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.

Death Farm Film

I lived on a farm. I didn’t like it and craved concrete not grass under my feet, but that’s another story. This story is about the farm safety film I watched at school once.

Matangi was only about ten minutes drive from Hamilton. It was more like a rural suburb of Hamilton than actual proper country living. Most of the people who lived there had what are called lifestyle properties. Ten acres, some cows some sheep and pony. I think there was only one actual dairy farm in the area. Most people who lived in Matangi had office jobs in Hamilton.

So one day at school – I think I would have been about six years old – my class was ushered into the library, the black curtains drawn and the projector was started up to show us a film about farm safety.

The basic plot was that a bunch of American kids all go to someone’s farm in America for a party and they all end up dead. It sounds like a horror film, right (“Death Farm,” perhaps)? It pretty much was a horror film, designed to scare its audience into observing farm safety.

I’m a bit hazy on exactly what happened in the film, but I can remember the following incidents:

  • The kids were sitting around pretending to be Native Americans, passing a bowl and pretending to drink from it. The bowl was filled with some sort of poison, like weedkiller or something, which is why they didn’t actually drink from it. Except one girl did! She didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to actually drink from it, took a sip, said it tasted horrible and died!
  • There was a big silo filled with grain and this kid dressed as a cowboy had somehow jumped into it. He began to sink down into the grain. Soon he was totally under the grain, with only his cowboy hat remaining on top as a tragic reminder.
  • One of the kids decided to go for a ride on a tractor and couldn’t reach the brake or something and ended up driving off the path, and rolled down a hill where he died!
  • Near the milking shed there was a big pit full of cow poo. One of the kids was probably doing something like running around or playing on the milking shed equipment, slipped and drowned in the giant pit o’ poo!

Whenever one of these unfortunate youngsters died there’d always be a shot of a sad-looking mother making their bed or doing something to show that little Jimmy wasn’t around anymore.

Of course it’s all pretty crazy. I mean what kind of irresponsible parent lets their young child invite a bunch of friends over to their farm, leaves them totally unsupervised resulting in a series of deaths?

What’s even crazier is that my six and seven year old classmates and I were shown this film. I’m pretty sure that if something like this were to be shown in a cinema it would have a rating that would not allow kids that young to see it.

But the best part is that there wasn’t much in the film that was relevant to us. We lived in a rural area, but we were living like suburban kids. Watching TV or playing with Barbie dolls was a more likely after school activity than swallowing weedkiller. The film was really for kids who live on really big farms, whose parents would be farmers, not, say, accountants or managers.

I’m sure my teacher thought she was doing something really good by showing the death farm film, but it was really spectacularly irrelevant. I still do this day do not know anyone with a giant pit of cow poo.

Update: I found out that the film is called Apaches, and is responsible for traumatising an entire generation of children!