Death Farm Film Revisited

A few years ago I wrote about a disturbing farm safety film I’d watched when I was at school.

At the time my memory was little hazy, but I remembered it being a really sinister and gruesome story of a group of children who visit a farm, and one by one, they all die.

Well, I finally tracked down the film in question. It’s called “Apaches” and Wikipedia describes it as “one of the most notorious public information films of all time.”

It’s a British film and dates from 1977 and appears to have been shown extensively in British schools throughout the ’70s and ’80s, leading to a whole generation of grown-ups who were traumatised by it.

It’s available in its entirety on YouTube, but I feel like I should advise viewer discretion: children get killed, and horribly. When the little girl wakes up in the night after having swallowed poison earlier in the day, man, I don’t ever want to hear that scream again.

I still can’t believe that a) this was shown to me when I was about six years old, and b) they thought it would be relevant to New Zealand children living in what was essentially a rural suburb of Hamilton.

So, as a pre-Halloween treat, here is Apaches on YouTube.

Update: There’s a hilarious fake trailer for “Apaches Redux” and a music video that sets more joyful clips from “Apaches” to Roxy Music’s “Virginia Plain” but ends with The Scream That Should Never Be Heard.

22 thoughts on “Death Farm Film Revisited”

  1. I watched the first episode – not sure I am up to watching the rest. Waiting for them to get picked off one by one is horrible. How could they show it to children! Bloody hell.

  2. Ah, YouTube has it! I downloaded a good-quality version from a site that has since been closed, and I swear, safety films in the US were NEVER like this. If they were, I’d probably be in therapy right now. (I was searching for it for the express purpose of horrifying some friends.)

    Melanie, Mrs. Smith–if you haven’t yet seen the “poisoning” event, just…don’t. It’s not even graphic; just screams heard coming from inside a house in the middle of the night. But I guarantee you’ll never forget those screams and wish you could.

    And then there’s the iron gate bit. That’s jump-out-of-your-seat graphic. You don’t want to see that. Not if you have kids.

  3. Oh my god, this film gave me nightmares for years, literally. The bit where the kid falls through the crust on the slurry pit and drowns made me so terrified that I couldn’t bring myself to walk on grass for months afterwards. I was utterly, utterly terrified – I got so upset that a teacher had to take me from the room and calm me down. And I was only 5 or 6 when they showed me this. I just can’t even begin to want to watch this again, even as an adult. Horrifying. What were they thinking?

  4. Yup they had to take me out of the screening as well, and it was when the girl was screaming. I’ve never forgotten it and have never been able to watch it again – tried once or twice and had to switch off. What gets me is that they showed this the week AFTER we’d been on a school trip to a farm. During which nobody died.

  5. You hit the nail right on the mark describing the film, Robyn. I just saw it two nights ago, and all I can say is that I’m glad I didn’t grow up as a child in Britain in the 70’s. The scene with the little girl who drank weed killer dying, in particular, is absolutely fucking brutal. What makes it even worse, is that we don’t even see her die. All we see is the outside of her house with the lights turning on, as she wakes up in excruciating pain in the middle of the night, crying for her mom and emitting THE most blood-curdling screams I’ve EVER heard in my 21 years of life. After seeing that scary ass shit, I couldn’t sleep AT ALL that night.

      1. Damn right. That scared the shit out of me. Most of the film isn’t much better (I nearly puked when one of the boys drowned in the slurry pit). American PSA’s have NOTHING on 1970’s and 1980’s British PIF’s in terms of sheer terror.

  6. I was fortunate enough to have worked on the film. Graphic Films who produced it, made a whole series of very powerful PIFs, even working on them could be a very harrowing experience, I am sure though that they all helped to save lives, a whole lot more satisfying than working on Martini commercials (which I also did). They used some of the top directors and crews around at the time; thinking back, it was a great privilege.

    1. Graphic Films also made John Mackenzie’s other PIF, Say No to Strangers, from 1981. They were also the company behind John Krish’s Drive Carefully Darling, from 1975. The company also made two of Krish’s greatest documentaries, They Took Us to the Sea (1961) and Our School (1962). Interesting fact: Graphic Films had actually been around for more than two decades before Apaches came out. Leon Clore, one of the producers on this film, founded the company in 1955. Its first production, according to the BFI, was a sport film about cricket, simply titled, “Batting”, which was, coincidentally, directed by John Arnold, the other producer on the film.

  7. Looking back, I do have a certain amount of (reflected) pride on having worked on several of these public safety films. They were designed to do what they were designed to do – save lives – and they did it fantastically. They could actually be quite harrowing to work on, because of the subject. Leon Clore and John Arnold were able to use some of the top directors and (I like to think) crews in the country, it was like a family, even though we were all freelance. Other productions were “Say No to Strangers” the commercial featuring a bride to be, who is badly injured in a road traffic accident, due to careless parking, and many others.
    I don’t know if one could still make such harrowing films these days. Graphic Films also made some more up beat PIF’s such as recruiting nurses, etc.
    Leon was the most loyal producer I have ever met, always calling me ‘boy’, from the time I was his Clapper Boy, to the time I was photographing commercials for him. They were great and proud days.

    1. Very cool insight on what it was like working for Graphic Films. BTW, the BFI says that Apaches was filmed in February of 1977, within maybe a few days. It makes me wonder what days or weeks the movie was shot.

  8. I remember this film very well , and I must’ve been about seven . The girl being poisoned affected me the most . After that film I would worry about touching things and think I would get something in my mouth and I would die , I would go to bed and think I might not be alive in the morning . The funny thing is I only made the connection between the film and my worries about getting poisoned recently , when I found the film on youtube . My husband is the same age as me and he’s never forgotten it either . We watched it together , but didn’t find it scary anymore !

  9. I am the screaming girl ….. Safe and well ! We had no idea when making the film that it was going to be so scary. Sorry for all the nightmares !

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