Thursday, October 05, 2006
The Day of the Triffids
When Douglas Copeland wrote Generation X in 1992, he described New York City as a place where “around any corner you might find a pie in the face, a Triffid, or a kiss from actress Sophia Loren.” Ever since then, the word “Triffid” has been one of my favorites, and I love what it describes: a menacing, ambulatory plant. To me, monstrous plants are especially unnerving. Unlike animal-like monsters, they’ve got no eyes, no roar – none of the clues that let the victim even properly regard the thing threatening them. You can bop an attacking shark on the nose, but where’s the Triffid’s nose?
This thing, which is permanently staked out by my old apartment, is a hollow signpost that got filled with weeds and turned into – a Triffid! That’s what I called it, although the nickname never really caught on. And below are my Lego Triffids, which I plan to mass produce so they can swarm my Lego population of minifigs.
So. I like Triffids.
In the movie, based on a book by John "Village of the Damned" Wyndham, the smartypants pre-credit voiceover talks about carniverous plants: “how the Venus Flytrap digests its prey has yet to be explained.” Then he introduces us to the harmless version of Triffids, which came from meteor-borne spores some time before the events of the movie. For some reason, these space-spores were distributed all over the place instead of being kept in an isolation tank.
The movie proper opens with the spectacular worldwide light show of an unprecedented meteor shower. Although none of the rocks are big enough to reach the ground, the shower produces two startling effects. They turn the harmless Triffid into the huge, walking-around kind, with thick arm-like vines with stingers on the end. Their poison makes you green and dead, and post-meteor they start growing everywhere. The second startling effect is that everybody who witnessed the meteor shower -- which is practically everybody -- goes blind the following morning. Bad news.
Our story follows Bill, an American Navy man whose eyes were luckily bandaged. He wakes up in an extremely changed London (28 Days Later owes some credit to this part) where people are stumbling into each other and accidentally starting fires. He joins up with Susan, a boarding school runaway who looks like she stepped right out of Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Together they brave the dual perils of a collapsed civilization and an increasing Triffid presence. Bill's okay, but I wish he would take off his stupid little captain's hat. I was more intrigued by the Goodwins, a married pair of marine biologists who live in a lighthouse on a rocky crag. They start applying SCIENCE! to the problem, since the boat with the Scotch isn't going to come anymore. I liked Karen Goodwin. She had that perfect retro Scream Queen look.
Despite my love of Triffids, I only recently saw this movie for the first time. I kind of prefer my lankier, unofficial Triffid configurations pictured above. These were butt-heavy in a disappointing way, and most of the Triffid encounters involved off-screen stage hands whapping the actors with big scrubby vines. The Triffids suffered from an all-over scrubbiness, an unfortunate lack of distinctive features. Big musical duhn-duhn-DAHHs would coincide with close-ups that made me squint in confusion. I know that sounds like it would gibe with the creepy featurelessness I described above, but this was too much murkiness to properly entertain. But they made an awesome noise, a sort of glottal murmur I couldn't get enough of.
Overall this is a good effort. The Triffids may disappoint weirdos like me, but otherwise the production values were pretty good, and the story is fun. At the end the voiceover guy comes back rather jarringly, as if to scold you for forgetting all about him.