Man-eating killer plants. On the surface, it sounds like a pretty stupid idea. No surprises then that the origins for this story are the 1960’s, a time when after exhausting martians, film makers took desperate measures to get audiences; giant ants, tarantulas etc…
However, the original The Day of the Triffids was actually quite excellent, and the 1980’s BBC series was pretty damn good for its time too. I still have vague memories of being terrified by it.
The question is, it this most recent imagining of The Day of the Triffids any better? Or does it ruin yet another classic idea.
There’s a new environmental theme to the idea for starters. Triffids are naturally occurring plants which originate from a jungle somewhere (apparently) and soon become our saviour when it is discovered that their oil (Triffoil) is an excellent replacement for fossil fuels.
Triffid farms are built everywhere and global warming is prevented, al thanks to our contestant milking of these huge plants.
However, on the downside, the plants are carnivores and have long poisonous tentacles which can blind and even kill your average human. Worse still, given the chance they will also crawl around using their roots.
As a result, they are kept under tight security and aren’t seen as much of a threat.
Bill Masen (Dougray Scott) works with them, and helps to monitor their behaviour at one of the farms. His parents were pretty much responsible for discovering them, so he feels that he has a duty to keep an eye on them.
But when an activist breaks in to free the creatures, a triffid manages to catch Masen with a lash of its tentacle and he is rushed to hospital, his vision at stake.
During his recuperation, the world turns out to watchman amazing visual spectacle as a solar firestorm lights up the sky.
Unexpectedly though, the firestorm blinds all who see it, and the world is enveloped in darkness and fear, the only seeing people left being Masen and anyone else that wasn’t able to watch the cosmic lightshow.
To make matters worse, the triffids then escape and set about eating everyone. It’s much easier now that most of them are blind.
Bill Masen is left with the unenviable task of working out a way to kill off these giant plants and save the human race. With only a handful of sighted people to assist, and most them them having their own twisted motives, will he make it in time?
This incarnation of The Day of the Triffids was shown on the BBC before Christmas, and it was a shame that I had missed it as it’s pretty impressive.
For a British production it’s very high quality, definitely up there with 28 Days Later and Dead Set, the only thing going against it being its ’12’ certificate, and therefore a slight lack in blood, gore, and general nastiness.
The cast is superb, with Brian Cox, Joely Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Eddie Izzard and Jason Priestly all making an appearance. Dougray Scott is a good lead, carrying some of the more mediocre performers around him (Izzard and Richardson aren’t quite so great). Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox are a bit of a coup, demonstrating the draw of this classic sci-horror story.
I should point out that The Day of the Triffids isn’t a film as such. Although the Blu Ray allows you to watch it all together on one disk (if you have the stamina), it was intended as a two part series. I actually felt that it would have done a lot better if broken up into smaller parts, say six half-hour episodes. It’s a high quality production and makes most of the dross that we have to endure on TV look bland and boring.
Although it’s not the scariest thing you’re going to watch, for an ‘intended for television’ production it’s damn good. Lovers of Doctor Who, Dead Set and Eddie Izzard, look no further!
The Day of the Triffids is out on DVD and Blu Ray now