Retro Slashers’ Thomas Ellison’s article and newspaper scan on Pitchfork Massacre was the shot heard round the slasher world. An unknown slasher flick that played theatrically in 1984 never spoken about till now? We were practically salivating. Uncovering Pitchfork Massacre has been an treasure hunt for two years. Now it’s over.
After doing the initial uncovering, Retro Slashers put the rest of the work onto you, the readers to use your detective skills to try to narrow down the title list. We all hedged out bets by assuming it would be a retitling of an existing movie even though some of us assumed it was an original until proven otherwise. It was the wild west there for quite a while, with literally any movie simply with a pitchfork in it floated as a suspect. This was slightly annoying as it was just lots of guesswork and muddying the waters with assumptions stated as fact (Vacation Massacre? Really? Screw you).
I asked Code Red DVD point blank in the early days. Mr. Code Red answered point blank: The Prowler. Without any further info but that two word answer I couldn’t tell if that was fact or opinion on his part. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter was out around the same time and director Joe Zito – hmm, wouldn’t one of Ellison’s suspects The Prowler be a decent candidate to cash-in? Sure, but thick and think cases could be made for numberous films. I honestly discarded Code Red’s answer though, as we really needed solid proof not more ambiguity.
But who would do the actual work to find an answer? We had some of our dedicated commenters uncover further newspaper articles which was a great help in establishing Pitchfork Massacre not as a one off but something that did get around a few theatres. In the end it was Ben Cocuzza of Pig Farmer Games who attacked the mystery at every possible angle, even investigating the font.
I got to know Ben through his excellent computer game Babysitter Bloodbath. While the American slasher film continues to be held back by arrested development, Ben is quietly bringing the genre a brand new tangent of life within the games spectrum. He’s also a tshirt designer and started hawking extremely punk-looking Pitchfork Massacre tshirts (go get one now, you need this in your life) which is why I initially contacted him to talk pointy gardening tools. He was already on the case and now he’s cracked it.
Do the math, or keep reading – or better still…
Horror history, and the usual cynical entitled slasher fans will regard Pitchfork Massacre as little more than a footnote, an alternate title for The Prowler. But these people are missing the point of this whole chase. Back in math class it was never enough to come up with an answer. You had to show the working out process for getting there. And that can be the difference in today’s world where anyone can Google up an answer in micro-seconds. Rehashing does not intelligence make. Google didn’t know what Pitchfork Massacre was and it was the human element of Ben that will now change that.
That Pitchfork Massacre is “just” (they’ll say) The Prowler is no a letdown. It actually enhances what is already a great slasher film. I rewatched The Prowler in the wake of the revelation and it certainly adds a dimension to the movie. It’s also kind of odd that a movie with somewhat classy advertising ended up being shilled by a four-waller distributor years later with cheap looking artwork. It’s almost like a rich socialite dating a hobo. These two things don’t go together, which makes me wonder if the distributor even had the rights. No one associated with The Prowler ever mentioned this alternate title nor did any of the home releases feature any artwork for it. 70s distributors were known for being bandits with the rules but to pull those tricks in 1984 would be quite cheeky.
Many can now safely move on with their lives. But for those of us who understand the hunt is 50% or more of the fun, lingering ideas remain. It would be cool to see a TV spot or Trailer under the pitchfork name, and definitely would be to see the print with that title slapped on it. There’s a German VHS version of The Prowler that roughly translates to The Pitchfork Killer and it’s said to have a completely swapped out soundtrack (ala Happy Birthday to Me) with 80s synthesizer action. This might make another interesting alternative. Why would anyone care about a likely “inferior” version of a classic movie? You either get it or you don’t. Some of us just appreciate alternate visions of movies.
As far as this mystery goes, it has now come to an end. But the fun and infuriation along the way made the chase memorable. The Prowler (1981) a.k.a. Pitchfork Massacre (1984). That feels so strange but liberating to type. Thanks for coming along for the ride.