I have a long-standing fear of one particular creation of H.G. Wells: War of the Worlds. By this I don’t mean I saw the 50s film once and it spooked me, or I heard Richard Burton’s intro to the Jeff Wayne musical version and felt the willies up my spine (gaaaaay). No, I have heard, seen and read it in just about all of its forms and every single one of them scares me. They scared me as a child, they scared me as a teen and they scare me now. But I love them for it – they’re one of the few things I actually like being scared by, massive pansy that I am.
The first thing I saw of the story was the 1953 film. I knew it was a tame sci-fi horror film, suitable for showing at 3pm on a lazy Sunday, but that never stopped the noise the Martian war machines make from shitting me up no end. A video game used the same sound – Psi Ops – and managed to spook me like a bugger. The scene where the Martian comes into the house the main characters are hiding in still makes me check behind me every time I get the thought of the film in my head, and I doubt it will ever stop. But I still love it dearly.
My next exposure was the Jeff Wayne musical version, which we were made to listen to at primary school for a class project we were doing. We had a damn cool teacher. The music is sometimes good, sometimes disco and sometimes pretty damn spooky (and the less said about the “oolah” noise the aliens make, the more likely I am to be able to sleep tonight), but it’s in Richard Burton’s narration that the thing really shits you up. Try to listen to his description of the red weed and not feel it physically crawling over your body; listen to how you truly feel for the refugees watching Thunder Child – their first brief glimmer of hope – sink before their very eyes. It’s brilliant.
The book, I have never read – bar excerpts – but it has now been ordered from Amazon. The radio broadcast by Orson Welles and co., that famously scared the shit out of America, is brilliant. Less scary than I find the other things though, I have to admit.
Even the Spielberg one scares me, though admittedly that is solely because Tom Cruise is in it.
I think it’s obvious why the whole thing gets me though: the thought of being utterly, completely and totally powerless to stop someone or something encroaching on and destroying your way of life. It’s something you can apply to any facet of your existence, and not just when you hypothesise about the chances of anything coming from Mars*.
*A million to one, they said.