Horror Movie Dictionary: Billhook

Is there a more sinister horror movie weapon in the pantheon of horror movies than the billhook? Many people don’t know what that is (including the authors of this site until very recently). The dictionary definition of a billhook is as follows: “a tool with a sickle-shaped blade with a sharp inner edge, used for pruning or lopping branches or other vegetation.” There’s also the very similar reap-hook (pictured above in the hicksploitation / Pennsylvania Dutch-sploitation Children of the Corn, which we covered on the Really Awful Movies Podcast).

According to the book, A History of the Garden in Fifty Tools, it’s close in kin to the Malay panga, the Cuban machete, the German forester’s heppe, the Italian roncole…author Bill Laws says “it’s more likely to be found in the hands of a butcher than a gardener.” How true that is, for our purposes here.

Bottom line: they’re scary and deadly. Why? It’s that curved end.

Curved weaponry are almost always more sinister than straight-edge blades in horror films. Case in point: the incredible use of the razor-sharp metal hook by the Berlin coven in the re-imaging of the Argento classic, Suspiria. Mario Bava used one to terrific and terrifying effect in his incredible A Bay of Blood. (In fact, they’re common enough they didn’t even make it into our book, Death by Umbrella! The 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons).

Fiction met fact when in August, 2018, The Independent reported on a film assistant who ran amok in an artists’ commune in North London, wielding a two-foot machine with a bill hook. The accused was reported as saying, “I’m going to cut you. I’m going to burn you. I’m going to kill you.”

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