Friday, 5 November 2010

Fear on Friday - Apaches

You may have had this experience in dungeons past; setting out with a strong, confident party, optimistic and looking forward to some good old-fashioned monster hacking and gold-garnering.

But then it all starts to go wrong. Someone fails a save or a monster gets maximum damage or a trap that no-one spotted claims its first victim. Then someone else falls to the capricious dice of doom and before you know it, you're stuck in a dungeon that's somehow acquired a personality - that of a serial killer.

Now, it's not so much "Will we get out alive?" but "Who will be the last to die?"

It's a routine that's familiar to slasher movies since time immemorial but in those movies, there is usually more than one survivor to bear witness to the horror that they've just experienced.

So now, let's take a look at Apaches - a public information film for children, made in 1977. This tells the story of a bunch of kids who decide that a farm is a great place for games of Cowboys and Indians.

Bad move.

We soon see that the farm is the countryside version of Tomb of Horrors as one by one, the children fall victim to the Grim Reaper in some pretty gruesome ways. Watch out for the slurry pit!

Stuff like this, with its impending sense of doom, and The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water that we saw last week must have had some traumatising effects on kids back in the 1970s. I remember a film that we were shown at school about the risks of bad driving that put me off learning to drive until well into my twenties. Perhaps the British attitude to health and safety stems from the generation whose elders thought it a good idea to show them this sort of thing...


  1. "No kids, the chainsaw and acid warehouse is too dangerous to play in. There's a nice working farm down the road, why don't you run around in there?"

    I think I understand the vaunted British pessimism better having watched this.

  2. Wow. I can just imagine the psychological trauma inflicted on a generation of kids.

  3. They haven't been shown for twenty years at least, but to this day, I still remember girl-who-picks-up-hot-sparkler-and-burns-her-hand and boy-who-tries-to-retrieve-frisbee-from-power-lines with vivid clarity.

  4. This is quite vivid imagery for me, thanks for posting it. As a Yank I was never exposed to this specific propaganda, but my mother emigrated to the States from Ireland in the 60s, and she took me and my sister back to the farm where she grew up in Co. Cork every few years from 1979 through the 80s. My uncle had that exact model of Ford tractor (also blue) until I think 1993.

    The constant dangers of many parts of the farm that were, to this day unimaginably wonderful, and contributed so much to my childhood, are documented in this film. What doesn't show up here are: don't walk amongst cows in a lot, they will step on your 10-year old feet and break them, or crush you between them and suffocate you; and don't play up on baled hay, there are kids that fall into veins between (obviously wrongly stacked) bales, that then are smothered ... and at the time I was unclear as to what "smothering" was.

    We also were screamed at for climbing on top of massive silage piles, where we could have punctured the black plastic covering. But losing wellies while wading through the runoff from that shit was a defining moment. It invoked from my uncle, and my mom, the danger of that scene of "drowning in the slurry pit". Slurry represented a grave danger, perhaps the gravest. We even at that time understood that electric fencing couldn't really hurt you, and most cows (as opposed to bulls) wouldn't hurt you in a field. But you could drown quickly and silently in slurry ... the fact that you were also drowning in a mixture of feces, urine and water was never a modifier to how horrific that kind of death might be, I should point out. Slurry was bad like quicksand was bad. Few people really knew what the hell its properties were, but it was wrong, and bad, and there was no way around that.

    Ultimately, the sad irony of all this omnipresent danger on the farm is that my Uncle Con (i.e., Cornelius O'Sullivan) died from lung cancer 2 years ago, which was most likely caused by the fertilizer dust that he was exposed to yearly since the 70s, in a hopper on the back of that blue Ford tractor.

    Still, I admire the British capacity for blunt propaganda. A little fascism goes a long way, as I like to say.


  5. I remember these - the message I got from them was "We've tried to frighten you into not doing it - now its your own bloody silly fault if you do!"