An animated film from 1986 shows exactly why nuclear bombs are so terrifying—and does so in the most unexpected ways. I’ve seen my fair share of horror films. I’ve seen things from real life that are scarier than most works of fiction. But by God, this is the kind of film you never forget.
When the Wind Blows would’ve passed my radar entirely if it wasn’t for a handful of animation circles I occasionally check up on. When it comes to disturbing animated films, most people think of The Black Cauldron, Coraline, or Watership Down. But with this fresh in my mind, it blows just about all those other films in its category right out of the water. Cute talking animals and all.
Anyway, let’s have a look into the film of discussion, aye?
Jim and Hilda are two English retirees, living in a cottage in the country. War with Russia seems imminent and Jim starts taking precautions against a nuclear attack. Remembering World War 2, Jim and Hilda staunchly believe that everything will be okay, even if nuclear weapons are involved. But will it?
To answer that question, the long and short of it is no, things will not fucking be okay. It isn’t really a spoiler, since you probably guessed already. I’d imagine most people these days would consider themselves dead if a nuclear bomb went off near them. But probably the most disturbing part of all is that Jim and Hilda believe they will be alright—just how many believed it would be during those times.
Okay. Small, painless history lesson:
During the Cold War, residents in the UK were given pamphlets informing them of the “best” ways to prepare in the event of a bomb dropping. Prior to this film, there was even a series of PSA animations broadcasting this information called Protect and Survive. In these animations, one of the things they tell you to do is build a shelter out of household doors and couch cushions. I’m not making this up. They told you it would be okay with doors and couch cushions.
What’s more disturbing, is that some people actually bought this (like Jim and Hilda do in our story.) They didn’t think a bomb was really that big a deal, and they’d trudge through like they did during WW2.
That element of reality is crucial to this storyline, and to me the point is obvious; as soon as there’s nuclear warfare involved, you’re pretty much fucked. Like a 98% guarantee with some change. What the government handed out to residents was pretty much lies of wishful thinking, and that’s what’s so frightening to me about this film. I’ve heard others say its message is focused on anti-war, but to me that feels like an over-simplification. When the Wind Blows is a hard dose of reality that goes straight to the bloodstream—a message that warns of blissful ignorance in a dire situation.
There isn’t much more to say about the plot. Jim and Hilda die slowly despite their efforts, and watching that was just as sickening and soul-crushing as I could’ve expected.
What makes it worse is the style of animation—something you would expect from a cheery show for kids. Jim and Hilda are two very endearing Brits, and their accents really don’t help. It would be a very nasty prank to show this film to someone who has no idea what they’re in for. Nasty, but reaction-worthy.
Really there isn’t anything bad I have to say about this film… Well, unless you count the disgusted feelings that lingered with me long after it was over, but that was pretty clearly the point. This is something to watch when you can stand disquiet and despair.
Overall: highly recommended. If you’re an animation junkie with a macabre bent, this is just the thing for you. If you want cute talking animals and happy endings, you’d best head the other way.
You can pick up a copy of the film by clicking the image above.
Thank you for reading this review. What’s your favorite disturbing animated film? Let me know in the comments below! And while you’re at it, follow my blog at the top of the sidebar to keep up with the latest posts when they come out. I’ve got some new fiction and other literary entertainment on the way very soon…