Friday, 16 January 2009

The Nightmarish Contents of my Brain

I've been accused on a number of occasions, primarily by artists I've worked with, of tending somewhat toward the dark side in my writing. It is, it must be admitted, a fair point.

I do, however, feel moved to defend myself a little by explaining one or two mitigating circumstances that might help account for any perceived unpleasantness in my work. In all fairness, I think you have to take into account the influences to which I was exposed in my childhood.

Example: one of my earliest and most vivid memories of children's television involves a public information film by the seemingly innocent name, "Apaches". The film, as I later came to understand, was intended to warn children and parents about the potential dangers of... well, pretty much anything - although it was very keen to stress the fact that all types of farm machinery were designed with the single purpose of crushing pre-teens into pulp.

The world inhabited by the unfortunate characters of "Apaches" is one of almost constant mortal peril, where violent death awaits any child so foolish as to set foot outside their front door. It was a harrowing barrage of slaughter, a blend of "The Blair Witch Project" and "Faces of Death". To a kid, it was a terrifying work of dark genius. It would be no exaggeration to say that this damn thing haunted me for years.

Worse still is the callousness with which the dwindling group of friends play on, utterly unmoved by the whirlwind of calamity befalling them. The Apaches tumble under tractors, drown, poison themselves and are flattened by falling grates - but the (temporary) survivors continue the dance. They are horrifically, awesomely dead inside, fanatically pursuing their pointless game regardless of the blood it costs them. The game is the be-all, and ultimately the end-all, of their brief, futile existences. There is no kindly god watching over them - only the dark, brutal spectre of their own mortality.

So, through the miracle of Youtube, feel free to enjoy this masterpiece of Seventies pseudo-snuff in all its grainy glory:


  1. Oh yes, plus the films I don't know the real names of, but I shall always remember as " More Ways to die near railways" and "Even More Ways to die on a farm".

    Now, though, bloody insurance companies want to make everything so safe we don't need to scare the living crap out of primary school children...

  2. WOW!!!!!! What I learned from that is that Farm life and UK children don't mix!!!lol

  3. This film was so much a part of my early life's nightmare landscape that it was a genuinely disturbing experience rediscovering it on YouTube.

    There were many similar efforts at "public information" films, but after "Apaches" I was already too desensitised to be bothered by them. A large part of that is the fact that there are little touches of editorial sadism in the plotting of the story - moments where false tension is built up, only for the victim to escape the situation unharmed and for death to swoop in on a different kid from another angle. Classic slasher movie territory to modern eyes, but distinctly incongruous in a film of this type and intent...

  4. Although as an "exception to prove the rule", as they say, I spent the first 10 or so years of my life playing around dangerous farming equipment and old diggers in exactly this way - and here I am to tell the tale...

    ...or am I?

    That Dark Water one, though, that was nasty - but I used to swim in the river as well :)

  5. Yes I remember these, although I don't remember them having sound. I suspect it may have been my school projector didn't do sound as the railway guy was always complaining that there should have been sound on his films.

    I think the even more ways to die on the farm was worse, but then maybe there are more of theses films than are here?

    Like Catfang I grew up on and around farms and none of these things got me either. Though we all had a healthy respect of grain silos (there is a long film all about ways to die in a silo).

    Maybe this is why horror films don't work for me. I took away the message people die, but it doesn't matter just keep having fun.


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