Threads (1984)

I stumbled across the existence of this TV movie from the BBC by accident and, after having now seen it, I’m filled with joy and wonder! Um…not really. This gritty and depressing flick is a step by step examination of the realistic effects of a nuclear holocaust on the UK industrial town of Sheffield. The ‘story’ loosely follows an average twentysomething girl trying to make the best of life after discovering her own accidental pregnancy; set against a startlingly realistic backdrop of rising global tension as the US and the USSR engage in military fisticuffs over Iran. The developing crisis begins to impact the average people of the UK as normal life gives way to preparations and fear…with good reason. After several weeks of alarming news reports and local upheaval, all out war hits with a vengeance. The town is caught in the exchange and is virtually obliterated by a series of nuclear strikes on the British Isles. And it’s all downhill from there. In this movie, the average people aren’t given a substantial chance at character development…they just die, in an escalating series of horrible ways. Some are vaporized immediately while others, the ‘safe’ ones, succumb to a nasty mix of radiation poisoning, starvation, disease and martial law. I was actually a little taken aback by the frank portrayals of death and destruction in the bleak scenario shown. The camera doesn’t shy away from showing us bodies of all ages flash-fried to a crisp or people quickly falling victim to hideous burns and sickness. The flick has a jarring, rough manner about it as it uses a variety of stock footage, narration and statistics to make sure that we, or at least ‘we’ of the 1980s, understands what would likely happen if The Button was pushed. This is no ‘cautionary tale’…it’s a flat-out graphic WARNING. And damn, is it effective! Nihilistically so. It’s interesting to note that one of cinemas most glaring (and American) examples of Cold War paranoia came out the same year. Yes, the comparison to Red Dawn MUST be made. That flick, while excellent in it’s own right, really is a vengeful piece of flag-waving US patriotism born of fear, imagined superiority and the desire to hit back at those who scare ‘them’. The only ‘escapism’ in Threads is the NOT escaping the citizens endure when the nukes mercilessly hit. It’s quite good for what it is and, more importantly, what it’s trying to say. Just don’t expect a smile to be plastered across your mug when the credits roll. The final ‘downer’ of a scene is a nasty kick in the head. Good times!


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