When Severin Films announced the Blu-ray release of Threads I had no idea what the film was. A made-for-TV film that first aired on the BBC in 1984? Yeah, not really in my wheelhouse. With that said when Severin releases something, you check it out because they have a track record you can trust. So check out Threads I did and oh man was I blown away.
Threads is a documentary-like movie about nuclear war and the impacts it has on Sheffield, a city in Northern England. The film focuses on a young couple, Ruth (Karen Meagher) and Jimmy (Reece Dinsdale), that are planning to get married due to an unexpected pregnancy. The first third of the film plays out like a typical drama centered around this young couple and their lives being turned upside down. You see the uncomfortable moments of them each telling their parents and then both sets of parents meeting for the first time. Jimmy, trying to cope with the upcoming changes, heads the pub with his best friend and there he considers having one last fling before he’s tied down.
As we get to know these characters we constantly see news reporters on in the background about the possibility of an impending nuclear war. The conflict is primarily between the United States and the Soviet Union with England’s overall involvement being rather small in comparison. The two power nations are unable to come to a peaceful resolution and war officially begins. The people of Sheffield receive a red alert warning indicating that nuclear war is moments away and immediately the entire town is in a panic. Within 5 minutes of the warning the first nuclear warhead bursts over England. While Sheffield isn’t directly hit with this first warhead, the town is subject to plenty of fallout and more bombs follow closely behind. Within moments more than two-thirds2 of homes in the UK are destroyed.
The aftermath is heartbreaking. Shortly after the bombing stops there is nothing but chaos. People running around the town desperately trying to find loved ones and any semblance of shelter. As devastating as the injuries and deaths are that are direct result of the warfare, the true trauma comes in the months and years to follow as people attempt to cope. Money at this point is useless and food is scarce. There’s no hospitals, few doctors and no clean water. People that still have some sort of home are forced by the government to take people in, even if those people have diseases. It’s a complete nightmare.
The story continues to follow Ruth as she attempts to find Jimmy and is eventually forced to give birth on her own. Obviously, these are not the best circumstances to raise a child.
As the years go by, we see the lasting impact. The actual attacks were so quick, but it will takes decades to recover. It’s not just that lives are lost and buildings destroyed, but society as whole is essentially wiped out. Not only do people need to rebuild, but people need to learn how to interact with one another again. This attack sends people back in time and turns people into animals.
Threads is an incredible watch for a number of reasons. A hard watch, but an incredible one. Just showing something like this on basic network television is sort of hard to imagine. It’s not overly graphic by any means, but the stuff you see is hard to swallow. And the context in which it’s shown is something else. It’s presented like a pseudo-documentary. The film wants to pull you into this reality and make the impact real for you. And given that it was released during a tense political climate, that wasn’t a hard thing to do.
The scary thing about Threads is that it’s relevant today. A movie like this shouldn’t be relevant today. We should be progressing and evolving as a society but we’re not doing that. We’re devolving and moving backwards. We’re currently living in a tumultuous political climate largely because we have an idiot President living in the White House. An idiot that openly threatens nuclear war on Twitter because it makes him feel tough and impresses his equally idiotic base of supporters. But because he’s a narcissistic idiot he doesn’t understand the ramifications of nuclear war. He doesn’t realize that launching a nuclear war against North Korea, or any other nation, will result in devastation for the entire planet. In nuclear war, we all lose.
And please, spare me any comments about how we need to leave our political beliefs out of what we write and you come here to get away from all that. Because one, what I stated isn’t a political belief but rather a true statement — the President of the United States is an idiot that doesn’t understand nuclear war. And two, horror has long served as a place for filmmakers to provide social commentary, so just deal with it already. Or don’t, I don’t care.
The Blu-ray release of Threads contains an audio commentary with director Mick Johnson and interviews with star Karen Meagher, DP Andrew Dunn and production designer Christopher Robilliard. I can’t speak on the commentary because I’ve yet to listen to that, but the interviews are all worth a watch. The best feature is a thirty minute with Stephen Thrower discuss the film and the origins behind it. It gets into what it was like growing up during that time and why a film like this was important.
I think Threads is a phenomenal film that I wish didn’t have meaning today. But maybe it can be used to take away that meaning. Maybe it can start being shown in school, or perhaps, ABC can show it yearly. It’s the sort of film that is there to teach us how to be better as a society. Let’s start learning from it.