The American Dream circa 2022 is a white picket fence, a steady paycheck and enough leisure time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
For Gina Carano’s character in “Terror on the Prairie,” it’s living off the cold, barren land to keep the family fed. It’s not easy, and that’s before a band of outlaws arrives on her doorstep.
That setup gives way to a throwback western echoing themes that make the genre timeless.
- Hard work
And, for Carano’s character, a willingness to do whatever it takes to protect your brood.
Carano stars as Hattie McAllister, a St. Louis native now living on an isolated ranch with her husband, Jeb (MMA star Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone). She’s miserable and longs to reunite with her family on friendlier terrain, but Jeb insists they stick to the plan.
It’s their land, their home, and she’s got the grit to make it all work, he assures her. Only Hattie isn’t convinced. They have two young children and she spends her days swaddled in layers to beat back the chill.
Hattie puts those worries aside when four men arrive on her property, eager for water and hospitality. Their real intentions are far more sinister, forcing Hattie to defend her family, and home, against them.
The film opens with a riveting look at the film’s baddies, led by a never-better Nick Searcy. From there we see how the McAllisters live day-to-day, a bracing portrait of frontier life.
It ain’t pretty.
“Terror on the Prairie” is a Daily Wire original produced by veteran filmmaker Dallas Sonnier. Like the platform’s previous films there’s little overtly political on screen. A closer look reveals themes that resonate with western fans and right-leaning Americans alike.
The film celebrates maternal strength and masculinity … with no disclaimers like “toxic” thrown into the mix. It’s about defending one’s land and family, and that spirit extends to the film’s spectacular villain.
Kudos to screenwriter Josiah Nelson for fleshing out Captain Miller’s nuanced backstory.
None of these themes would feel out of place two decades ago, or even one. Now, given Hollywood’s woke makeover, these qualities leap off the screen.
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Director Michael Polish (“Twin Falls Idaho,” 2020’s “Force of Nature”) luxuriates in classic western visuals without copy-and-pasting the film’s aesthetic. The natural Montana climes do some of the heavy lifting, but Nelson’s script enhances that authentic veneer. It’s some of the best western dialogue since “Bone Tomahawk,” also produced by Sonnier.
The film isn’t as aggressively bloody as that 2015 shocker, but it has its moments.
Searcy’s Captain Miller gets the juiciest dialogue, a deft blend of chivalry and threats that amplify his cruelty.
This isn’t a gaggle of movie stars with pearly white teeth going through the motions. This is frontier living at its most elemental, and it adds gravitas to the unfolding events.
Searcy often plays authority figures, but his Captain Miller is both cunning and tragic. The “Gosnell” alum wisely avoids any scenery-chewing moments. His menace flows from quoting Bible verses before punishing his victims. He lets his threatening body language do the rest.
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Tyler Fischer, Captain Miller’s right-hand goon, isn’t allowed to exploit his signature humor enough, and that’s a mistake. Good thing his character’s cackle and manic energy make him pop even when he’s in the background.
“Terror on the Prairie” lags a bit in the middle thanks to a protracted stand-off. Perhaps a bigger budget would let the production insert flashbacks or other scenes to enhance the story. Otherwise, the film charges forward, letting us marvel at how Hattie improvises on her children’s behalf.
One unexpected element? The characters shoot, and shoot, and rarely hit their targets. It’s a more realistic version of Wild West gunplay that offers another layer of realism.
“Terror on the Prairie” fails the Bechdel Test, and miserably so. Who cares? Carano is the main attraction, and she refuses to let Hattie become yet another Mary Sue superstar. Hattie struggles to deal with a snake threat early in the film, but events force her to become more resourceful, and cunning.
Carano isn’t interested in girl power theatrics or showing us that women can do precisely what men can. Hattie is a mother first and foremost, and she’ll feed her toddler breast milk while planning the next salvo against Captain Miller’s crew.
That’s real empowerment, beyond how Carano stood up to woke Hollywood and only became a bigger star. And it’s one of many reasons why “Terror on the Prairie” is a first-rate western.
HiT or Miss: “Terror on the Prairie” has it all, from a hissable villain to a heroine who doesn’t turn into Jane Bourne by the third act.
EDITOR’s NOTE: This critic is a contributor to The Daily Wire