May 8, 2019


For the first half of Threads, the audience is given a semi-documentary/semi-narrative look at the life and culture of citizens of the U.K. as they go about their lives, all while war threatens to rage in the world between the U.S. (naturally), Iran, and the Soviet Union. Reminders of this war come in the form of occasional narration as well as news reports that play on televisions in the backgrounds — news reports that, in the face of the unexpected pregnancy of Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale), for instance, mostly fall by the wayside and go unnoticed. While this isn’t a large part nor even the point of Threads, it is a noticeable addition: war will loom, our media will warn us, but we’ll be too busy wrapped up in our own soap opera lives to actually understand until it’s too late.

And that’s just the first half.

Halfway through Threads, the bomb drops. The U.K. is decimated. Initial estimates say 10-20 million citizens are killed. And we’re there the whole time. We never cut away. We never cut back to a clean room in a clean country that was shielded from the attack. The U.K. is reduced to black and gray: formless and void of anything that once resembled life and culture. Smoldering bodies and body parts are strewn in the streets, buildings are burned out husks or entirely gone, people huddle in cellars hidden beneath mattresses thinking this will save them from the bigger threat from a nuclear bomb: radiation. But of course it doesn’t.

The most surprising thing about Threads is its lineage: it wasn’t some banned Video Nasty from the 1970s and ’80s that’s just now enjoying a controversial video release. This thing was made for television — first broadcast in the U.K. before enjoying an encore presentation in the U.S. You’d have to have seen Threads for yourself to know how shocking a revelation this is, because Threads is a brutal gut punch. It’s dark, bleak, angry, cynical, graphic, bloody — everything that also describes war. It is the closest approximation to what post-nuclear life can look like, and hopefully that’s the closest we will all ever get. Above all, it’s the clever editing that enforces such an illusion. Establishing shots of everyday homes and stores and businesses are married to stock footage of demolitions and explosions, one after the other; a simple shot of a cat playing on grass, when reversed and shown only in brief cuts, now looks like an animal suffocating from poisoned air.  Keep in mind, Threads isn’t exactly a Frankenstein of stock footage — only the bomb drop and immediate post-bomb decimation relies on these different footage sources; otherwise, Threads is entirely new footage, but it manages to match the dark and colorless tone of these destructive sequences. And as for the new footage, and its own sense of horror…look no further than the camera angles shot in an almost purposely pedestrian manner that capture a group of office workers from behind as they slip a deceased co-worker’s body into garbage bags, or a woman we presume to be the mother of the dead baby in her arms as she looks into the camera with dead eyes.

This edition of Threads, brought to you by Severin Films, includes a nice collection of special features: audio commentary with director Mick Jackson; “Audition For The Apocalypse: Interview With Actress Karen Meagher,” “Shooting The Annihilation: Interview With Director Of Photography Andrew Dunn,” “Destruction Designer: Interview With Production Designer Christopher Robilliard,” “Interview With Film Writer Stephen Thrower,” and the US Trailer.

Threads is extremely effective and unnerving. It’s an absolutely harrowing experience — one that left me shell shocked and in a daze. It actually coerced me into leaving my house after watching it and randomly driving to a more populated area just to see and be among people for the reminder that society still existed. It’s probably the most psychologically disturbing non-horror horror film I’ve ever seen — and I never want to see it again.

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