The Most Terrifying Film Of All Time – Threads

Good horror movies reach inside of you, crack open that dormant cave person brain and tell it to F***ING RUN. That shouldn’t be enjoyable, but if we didn’t get a thrill from putting ourselves in danger we wouldn’t have left the cave to learn how to grow wheat and iPhones, and you wouldn’t be here reading these words. You exist because your ancestors were crazy enough to hunt for food whilst Lions were outside, and you now carry on the tradition by watching movies about people getting sewn together. Humans are fun!

But horror movie scary is not the same as actual, bed wetting fear. It is roller coaster fear and whilst your brain cannot tell the difference, you can. You get to enjoy those feelings in the safety of your flat, because Chucky cannot really happen.

But my favourite Halloween film isn’t Chucky.

Threads (1984) is a BBC produced 113 minute nightmare, that depicts in pornographic detail the nuclear apocalypse from the point of view of two Sheffield based family’s. It starts off innocently enough, the Becketts and the Kemps are united by an unexpected pregnancy between two of their younger members (timing, right guys?). If you caught it late at night whilst flicking through the channels you could easily mistake it for a Ken Loach kitchen sink drama, if it wasn’t for the near constant reminders of the coming nuclear fun from various news reports in the background. This background noise eventually ramps up and crowds out the family focus, culminating in various civil disturbances due to a rising sense of panic in the population.

Threads2

And then the bombs are dropped and you get to enjoy watching half the characters you have been introduced to get burned alive (along with a plastic ET doll, as if to say to Spielberg “pfffft”). Threads holds nothing back, people wet themselves in the streets, close ups to burning retinas, all to a soundtrack of screams. Amongst the clips of horror, machine typed text gives you the facts and statistics around such an event that will haunt you forever.

The rest of the film depicts post apocalyptic Britain as a hollowed out shell. Eighties Sheffield is replaced with rubble. Children (who have developed a sort of pig english because clearly nobody is around to teach them how to talk) are shot by faceless soldiers, and you are not spared any details when Threads decides to show you what the local hospital looks like (here is a hint, buckets of blood and blackened walls). I am going to avoid spoilers here, but imagine the worst thing that could ever happen to a person after the nuclear apocalypse….that is how Threads ends. The last thing you hear is a blood curdling scream.

The only things that break the horror are the two vaguely recognisable faces in the cast. Zack Dingle from Emmerdale makes a brief appearance as an “Information Officer” in charge of trying to organise rescue operations and Jimmy Kemp’s mother is recognisable to anyone in generation Y who watched CITV back in the day for her run on Children’s ward. But that won’t last because after the bombs drop something terribly horrific happens roughly every twenty seconds to sweep you back into the nightmare.

David Brierley surveys the damage in Threads

Horror movies dream of getting to the places Threads reaches. But most horror movies are based in fantasy. Threads hammers you all the way through with the reality of a world where many countries are a button away from killing the shit out of everything on the planet. Threads was screened at half nine on BBC 2 in 1984, to an audience who were not too far away from the nightmare actually happening.

Threads is not a horror movie. The cave person brain gets its fix, sure, but Threads doesn’t stop there. It grabs you, shakes you up and shows you it’s collection of dead children pictures whilst hysterically barking statistics into your ears. But I would argue it is the perfect movie for Halloween. Whilst it is set in the past, it is a stark reminder of one of the potential futures of our existence.

Anything else is a waste of time this Halloween.

3 comments

  1. I saw this film once, not too long ago on the internet, and you’re absolutely correct; this is the most terrifying film of all time. And it’s for that reason that I am unable to watch this dark, hellish masterpiece ever again. It’s simply too disturbing, too horrific, and all too real, especially when you research near nuclear war incidents on Google and discover just how close we came to blowing up the world, and how many times we almost did, too. It’s for that reason and also the fact that tensions with nations like Russia, China, and North Korea are heating up again, that this should be seen by every person on the planet, particularly by those who have their finger on the button to launch the missiles.

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