Tools of the Trade: Buck 120


Every timeless slasher is defined by his or her weapon. Just ask Kirby Reed. Leatherface with his chainsaw, Michael Myers with his oversized butcher knife, Jason with his machete, Freddy with his homemade horror glove and of course Ghostface with his Buck knife. In the classic slashers, all it took was a flash of the blade and we knew what terror and carnage was taking place on the other side of the camera. From the moment that knife had its hero shot as it slammed down into Casey Becker, we knew it would be an important part of Ghostface’s persona.


The Buck Knife Company goes all the way back to 1902, when its founder Hoyt H. Buck, at the age of 13, developed a new technique to heat treat steel so it holds an edge longer. It wouldn’t be until 1941, however when he would begin manufacturing knives for the War effort that his knife making really took off. After the War, HH Buck and his son would move to San Diego and begin making knives full time at the “H.H. Buck & Son Knife Company.” In the early 1960s, the company would produce one of their first signature products, the Model 110 Folding Hunter knife, a compact folding knife suitable for butchering and skinning large game.



It was also in the 1960s when Buck would develop one of their largest fixed blade knives, the model 120 General. From the beginning, Buck’s knives were mostly fixed blades, but none were as beautiful and massive as the 120. The knife features a 7 and 3/8th inch “clip point” blade featured a blood groove down the side, and either wood or phenolic (resin) blade, and an aluminum pommel and guard. The overall length is 11 and 7/8th inches long. Definitely enough knife for an everyday outdoorsman or woman. The knife was as utilitarian as it was beautiful. The sleek black handle and the sharply curved pommel truly is a work of art.



Like several of Buck’s knives, the 120 features a stamp on the blade. Different stamps represent different years that the knife was produced.



The 1980s brought in the wave of the slasher sub-genre we all know and love and the Buck 120 General would begin seeing an audience outside of the normal hunters and outdoorsmen it once catered to. The knife would get its first big starring role on the poster for 1984’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. Although the knife was featured prominently on the poster, it never appeared in the film.

 

The knife would go on to be featured on the poster for Friday the 13th Part VII: A New Blood. Although, this picture has the knife stretched and it looks more like the 121 Fisherman than the 120. 




And one more time on the Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan poster. Once again not used in the movie. 


Jason really loves this knife, he’s just not actually trying to roll out with it. 


This knife already has a slasher pedigree and we haven’t even gotten to the good part yet. 


In the spring of 1996, production was getting underway on Kevin Williamson’s “Scary Movie” and it was time to start giving this killer the tools of his trade. In the script, the killer is described as a very generic figure in a ghost mask. The knife is described in “flashes of silver” or “the blade of his knife.”


All the way up until the finale when we finally get an idea of what type of knife Williamson pictured Billy and Stu to have: 

Billy sits the gun down on the table near the foyer. And then moves to Sidney with the butcher knife in hand. 

It’s a butcher knife. A Michael Myers style butcher knife. Not a “Buck Knife” or a “Bowie Knife” or even a “hunting knife.” Full-on butcher knife. How different would that have looked? 



From the first time we see Ghostface stalking around Casey’s house, knife poised, it’s clear he is ready to use it. One could surmise that this same knife was used to kill Maureen Prescott a year before. Throughout the film the knife is shown to the victims as a way of threatening or intimidating them, starting with Sidney.

Doesn’t seem quite right, does it? Especially given the characterization of Ghostface himself. Clearly for Craven every piece of this persona was carefully thought out. It’s not a guy who (usually) just grabs what is around him out of convenience the way other slashers might. The killer(s) behind this costume and this mask have carefully planned out each step of this murder spree, and each element of this fa├žade is important to their ability to carry out these murders… Up to and including this knife.

“Wes wanted something that looked like it could have come from Stu or Billy's dad’s garage.” -Nate Ragon

The long blade, clip point, and blood groove do make for an intimidating piece of hardware. The knife continues to be shown to and used to threaten the victims over, and over and over in the movie. 

 


In fact, the only time Ghostface doesn’t have the knife in Scream 1 are times that folks have suggested maybe a prankster and not Billy or Stu. In the bathroom with Sidney, in the bushes outside of Tatum’s house and in the grocery store following Sidney and Tatum. I’m not promoting conspiracy theories here, just pointing out the facts. 

At one point the knife is even pointed inwards by Billy, perhaps a prelude to the carnage that would ensue shortly after. 


The knife itself is clearly as important to the Ghostface persona as the mask, the costume or the voice. Every subsequent copycat killer has used the same Buck 120 to carry out their murderous plans. Of course, the knives actually used in the films are versions of the Buck, sometimes the original knives altered, sometimes completely original knives created from the Buck model. 

Scream 1 used a retractable, rubber stunt and a real buck knife as the hero (dulled).” -Nate Ragon 


In Scream 2, we aren’t privy to the voice in the first kill, but Ghostface makes it clear that the knife is the same one Billy and Stu used. The knife in Scream 2 features a wider blade and was custom made for the production out of aluminum. 



Scream 3 went back to basics and used a dulled down Buck 120 as the hero. Ghostface brandishes the knife in much the same way he has before. For the first time ever Ghostface threw his knife with expert ninja precision as to not nail Dewey in the eye. 



Sometime after the production of Scream 3, Buck discontinued making the 120. Some claim it was because hunters complained that it was too big to successfully field dress game… Which makes little sense to me and doesn’t sound like a logical reason to stop making a knife you’ve been making for 50 years, but I digress. Around that time the 119 was released. A very similar knife with a shorter blade. No less deadly, as the Brandon James killer on the Scream: The TV Series used one to wreak havoc on the teens of Lakewood. 


When the 120 returned sometime in the mid-2000s, it was similar, but not the same knife. The blade was slimmer and the finger notch next to the guard was more pronounced. 

In Scream 4 we were introduced to a much more intimidating knife. The knife itself is noticeably bigger, the blade is quite a bit wider, even than the Scream 2 knife and the handle is longer. By the time we get to the finale and Jill and Charlie have the knife it looks like Frodo handling Sting… They are both tiny people. 

"Wes didn't want to 'lose the handle' in the glove. Meaning he wanted to be able to see the shiny knob at the end." -Nate Ragon 




The stunt knives also had gaff tape wrapped around the handle speculated by some to be an in canon thing done by Jill and Charlie for some reason, but more likely done by the prop department to help Dane Farwell hold onto the knife with those slippery Ghostface gloves. 

On each of the movies, there were stunt knives made completely of rubber and the mother of all movie knife gags, a retractable blade. 


So there you have it. The first and most ferocious Tool of Ghostface’s trade. His signature knife. Sidney’s Bane. Instilling fear in its victims since 1996 and beyond. Stay tuned for an in-depth analysis of each of the tools that make Ghostface the terrifying entity that he is. Until next time… Don’t answer the phone.

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