For some reason, I’ve always had a perverse interest in post-apocalyptic/disaster fiction.
I guess it originated from happily lapping up big bombastic blockbuster movies, where humanity is shaken by some cataclysmic event and everything goes to shit. Whether it be our own disrespect for nature, a stinking meteor, a dying sun or just our pesky planet kicking up a fuss, there are plenty of ways for writers and directors to fuck shit up. I love disaster films because for most part they provide pure entertainment, even if the science behind them is, at best, questionable and the story is riddled with stupendously unbelievable subplots. Humans lose their shit when bad stuff kicks off and it’s just brilliant to watch.
The joy I find in disaster movies evolved into scouting out more serious depictions of disaster scenarios. Books or films which are probably a little more credible – preferring to focus on the human stories rather than blasting you with barely plausible rescue scenarios. Essentially I have a fascination with the human condition and how huge events, plausible or otherwise, test our resolve, bonds and will to survive.
After this was doing the rounds on Twitter a few weeks ago, I started reading up more on the Protect and Survive booklets published during the late 70s, in the event of a nuclear attack on Britain. I pestered my mum for her feelings on them – what with her being my age in the mid-80s. Being the kind, caring and nurturing mother she is, she very “kindly” recommended I watch Threads if I “fancied a really bloody good scare.”
So I borrowed it off my mum and scared myself into a stupor.
I’d read about Threads before and was aware of its critical acclaim, and the countless reviews from adults who’d been made to watch this as teenagers in school, who subsequently lost sleep with worry in the early 90s. My mum, a History teacher, still shows it in school today.
I figured my constitution was a little hardier than most teenagers, so I shouldn’t have a problem watching it, even with my pre-disposition for apocalyptic dreams. I was so very wrong.
It’s FUCKING TERRIFYING.
Yes, it’s dated. Yes, some of the effects are a bit amateur to my generation’s CGI-spoilt eyes. But none of that detracts from the utter horror, misery and hopelessness that the films drags out over it’s running time. If anything, it adds to it. You can feel the effort that went into the production, the suffering of the people, with no interference from computer trickery. From the eerie preparations of Local Governments as shit kicks off in Iran; the stoic British assertions everything would blow over; to the bombing itself; the aftermath and the state of humanity in the future, the film never stops shaking you with the reality of what nuclear weapons have done, and can do.
Told in a documentary style, it’s about as far removed from a disaster flick as possible and is all the better for it. There are no reprieves for any of the characters, no happy endings. The events leading up to the bomb are all very plausible and realistic, even 27 years on. In fact, the only laughable thing is the advice the public were given by the government in the event of an attack – the majority of which were purely exercises in keeping people calm and proactive about a situation in which they would surely perish. “That’s right guys! Whitewashing your windows will TOTES reflect the radiation from 210 megatonnes of nuclear bombage. LULZ.” Real-life recordings of the broadcasts are heard in the film, which only add to the shivers.
The beauty of the film is that it is based on the notion that for a couple of decades, this fear of nuclear war was real, it was palpable. As world governments lurched from one political crisis to another, so did the possibility of war breaking out. I grew up in the 90s, post-Berlin wall and the break-up of the USSR, without Cold War paranoia, but Threads had me imagining just how I would have dealt with this information while growing up, which was probably the scariest part of the whole experience. Particularly with my overactive imagination.
So Threads sent my housemate and I into an evening of BEING FREAKED OUT and sent us to bed with apocalyptic nightmares of deformed babies and cities burning.
Infinitely preferable to The One Show show right!? Hello? Is this thing on?