Donald Cerrone), son Will (Rhys Becker), and infant daughter on a small piece of farmland in Montana. Homesteading in the middle of nowhere is no picnic, and Hattie has had enough of this life. She insists on taking the kids and moving back home to her family in St. Louis. Jeb leaves for several days to make some money, leaving Hattie at home to tend to the farm and protect her children.
And protect she must do when an outlaw known as The Captain (Nick Searcy), and his crew Long Hair (Tyler Fischer), The Kid (Gabriel Kane Day-Lewis), and Gold Tooth (Heath Freeman), arrive. The Captain’s arrival is pleasant at first, asking just for some food and water. In-kind, the hospitable Hattie offers them breakfast and a moment to rest.
As she gathers some eggs from the chicks, Hattie notices a few human scalps hanging off The Captain’s saddle. Realizing this guy’s no good, with a shotgun in tow, she orders the men to drop their weapons and leave her property. They leave, but you know they’re all coming back with a vengeance, which starts a violent game of cat and mouse that makes up the bulk of Terror on the Prairie.
“…Hattie notices a few human scalps hanging off The Captain’s saddle…with a shotgun in tow, she orders the men to…leave her property.”
The Captain’s move to enter the cabin is met with a counter from Hattie. The only advantage the Captain has is that Hattie and the kids are bunkered in their home, and he can ultimately use fire, intimidation, and time to flush them out. Of course, there’s the real reason The Captain and crew are at the McAllister home, which only elevates the tension and bloodshed.
The Terror on the Prairie storyline is constructed well and is engaging, but we’re here for the action, and there’s plenty of brutality on display. The film is full of guns, guns, and more guns. Surprisingly, the guns around the turn of the 20th century were not very well made, so no one is a good shot as almost every pull of the trigger misses its target. The use of guns seems to keep people from advancing or intimidating at close range. This fact is called out early in the film and paid off during the last “shot.”
Second, Carano is impressive as Hattie in an unexpected way. We’re used to seeing Carano as the tough, kick-a*s fighter. Here she’s just a tough, kick-a*s woman. Her MMA training never comes into play, nor does she perform any over-the-top gunplay. Hattie is simply a typical frontier woman; her only motivation is protecting her children from the bad guys. In other words, she is a woman of that time in American history with the resources and physical abilities of a woman of that time, who can take down all the bad guys.
Let’s also add the evil Captain, played by Nick Searcy. He’s perfectly wicked as the Bible-thumping, former confederate officer, who is still butt hurt over losing the war. He has a mission to fulfill and is relentless.
Again, Terror on the Prairie is brutal. The scalping is graphic, and getting stabbed by a knife is no walk in the park. As such, the blood flows deep and thick, meaning it’s not for the faint at heart in the slightest. Unlike a typical western, this feels small in scale. Its action is confined to a sizeable piece of farmland, with the action taking place in and around the McAllister home and barn. Like a western, it’s all about the action and vulnerable women taking on an impossible fight for survival.
"…gritty, violent, and viscerally brutal..."