16 May 2018



'They did it to us first...'

'This is the beginning of the end.'

'We are slowly building towards something that could go nuclear and global.'

'Strength enough to bomb and kill innocent people is not strength at all. It's weakness.'

'You can't fight nuclear without nuclear. It kind of levels the playing field.'

'Tell her Happy Birthday but, between you and me, I'm not sure how happy it was.'

'Attack in progress. Attack in progress. Attack in progress...'

I love a nice nuclear war film, because like everyone else I like to be scared silly by the thought of things that couldn't possibly ever happen here. Right? Well, they couldn't, could they? Never in this world, I say, as Master-Butcher Fred Elliott from CORONATION STREET might say. Never in this world...

My favourite of all the nuclear war films I've seen thus far is actually an animated one, WHEN THE WIND BLOWS from 1986, based on the drawings and writings of Raymond Briggs. He's the bloke who's to blame for bringing perennial teenage warbler Aled Jones to the forefront of our minds every Christmas since the year dot, lol.

We might look at WHEN THE WIND BLOWS again a little later on, but for now let me tell you about SUNSET, a film that reminds me a lot of the Raymond Briggs classic because it has as its protagonists an elderly couple, Henry and Patricia, although they're American rather than British.

The film opens with some of Henry and Patricia's chums getting together at the couple's home to celebrate Patricia's birthday. Though she's probably pushing seventy, she's still a real looker with her silver-blonde hair, good bone structure and top-notch gleaming white gnashers.

The guest list is as follows. There's Julian, an old friend and possibly an old flame of Patricia's, who doesn't get on too well with Henry. That's understandable enough, given that he's most likely an old boyfriend, maybe one who got thrown over for Henry. You can tell that he's still devoted to Patricia though, and cares deeply for her opinions and welfare.

There's Ayden and Breyanna (that spelling is, like, waaay bogus, dudes...!), a power couple who have all the material trappings of a good life but can't have children together, which is sad. Ayden is a financial analyst and super-confident with it, but you can see that Breyanna is troubled somewhat in her mind.

That leaves Chris, an extraordinary character by anyone's standards. He's a middle-aged man who wears a baseball cap like a ten-year-old boy and has his own room in Henry and Patricia's house. He likes dance music and he has his own You-tube channel where he shoots the breeze with his subscribers. As he says himself, all two of 'em, lol.

The startlingly blue-eyed Chris works with Henry as a helper in Henry's carpentry business. Why is he so close to the elderly couple? Well, they took him in a few years back when he was down on his luck and now he's like the son they never (I think they never) had. As Henry puts
it: 'You're like this bizarre man-child I never signed up to have.'

Chris reminds me a bit of the one-off character Andy Hamilton in THE SIMPSONS, a sort of overgrown schoolboy type who wears his baseball cap backwards and still carries a live frog and a catapult in his pocket. Chris might seem at first like one of life's losers, but his love for Henry and Patricia is genuine and it's obviously reciprocated. He really got lucky when he met them.

Anyway, the talk of the party is the recent rogue nuclear attack on Los Angeles from somewhere in 'the Middle East,' though it's not specified which part. Henry is all for 'Murica's fighting back, retaliating with more power, more force, but Julian thinks that, once they start down the road of payback, there'll be no going back.

Not long after the party, the worst (nearly) happens. The words you never want to hear- 'This is an emergency broadcast-' are heard. A nuclear attack is threatened for the New York Metropolitan area. The government have called for the immediate evacuation of the entire East Coast.

The radio and television warn folks about the dangers of nuclear fallout: vomiting, convulsions, internal bleeding and hair loss, amongst others. Oh lovely. So, if the bomb doesn't kill you, there's a high chance you'll die from this other stuff. Sweeeeeeet...

The news of the impending attack affects our protagonists in different ways. Each one of them is faced with the same choice. Get in the car and drive far, far away, along with the millions of other people who are panicking on the over-crowded roads right now, or stay at home and possibly die there...

It's a really good talking point, is this. I'd be all for staying home for the Big Bang, if the soaps and THE X FACTOR were still on 't' telly and you could get still Pringles and wine and stuff from the shops. If it were a case of having to start a new life over again from scratch somewhere else, though, I'd be hopeless.

I'd probably do what Bart and Homer Simpson do when they're in a rocket-ship heading to a new planet which will be peopled mainly with the Z-list 'celebrities' of the world. I'd press the 'eject' button and steer myself sharpish towards the sun, lol.

The film examines the choices open to the protagonists and tackles some of peoples' worries and concerns, big and small. Such as, what if someone breaks into my home and squats there while I'm gone? After all, 'people are stealing and murdering and breaking into peoples' homes.' Well, 'desperate situations bring out the worst in people.'

What if you leave and get killed? What if you stay and get killed? Henry and Patricia, Ayden and Breyanna, Julian and Chris all have their choices to make in this excellent 'end of the world' movie. It's a moving imagining of what might happen if, God forbid, ordinary people like ourselves were ever put in this earth-shattering situation. Let's hope it never happens.

'As far as I'm concerned, the world can go any which way it wants, as long as we're together.'

The award-winning film SUNSET is set to release on Amazon, I-tunes, X-box, Google Play, DVD and more.
Sunset - starring Austin Pendleton (A Beautiful Mind, My Cousin Vinny)
Written and Directed By Jamison M. LoCascio (Award-winning writer/director of "the Depths")
Story:  A  diverse group of people grapple with the imminent probability of a nuclear strike on the east coast.

---Official Selection Manhattan Film Festival 2018
----Winner Best Ensemble: Los Angeles Film Awards 2018
----Nominated: Best Feature Film Miami Independent Film Festival 2018
----Official Selection Los Angeles Cinefest 2018

By the way, here's an extract from my review of WHEN THE WIND BLOWS that makes me think of SUNSET. Both films are poignant and tremendously moving and each involves older people being confronted with something they never even thought possible in their own lifetimes.

'Jim starts to ready the house for the possibility of a nuclear strike, 'just in case,' as per the instructions issued in the 'governmental directive,' the one piece of information available to them on what to do in the event of a nuclear strike.

The film makes its point very well here. The fact that this governmental pamphlet is 'the maximim protection afforded to the populace' is nothing short of terrifying. Nothing in it turns out to be of any real use to anyone.

The worst happens and the 'bomb' hits England. It's a million times worse than the hurricane in 'THE WIZARD OF OZ.' A terrific shock strikes Jim and Hilda's little house, while they tremble inside the makeshift shelter Jim has constructed, the 'inner core or refuge as per the governmental directive.' When they emerge two days later, it's to a much changed world. Life as they know it has been decimated utterly.

Their house is trashed, the countryside has been burned up and all their services, utilities and communication systems have been destroyed, along with all the people who provide them. There's no clean water to drink, fresh food to eat or even unpoisoned air to breathe.

Jim keeps telling Hilda that the emergency services will roll into action at any moment, just like they did in World War Two, and then they'll both be saved.

The saddest thing about this film is the way that both Jim and Hilda look back so fondly on World War Two and imagine that all they'll have to do to beat this new threat is to roll up their sleeves, tighten their belts, put their shoulders to the wheel and their noses to the grindstone.

Just like they did in the good old days of the Blitz, see? They fondly imagine that there'll be rationing, a few evacuations ('Kids from London seeing cows for the first time!'), Anderson and Morrison bomb shelters, of which they have fond memories, and maybe a curfew and a few black-outs. Jim might even have to be an air-raid warden wearing a hard hat and carrying a little flashlight.

They look back fondly on Stalin ('Uncle Joe...!'), Churchill, Field-Marshal Monty Montgomery and even mean ornery old Adolf Hitler, saying nostalgically and without a trace of irony that 'you knew where you were with those guys.' Jim admits openly to not having a clue who the big guys of today are. The big personalities of World War Two were quite possibly never to be repeated. Indeed, they were one-offs rather, weren't they?

The point of the film is that Jim and Hilda, who stand as metaphors for their entire country, have no idea whatsoever what a nuclear strike against them will actually entail. As they try to cope with the treacherously invisible nuclear fallout, unaware that they're dying slowly from radiation poisoning, they apply the now wholly defunct principles of World War Two to this new situation. The woeful inadequacy of these old principles, and their total inability to be adapted to suit this new and deadlier kind of warfare, is plain for the viewer to see.'


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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