It’s not easy to do anything original in films any more. It seems that every idea, every snippet of dialogue, every nuance has been covered before; usually better, occasionally much worse. In fact, one could simply list a single action from a film and find several others just like it. In the horror film it’s even easier. Just look up a kill or death and you’ll undoubtedly find a carbon copy or ten across the genre. So, It’s Happening Again! has done the leg work for you. We’ll be running a series called ‘Killed by...’, if you hadn’t already guess. Has someone else already run with this idea? Of course they have! There’s nothing new under the sun. Why not Google it for confirmation? In the meantime, here goes….
In 1885 a young farmer from Pas-de-Calias in northern France, named Alfred Gaudin, found himself hopelessly smitten with the daughter of a neighbouring farmer. Unfortunately, for him, the object of his affection did not return his love and rejected his overtures several times.
Eventually, Gaudin’s advances became common knowledge around the village and, when the young woman’s father heard the story, he visited Gaudin and explained in no uncertain terms that the farmer would never have his daughter’s hand in marriage.
Not only did this cause Gaudin a great deal of embarrassment, it also stoked a barely suppressed anger that caused the man to begin to threaten the young lady’s life.
As she finished working in a field one day, Gaudin approached and offer to walk her home. Despite the young lady’s obvious reservations, she could see that the farmer was quite calm, courteous even, and cautiously agreed.
They made for her home, talking amicably and enjoying the warm early evening breeze. Reaching a quiet lane, hidden from view, Gaudin took the pitchfork he’d been carrying and stabbed his quarry in the face, neck and chest.
Returning the village shortly after, Gaudin announced, “I have killed Augustine Sinot, she won’t worry me anymore!” He was quickly arrested, charged with murder and sentenced to ten years’ in prison.
Produced during the celebrated – depending upon which side of the fence you fall –Golden Age of Slasher Films, The Prowler (or Rosemary’s Killer) follows the events surrounding the first graduation ball in Avalon Bay, California, for 35 years following a grisly double-murder in 1945. The Joseph Zito-directed slasher featured Farley Granger, whose celebrated work for Alfred Hitchcock in Strangers on a Train and Rope helped define his career, and Lawrence Tierney, latterly starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. The Prowler features some of the most graphic death scenes of any slasher, courtesy of the great Tom Savini. Incidentally, The Prowler was renamed Die Forke des Todes (The Pitchfork of Death) in Germany.
Killed by… pitchfork (1): Following a ‘Dear John’ letter sent to her boyfriend, away at war, Rosemary Chatham attends her graduation ball with new boyfriend, Roy, who suggests a tête-à-tête at ‘the point’. While embroiled in a passionate embrace, both are attacked and murdered by a prowler who impales them with a pitchfork, leaving a single rose as a calling card.
Killed by… pitchfork (2): Sherry receives a surprise visit from Carl, who ventures into the bedroom to undress and join her in the shower, but he is attacked and killed by a masked assailant. The killer then moves into the bathroom and impales Sherry with a pitchfork.
Despite the graphic nature of the slaying of Sherry, it’s tempered somewhat by the exceptionally shocking murder of Carl in the bedroom; a bayonet rammed through his skull forces his eyes to bulge white as he dies. Nonetheless the pitchfork death of Sherry is still a brutal way to die, especially when she was expecting a naked Carl to saunter into the shower, not a lunatic in combat gear. Still, he did leave her a lovely rose. So…
Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers
Almost exactly a year after the events of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, the titular Michael awakens from his 12-month coma, promptly murders the hermit who’s spent the entire time tending to him, and returns to Haddonfield to finish off his now-mute niece, Jamie Lloyd (played once again by Danielle Harris). Dr. Loomis (a returning Donald Pleasance) discovers Jamie’s telepathic link to Michael. Of course, all hell breaks loose as the entire cast try not to laugh at Michael’s latest mask. Apparently, he doesn’t like that.
Killed by… pitchfork: Spitz was always going to get his comeuppance. Dressing up as Michael Myers to play a prank is a clear rule-breaker. Any ridicule usually results in the forfeit of one’s mortal coil. Couple this with the dreaded sexual festivities and Michael’s puritan-o-meter goes through the roof. Hence, Spitz gets the pitchfork (in the back no less, there’s no getting that out) and Samantha gets covered in his blood – possibly the lesser of two potential evils – before getting covered in her own viscera. Not the night she had planned.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
Taken from Jack Finney’s 1954 sci-fi novel, The Body Snatchers, and starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers follows the trials of a fictional Californian town invaded with extra-terrestrial spores that grow into pods which, in turn, form duplicate replacement of human beings within the town, minus any human emotion. Think Donald Trump without empathy. Ok, bad example.
Killed by… pitchfork: During a barbecue at Miles’ home, he, along with Becky, Jack and Theodora find two giant seed pods in the greenhouse, emitting a milky substance. As the pods break open further, duplicate bodies to the characters present begin to form in front of them. Miles, discovering that one of the bodies looks remarkably like him, does the decent thing and stabs it in the heart with a pitchfork. Hooray!
Things take a turn for the worse as people discover that ‘Pod People’ isn’t the latest groovy hit but an unfortunate side-effect of the spores from space. Joking aside, Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a mediation on the dangers of McCarthyism and unquestioning conformity, a frightening prospect in 1950s America. Just over 20 years on, an excellent remake, featuring a cameo from original star McCarthy (an unfortunate duplicate nomenclature of the witch-hunting US Senator), was released. Widely regarded as one of the greatest remakes ever, the film is a nightmare of panic and paranoia, following the Watergate scandal and the notion that nothing one says goes unheard; something ominously apparent in the age of social media.
Friday the 13th: Part 3
Following a change of attire and two quick killings to warm up, Jason Vorhees returns to Camp Crystal Lake in glorious, gimmicky 3D, and finally dons the iconic hockey mask that would become the defining look for the anti-hero maniacal killer. Incidentally, please don’t head over to social media to profess your preference for Jason’s potato sack look from Friday the 13th: Part 2, unless you like to stir the fan-boy hornet’s nest (tempting though it truly is).
Killed by… pitchfork: Having confronted prankster (read: fodder) Shelley and his indifferent blind date, Vera, in a convenience store on the way to the lake – culminating in Shelley accidentally knocking over the their motorcycles – biker gang Ali, Fox and Loco head to the home of Chris Higgins (imaginatively titled Higgins Haven) with the intention of getting even. Unfortunately, a deformed psychopath decides to ruin their fun by foul means and impales both Fox and then Loco with a pitchfork (the latter presumably for having the audacity for contriving to assign himself a title almost diametrically opposed to his actual behaviour).
And there we have it. Granted this isn’t an exhaustive list. After all, who has time to trawl the internet for hours on end searching for pitchfork murders? That’s what you lot are for, so please do add your own in the comments. In the meantime, Killed by… will return in a fortnight. If you’ve a suggestion for a future post, do let us know….