The Day of the Triffids (2009)


Rating 2¼

Directed by Nick Copus

Written by Patrick Harbinson, based on the novel by John Wyndham

Starring Dougray Scott (Bill Masen), Joely Richardson (Jo Playton), Eddie Izzard (Torrence), Brian Cox (Dennis Masen), Vanessa Redgrave (Durrant), Julia Joyce (Imogen), Jenn Murray (Susan), Shane Taylor (Osman), Ewen Bremner (Walter) and Troy Glasgow (Troy)

The giant and deadly carnivorous triffid plant is cultivated on a huge scale because of the oil it produces, which provides a clean alternative fuel source. Bill Masen is a scientist who works at one of the “farms” where the triffids are grown, studying the plant to try to understand it better. His father, who he is estranged from, was the first person to fully realise the potential of the triffid to end the world’s energy crisis, but his mother, also a scientist, warned of the dangers. Her fears were not heeded and she was killed by a triffid when he was a young boy.

Masen is kept in hospital for observation and has gauze wrapped around his eyes following at accident at work. When he wakes up in the morning, he discovers that a spectacular solar event the previous evening has left everyone who watched it blind. He immediately realises the terrible danger posed if the triffids are able to escape from their confinement and when he encounters Jo Playton, a radio presenter who has also escaped becoming blinded, they join forces, but as anarchy takes over they have more than just triffids to worry about.


I first saw the 1962 film version of ‘The Day of the Triffids’ when I was a teenager and it immediately became a favourite film of mine. Although it has never been widely regarded with much affection and deviates quite a lot from the original source material (particularly the ending), I still remain very fond of it. I did subsequently read John Wyndham’s original novel, again when I was a teenager. I must admit not to be overly fond of Wyndham’s writing style, although I have also read two of his other most famous novels, ‘The Kraken Wakes’ and ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’. In 1981 the BBC adapted ‘The Day of the Triffids’ for television in six 25-minute segments. I am sure I must have watched it, but I remember nothing at all about it. The BBC has now made a new adaptation, this time in two 90-minute segments.

I chanced to read a review written by John Wollaston for The Guardian before I watched it. Wollaston wrote that Joely Richardson, who plays Jo Playton, “appears to have lost the ability to act.” That seems to be something that afflicts several of the actors here. Joely Richardson’s performance is a little odd in places. She seems to have gone for a naturalistic performance, but frequently her facial expressions are at odds with what is happening round her and the way in which we would perhaps expect her to be reacting. Dougray Scott’s portrayal of Bill Masen is stiff and expression-free, although he fares a little better in the action sequences. Eddie Izzard is a cartoon super-villain, seemingly plucked from another film altogether.

I thought the first 40 minutes or so of the opening episode were horrible, with a constant stream of irritating out of focus shots, slow motion sequences and painfully arty camera placement. However, matters had improved by the end of the opening 90 minutes and ultimately I quite enjoyed it, although it is of no great substance or quality. As has been mentioned in other reviews, Danny Boyle’s film ‘28 Days Later’ is a very obvious reference point.

The general consensus seems to be that the triffids are not scary. I would not disagree with that, but they are effective enough as far as it goes.

Review posted 4 January 2010


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