I was on Letterboxd checking out some lists of Folk Horror, and Apaches popped up a number of times. On the surface, just another public safety film. But in the hands of those zany Brits at Graphic Films and The Central Office Of Information For The Health And Safety Executive, it became oh so much more.
Over an unspecified period of time, six kids repeatedly go out to play at a nearby farm in the English countryside. One by one, most of them meet gruesome, tragic ends, the survivors blithely returning each time to continue in their make-believe.
One day, they run after a tractor that’s pulling a trailer, and pretend it’s a train. Kim jumps on the trailer, but the tractor makes a sudden turn, and she falls under on of the wheels. The next scene shows a teacher taking Kim’s name tag off a coat rack.
Later, while playing Kick the Can (more like Kick the Bucket as time goes on), Tom tries to climb along the fence surrounding a slurry pit (look it up, fellow colonists). He slips, falls in, and drowns. Cut to a teacher cleaning out his desk.
Okay, sidebar: why are these kids allowed to go back to this farm after this? One would think the parents would descend on this place like villagers at the end of Frankenstein. And where’s the parental supervision? It’s like a Charlie Brown cartoon from hell.
The worst fate of the lot befalls Sharon. While playing Cowboys and Indians, the youths come to an equipment shed where they find an unlabeled bottle full of some unidentified liquid. I have no idea what’s in that bottle. One of the kids thinks it might be rat poison. I’ve seen reviews saying it’s weed killer. Who the hell knows?
They decide to mime having a celebratory drink for having captured the farm/fort. Sharon “forgets” they’re pretending and drinks some by accident but immediately spits it out, getting some on Robert’s jacket. Moments later, as Susan enters her home, we see that she doesn’t feel well.
As the boys head home, Robert says, “That stuff made a right mess on my clothes. My mum’s gonna kill me!” At least, I think that’s what he says. That night, Sharon wakes up crying for her mother. Her shrieks of pain are the most unnerving part of the film. Next Susan’s dresser is being emptied.
And then there were three. More Cops and Robbers. Robert and Michael take cover while shooting at Danny (with toy guns that actually look like guns. Ah, 1977). Robert hides near a hay bale. Michael crouches behind a precariously balanced steel grille. It falls over when Michael darts out after Danny, landing on and crushing Robert in the process.
Michael, initially described as “daft,” is the only one who somehow manages to survive Killshire Farm. There’s a final twist I won’t give away, but I will mention that the closing credits include a list of 21 children who died in farm accidents the year before the film was made.
Not exactly All Creatures Great And Small, but…