Tonight, The Daily Wire’s first film is coming out on their website in Terror on The Praire. It’s their first venture into the film world, and I had the chance to attend the premiere and let you know my thoughts.
Plot: On the Montana plains, a frontier woman must protect herself against a ruthless gang of outlaws hell-bent on revenge. The film stars Gina Carano, Samaire Armstrong, and Nick Searcy.
The western genre has seen a resurgence as of late, and it’s been excellent, from the independent film Old Henry (which you need to watch if you haven’t seen it) to The Harder They Fall to the entire universe that Tye Sheridan is building with Yellowstone. The old-Hollywood filmmaking style hones in on creating characters, telling their story, great acting, and allowing the audience to appreciate the technical aspects of films.
I will say that Westerns are also the most complex films to create because you must make most of the magic as the filmmaker. You are working within a slow-burn style world where you have to perfect the little things for the audience to be invested enough to follow the journey you are taking them on.
Speaking of that, that’s where Terror on the Prairie gets many things right. When the film begins, director Michael Polish immerses you into the Western world with a vicious and brutal opening sequence. I wanted the violence and to see some gore, and they never once shied why from that, and it was beautiful.
Again, as I mentioned, creating characters is another essential element of a Western, and Josiah Nelson’s writing is brilliant. First, his writing of Hattie McAllister (Carano) had layers that developed this stern mother figure, but added this little extra layer of mystery that leaves you intrigued that there is something more beneath the surface. Next, you had the writing of our main villain in Captain Miller (Searcy), which made him one of the most effortless love-to-hate characters we’ve seen on the big screen in a while. Nelson added this layer to Miller that, at times, you empathized with why he was doing what he was doing. You rarely find scripts that can make you love-to-hate but then empathize with such a prominent villain.
Speaking of Hattie and Miller, Western films demand a lot from their actors that isn’t just the words coming out of their mouths. In the case of Hattie, it’s the mannerisms of being a mother, does she convey the pain across her face, can she sell us on the idea that she is not only a mom but a super-hero (in a more authentic way) of a mom that can get them out of danger. For Carano, the answer was an emphatic yes. In speaking with her before seeing the film, you could hear her passion for playing this role of Hattie, which came through in the movie in a way that I believe is Carano’s best performance to date.
And for Captain Miller, played by veteran actor Nick Searcy. There is NOTHING better than a formidably written villain in a movie backed by a strong performance. I could go on and on about how he knocked this role out of the ballpark. Searcy defied logic in some aspects by not only being this ruthless asshole, but as I said, this layer of empathy we felt for Miller was only believable because Searcy sold it to us on it. I’m not sure we will see a better villain in a movie this year.
The supporting cast is led by Rhys Becker, who plays Will McAlister. The young kid’s got a future in this business. Other standouts include Samaire Armstrong, who made her presence felt in her short moments, and Tyler Fischer, who added some true comedy that was needed to the film.
For that final element, the technical aspects of the film. The things they got right were the Cinematography (Steeven Petitteville), the entire movie was shot beautifully, the production design by Adam Dietrich, and I did love the costumes. However, the film had one hole that was needed to bring an extra layer, and that was the score. Any film can be made or broken by the score, and here, several times, I wished we had a little more to enhance the intense moments to heighten the viewing experience. It was one of the only things in this film that made me slightly frustrated.
Overall, Terror on The Prairie is a very good Western-backed by a well-written script, two powerhouse lead performances, and an entire film that felt like it was made with passion. I highly recommend checking this film out.
Here is some footage from the Red Carpet Premiere of the film