Thursday, June 13, 2013


I'm not officially an expert on family horse pictures, but based on exhaustive research (i.e. reading plot synopses on IMDB), they all have the same basic story.  Namely, some damaged young person, maybe a lonely orphan stricken with polio who wears overalls made out of cardboard, meets an equally damaged horse whose faults, maybe a poor attitude or a meth addiction or both, hide an amazing talent for racing.  The kid aims to tame this beast and win the local horse race, which includes a prize that varies depending on the recources of the county, whether a ribbon or a sack of untraceable bills or free tickets for the freak tent.  Either way, it's not about material gain, but rather a case of a young person taming their inner demons in the process of taming outer horse demons, and along the way curing their polio though gumption and prayer, and just maybe finding a workable pair of pants.

It seems like every generation and country gets their own variants on this tale, and Coyote Summer is a family horse picture for the 90's teen angst My So-Called Life crowd.  It's also the first starring role for the beautiful Vinessa Shaw (she was the hooker with a heart of gold in Eyes Wide Shut, amongst other roles), so you can bet your sweet ass that I'll be including numerous pics of her rocking various 90's fashions.  Maybe you could get away with cardboard overalls in your grandfather's family horse pictures, but not in family horse pictures set in the immediate post-grunge era, when anti-fashion flannel turned fabulous.

Vinessa plays an angsty thrill seeker who races her bike in an unsafe manner, weaving through traffic and even pulling off a few stunts.  She's a believer in punk rock danger, as evidenced by the Misfits sticker on her handlebars.

Her mother doesn't approve of such self-destructive behavior, so she uses a job opportunity in London as an excuse to ship Vinessa off to her sister's horse ranch so she can learn the value of hard work and meet greasy old rednecks.  The idea is that rural life will de-angst her and save her in the process.  I can sort of see where the white bread mom is coming from.  I mean, Vinessa mopes around while rocking out to her Walkman no doubt set to some heathen grunge station, and she even has X-rays on her wall.  That's borderline metal folks.  Pretty soon she'll be listening to Helmet and snorting Pop Rocks and skateboarding through the mall clotheslining people.  I think that's pretty rad but I guess most parents wouldn't agree with that sentiment.

So, Vinessa goes off to live at the ranch, becomes captivated by a wild but talented horse, and also ends up befriending a Native American ranch hand.  You can figure out where things go from there even if you have never seen a movie before.  In the process, Vinessa undergoes a transformation from early-90's Janeane Garafolo gone skatepunk to all-American horse riding cowgirl (horsegirl?).  

The underlying message is a bit disappointing to me, in the sense that the movie seems to be implying that being a vaguely punk version of Angela Chase is a bad thing.  I can't agree with that exactly but, on the other hand, occasionally a vaguely punk Angela Chase will overdose on heroin, and Vinessa also looks fab as a cowgirl.  Hopefully she learns to adapt both styles into one awesome package, like combining a leather cowboy hat with tattered overalls and rawhide Doc Martins.  There was never a sequel, so I guess we'll never know for sure, but a boy can dream.  

I should mention that the great character actor Ed Lauter plays a cowboy horse trainer (horseboy?) who at one point is seen drinking a beer while wearing a pink shirt.  You know a character actor is manly when he can pull off a pink shirt and a cowboy hat with nary a snicker from the entire crew.  And yes, Vinessa is wearing a leather beret with overalls in that scene.  Awesome. 

In case you're wondering, Coyote Summer seems to be a perfectly all-around solid family horse picture based on my limited knowledge of the genre.  It might even crack my all-time top 5 family horse picture list as a darkhouse candidate, but I can't rightfully make a top 5 all-time family horse picture list considering I think I've only seen 2 family horse pictures.  Anyway...who cares.  Here are a bunch more stills of Vinessa.  Goodbye. 

P.S. There are a lot more shots of a horse in this movie then this review would imply.


  1. Are you sure this isn't a fashion blog? ;)

    1. I think it's going in that direction. It's your poisonous influence! :)