Lost Slashers: Pitchfork Massacre (1984)

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.

The Suspects:

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.

This is a scan from microfilm at the library.

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.

Update: has since been identified by Pig Farmer Games as THE PROWLER retitled.

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31 Responses to Lost Slashers: Pitchfork Massacre (1984)

  1. Static_Omega says:

    Could also be Monster Dog, the Claudio Fragrasso/Alice Cooper venture also from 84. It featured a pitchforking. And it being Italian, wouldn’t surprise me if it had been remarketed over here.

    I’d also throw Killer Party into the loop, but it was released in 86, with no evidence to it being shot well before then. Does feature a pitchforking, I seem to recall. And has numerous alternate titles though.

    I seem to remember seeing a Pitchfork Massacre, with a color “big box” style cover of the same image from about though, in an old mom and pop store from when I was a kid. Same place I found 555 and all the shot on video releases.

    If memory serves correct, it struck me as somewhere between Three on a Meat Hook and The Mutilator in terms of decency. Leaning more toward the former than the latter. Very grainy, shot on 8 or 16mm I’d guess. Definitely an amateur production but not bottom of the barrel by any means. Very little, but decent and cheap gore of the Cannibal Holocaust shoot from a distance variety.

    I think took place on or around a farm at the climax.

  2. glenn says:

    It could be home for the weekend (1972). It’s often cited as a proto slasher and the killer’s weapon of choice is a pitchfork’
    Or it could just be a forgotten film.

  3. Slasher says:

    Just searched the Newspaper Archive site from ’81 – ’85 and got zero hits…

  4. Dustin says:

    I just emailed Fred Olen Ray myself and asked him if “Demented Death Farm Massacre” was ever released as “Pitchfork Massacre” and here is his reply:

    “Not in my world… it was originally called SHANTY TOWN HONEYMOON… an unlikely title for sure…”

    So you can rule that one out:)

  5. glenn says:

    It could be Tobe Hooper’s Eaten Alive, given a local name to tie it to TCM. It does feature a pitchfork scene and was retitled umpteen times for different territories.

  6. Jon71 says:

    Seems most likely a movie called “The Slayer” – which I recall being retitled. VIPCO once sold me a bogus print on DVD.

  7. rusty rod says:

    It could also be “The Mutilator”. I recall a pitchfork death in that one. Also it was filmed in North Carolina (in 1982) and it could have been shopped around the area and reached South Carolina. The Vestron VHS was released in 1984.

    Let’s look at this fact though. Obviously a film print (or something) existed for it to be shown theatrically, and in the VHS craze of the mid 80s, VHS distributors released ANYTHING and it would make cash. If it indeed was an original film, surely some VHS distribution company would have jumped on it.

    Personally I think it was some other movie re-titled, but which one remains a mystery that hopefully will be solved.

  8. Fred Adelman says:

    My best guess is that the film is a retitling of SCREAM FOR VENGEANCE (1979 a.k.a. VENGEANCE). It certainly has pitchfork murders and prominently didplays the pitchfork on advertising materials and VHS covers. My review of the film can be found here: http://www.critcononline.com/thriller.htm#ScreamForVengeance

  9. Miguel says:

    checked out the newspapers for Miami,Fl for 1984 and nothing either

  10. Pingback: Unfinished Business: Why Lost Slashers Matter « Retro Slashers

  11. zmbdog says:

    I got no hits in WA state newspapers. Anyone recognize the title font? It’s driving me nuts cause I know I’ve seen a slasher that used that exact style either on the title screen or the box art, but I just can’t recall which one it was.

  12. glenn says:

    The other thing advert looks like is the Xeroxed images associated with hardcore punk and fanzines of the era. Maybe, it’s not a poster for a film, but someone just hired the cinema for some local event and the name meant something to those in the know.

  13. Duug says:

    Good chance its just “The Slayer” retitled. It features a pitchfork killing and both Scalps and The Slayer had the same home video distribtor, why not the same theatrical distributor

  14. Dustin says:

    The font is called “Glass Houses” on the title.

  15. Another potential is Tobe Hooper’s EATEN ALIVE. It was definitely retitled regionally into the ’80s, the ad plays off the director’s former triumph, and the opening murder, while not exactly a pitchfork, is close enough…

  16. Haha, I somehow missed Glenn’s post above…

  17. John says:

    Any movie with pitchforks is simply too wide a net and therefore impossible to narrow down the true identity of this film, if indeed this is a retitling and not an original unknown production.

    At this stage the biggest point to keep in mind isn’t the weapon, but the woman. It is very likely that is a shot from the film. I would urge RS fans to check their pitchfork slashers for this very shot.

    Yeah, it’s like finding a needle in the haystack – or a pitchfork in the haystack. How apt.

  18. Ryan Cark says:

    God, how perplexing! It could be ANYTHING. It’s very likely that: 1) it’s a non-slasher film like an Italian crime flick or Paul Naschy monster flick made to resemble a slasher, 2) the actress in the ad isn’t even IN the movie, 3) because the tagline is a riff on the ad copy for “Pieces”, it could be from the same producers, or 4) it’s an original movie that nobody has seen since the 80s, but somehow I doubt that.

    I haven’t seen the film, but could it be Invasion of the Blood Farmers?

  19. zmbdog says:

    Did some deeper searching yesterday and found a mention of it from 2004:

    Assuming the user isn’t grossly exaggerating the poster design, it really sounds like a cheap regional production. There’s a few quick replies into page 2 that don’t really amount to anything but it’s what ISN’T said that caught my attention. They make no mention of this being another film masquerading under a new title. Now I’d have to assume that anyone who would watch “Pitchfork Massacre” in the theatre is a fan who’s seen their share of slashers and odds are would recognize it. I mean, is their any doubt in your mind that you would if you were to actually see it?

    Not “evidence” by any stretch but I am finding it less hard to believe that this is an original, forgotten film. I messaged the user but not exactly holding my breath for a reply.

    Also found a small title-only ad in a N.C. paper. It’s not looking like it was shown outside that territory. http://newspaperarchive.com/robesonian/1984-04-23/page-7

  20. kaijinu says:

    holy shit Zmbdog, that article’s a nice find! now we’re really cooking…

  21. Jon71 says:

    Vacanze per un massacro (1970) – aka on VHS “MadNess” in 1980 – re-released to theaters for short stints in 80s as Pitchfork Massacre – my Italian bro in law identified the actress from the Pitchfork Massacre art as Lorraine De Selle – an actress grindhouse fans are familiar with. Film features deaths by Pitchfork.

  22. Jon71 says:

    I meant 1980.

  23. John K says:

    The poster shot is not in the film, and the girl looks more like the other girl in the film, who doesn’t die (going by the open shirt and hair here). Still, I’m intruiged by the possibility.

  24. glenn says:

    Tried to find references to Madness ever being called Pitchfork Massacre an nothing has turned up. But it’s got be a renamed film because the R rating means it went before the MPAA and there is no Pitchfork Massacre in their listing.

  25. John K says:

    Or glenn, it just slapped the R Rating on. The poster didn’t look like there was enough budget for a rating. Several movies did this in the 80s, they got away with it because they were low on the radar, wouldn’t expect anything with a wide release to get away with that.

  26. Jon71 says:

    Been trying to recover more info for this and Dead End (1985) for ages.

  27. John K says:

    Me too Jon71.

  28. Jon71 says:

    Add this one to 70s and 80s movies with at least one death scene by Pitchfork. In 1979s Delirium, there is a scene that has pitchfork in throat death, this film was cut and retitled “Psycho Puppet” when it was brought back out in the 80s.

  29. zmbdog says:

    Another ad: http://newspaperarchive.com/robesonian/1984-03-29/page-12

    I got my hopes up thinking the small text at the bottom might be actors’ names till I enlarged it. Turned out to be a warning about graphic violence 🙁

  30. zmbdog says:

    The final ad I could find: http://newspaperarchive.com/robesonian/1984-04-24/page-6

    Again, just a small ad with no info aside from the title. Perhaps one of these theatres is still active and has some kind of record of the film (at least the distribution company)? Assuming theatres do such things anyway :/

    I can’t imagine there were all that many distributors based in the Carolinas though. Doesn’t seem like it would be one of the major territories.

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