I have seen a lot of crappy 50s and 60s sci-fi horror films in my day. Granted, a fair number of those have also had Tom Servo cracking jokes during them. I had, of course, heard of Day of the Triffids before but all I knew about it was that plants started walking around and killing people like a slightly less stupid version of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening. Turns out that it is actually much more interesting and complex with the triffids themselves mostly acting as an outside threat to a world that has already been driven into an apocalyptic state.
The movie starts with a meteor shower that is happening all over the world. Everyone is watching the amazing light show as they burn up in our atmosphere except for our heroes Bill Masen, an American navy officer that has his eyes bandaged from a surgery, and the Goodwins, scientists on a remote island that are too busy having marital issues to go outside. Turns out that the side effect of watching the meteor shower is total blindness and most of the world’s population has been affected by it. This would be bad enough but this meteor shower also awakened a plant known as the triffid which was alien in origin and is now wandering the planet consuming helpless prey.
The whole global blindness angle immediately hooked me in to what otherwise might have been another low budget monster movie. There is a great scene that is reminiscent of the 28 Days Later opening with Bill Masen waking up in the deserted hospital having no idea what has been happening. It also ends up being fairly global in scope where most of these 60s sci-fi stories tend to worry about one city or some space threat. Here we have Bill hopping from Britain to France to Spain all while trying to find survivors and others that happened to not watch the blinding meteor shower. A lot of the scenes are actually quite reminiscent of how we view zombies nowadays. The triffids can be distracted by sound and they tend to herd up. We get a scene at a house in France where outside survivors take over and become a more pressing threat than the plants. It all feels very familiar.
Of course, being a 60s film, there are going to be some trappings that you can’t get away from. We have an unnecessary narrator that makes, especially the beginning of the movie, sound like an old high school science video. Which is also another one of the things you always see in these is the triumph of white men and science over all obstacles. Throughout the film we’ve been showing how bleak everything is while the Goodwins try to discover a way to fight the plants. The fact that the husband is an alcoholic and an abusive asshole is immediately hand waved and his lady forgives him because he can science real hard. Then we get a totally out of nowhere type ending where it turns out that the triffids will melt when exposed to salt water so it looks like M. Night also managed to get his shit ending for Signs from here as well.
I feel like this movie would be ripe for a remake with some better effects and modern script. I know the BBC did a made for TV mini-series of it in 2011 but I’d still love to see it as an actual big budget film. Even with the flaws, I still think this was a very well done story and especially so for the time it was made. I give it a 4 out of 5.
Favorite part of the movie: The scene of Bill in the hospital after the meteor shower that I mentioned.
Least favorite part: It was so good until that bullshit salt water ending. I was even willing to let it have a “science solves all problems” good time ending but that just felt cheap.