#47 – Hell on the Prairie

(1984, US, 100 min) Dir Steve Miner. Cast Tom Atkins, Dorothy Fielding , Jason Lively, Amanda Fox.

AKA Death Wagon. Mitchell Thomas (Atkins) has taken his family on holiday to rural Kansas so that they can experience the land that their forefathers crossed in hardship to make a new life in the west. Of course none of the rest of his family actually want to be there – his brattish adolescent son and daughter (Lively and Fox) spend the whole time fighting and his wife (Fielding) doesn’t take her nose out of any of the suitcase of books that she’s brought with her. The others are so preoccupied with everything that’s not the countryside that it’s him alone who notices the covered wagon in the distance, the one that appears to be getting closer no matter where it is they go. The first half is goofy but unsettling but the second half turns into a completely different film as the wagon arrives just as they arrive in the middle of nowhere and it’s inhabitants are revealed to be crazed murderers. It’s all cat and mouse chase stuff from then on out. The film never reveals where these crazed murderers have come from either – are they modern-day lunatics who have taken to travelling about in an antiquated vehicle or are they the spectres of some Donner Party types, come to wreck misguided vengeance? Either way there’s no real metaphorical value in them being pioneers – I mean something something Reagan’s America? Who cares though – they do their job well enough.

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