4 out of 5 stars
Films made for television are widely discounted as inferior, often assumed that with heightened censorship comes childish derivatives or tawdry feel-goods. Yet Mick Jackson’s bleak apocalypse film, ‘Threads,’ was aired September 23, 1984 to an unknowing Britain, simultaneously shocking and depressing an entire country. In many ways, ‘Threads,’ can be seen as England’s response to the disaster craze, most notably the nuclear holocaust sub-genre, with films like ‘The Day After,’ or ‘Testament’. But where many of these other films depict the struggles of post-apocalyptic survival, ‘Threads,’ obliterates even the most meager hopes for its characters, plunging viewers into a hellish realm of eternal despair. Written by Barry Hines, who seems to have a slight proclivity towards both aviculture and the hopeless, was also behind the British classic, ‘Kes’ (1969). Jackson’s ‘Threads,’ is the dreary, toxic wind-swept, and soot stained paradigm for effective feature television, didactic, yet haunting, infecting audiences with disturbing imagery like radioactive fallout, long after the credits roll.
‘Threads,’ is most successful in its accurate depiction of nuclear war’s effects on a sampling of Sheffield’s bourgeois, most too wrapped up in their daily frivolities to consider the possibility of bomb-fall, its complete and total annihilation. What begins as kitchen-sink neo-realism, not uncommon for British film of that time, quickly becomes a horrid account of groveling survival, continually prodding the audience, asking what would be the point, to survive in a ruinous, diseased wasteland. ‘Threads,’ is structured similar to a documentary, with an opening shot of a spider spinning its web to a voiceover that acts as a preface, binding the film’s title to its content. Appearing almost like a nature documentary initially, ‘Threads,’ soon begins the tortured tale of Sheffield and several of its unfortunate inhabitants.