On February 24, 1984, Pitchfork Massacre hit the big screen at the Apollo Cinema in my hometown in South Carolina. The film played for one week then vanished. It has never been mentioned since… until now.
I was going through the microfilm at the library looking for theatrical ads for slashers from 1984 when I came across Pitchfork Massacre. I have never heard of this slasher before in any movie guide or on any horror forum. The tagline is “Don’t Need a Chainsaw to have a Massacre” and the poster featured a not so attractive model recoiling from pitchfork tines. There is no company, actor, or director credit on the poster so I have no idea who made this. The only Pitchfork Massacre that popped up during a Google search either dealt with real murders or some Warhammer cosplay crap.
I’ve been researching this lost gem all month and can’t find a thing about it. My guess is it’s another film re-titled during the height of the slasher craze, but it’s possible this is an indie slasher that just got lost. The Prey and Scalps played a month before Pitchfork Massacre so the indies were finding theatrical runs. A week after Pitchfork played, Girls Nite Out played on a double feature with Graduation Day.
I’ve been going through the careers of indie directors and producers looking for a sliver of info I can trace back to Pitchfork. I’ve been reading up on the life and times of Michael and Roberta Findley, Gary Graver, Al Adamson, and Ray Dennis Steckler in the hopes that one of their often re-titled films became P.M. for one week in 1984. The ad campaign makes me think of Jerry Gross, famous for taking obscure bombs like Day of the Woman and turning them into moneymakers like I Spit On Your Grave. Gross was still active in the film distribution business until 1983/84, when he went down for good. His last years in the biz are a bit sketchy so I haven’t been able to link him to Pitchfork yet. The other guy I think of when I see that ad is Joseph Brenner, the guy who thought up the titles Torso and Eyeball. I think Brenner is still alive but he’s dropped off the grid.
1983 was a real bad year for indie companies due to major studios buying up theaters chains and blocking all indies from appearing on their screens. One guess is that P.M. was released by a small time producer or an outfit on their last legs and the film simply disappeared because the producers went bankrupt before they found a way to release the film on video.
Right now we don’t know if Pitchfork Massacre is a regional slasher that got lost in the glut or an a.k.a. for a better known slasher. The general theory among the Retro Slashers crew is Pitchfork Massacre is an independent film repackaged to cash in on the slasher movie craze of the early 1980s. I did a key word (pitchfork) search on IMDB and got a list of 55 titles once clicked on the horror genre. Out of that 55 I narrowed it down to about 16 or 17 possibilities. From then on, our team research and discussions have created a small list of films that are possible candidates for Pitchfork Massacre. This list is just speculation on our part.
1. Demented Death Farm Massacre (1986): Donn Davison directed something called Shantytown Honeymoon in the early 1970s. Years later Fred Olen Ray bought the film from Davison, shot new footage, and sold the new film to Troma. Lloyd Kaufman claims this is his favorite Fred Olen Ray film.
2. A Night to Dismember (1983): Doris Wishman filmed this in 1979, but it wasn’t pieced together and released until 1983. It features porn stars in straight roles, dubbed in voice-overs to explain what the hell is going on, and heavy doses of gore.
3. Carnage (1984): This is one of Andy Milligan’s last films. It’s kind of like Beetlejuice, only with the ghostly couple murdering the new occupants and their friends.
4. Frightmare (1974): Peter Walker made this film in the UK. It was released in as Frightmare II in the States as a sequel to the other Frightmare (1981) starring Jeffrey Combs.
5. Nurse Sherri (1977): This Al Adamson flick was released numerous times under numerous titles. It involves a killer nurse possessed by a dead patient, depending on which version you saw.
6. Girl School Screamers (1984): Another slasher released by Troma in 1986. Girls go to an old house to complete an inventory list of all the items in said house. There is one pitchfork murder but it happens to a guy.
7. The Prowler (1983): The killer uses a pitchfork. When The Prowler came to town it played as Rosemary’s Killer.
8. Touch of Satan (1973): Read about this obscure shocker in one of Scott Stine’s old fanzines. The film opens with a pitchfork murder but the killer later switches to hayhooks. This film was also released as Touch of Melissa and sold as a soft core romp with a naughty farmer’s daughter. In 1980 the film was released for a third time as Night of the Demon, however, this film is not related to the killer bigfoot classic Night of the Demon (1979).
We’re still hoping to find some evidence Pitchfork Massacre is an original slasher.
Here’s where you, the Retro Slashers reader comes in. We need your help tracking this lost slasher’s possible release across the United States. The next time you’re at your local library check the microfilm from 1984 to see if Pitchfork Massacre played in your area. If you find an ad for it, then leave us a comment here or on the Retro Slashers Facebook page. The information will tell us if the film was only a regional release in the southern US or managed wider distribution. Also, let us know if the ads in your local paper contain information different from the copy we have.