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The Columnist
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            Occasionally my 14-year-old son and I watch spoof horror films together. This is because he really prefers full strength horror films, so he likes to relax once in a while with something a little weaker. In my case, it's because I can't take full strength horror films, and spoof horror is about as horrible as I like anything. His mild is my scary.
            "Tremors" was one of the first low tar horror films we sat through together. It told the story of a small town American community decimated by an attack of huge worms, which travelled underground at great speed and suddenly burst out of the earth and killed the less sympathetic characters or worst actors.    
            More recently we have been to see the new film, "Eight-Legged Freaks", which tells the story of a small town American community decimated by an attack of huge spiders, which are as big as the worms in "Tremors" and even faster. (That must be really scary for an American, to be chased by something which is as fast as your car. And doesn't use petrol. )
            I enjoyed both of them because they were well made, and because in real life I am not scared of either worms or spiders. If I were ever to make a horror film, spoof or otherwise, it wouldn't be them, or giant rats, or ants, or flies, which I would use as the villains.
            It would be brambles.
            I have been watching brambles recently, and I am convinced that if anything is waiting to take over the earth, it is the lowly bramble.
            I was looking at a field this morning and gained the vague impression that it was smaller than it was the last time I came past. And it was. A ten yard strip all round it had been encroached on by brambles. Slowly, slowly, catchee meadow. Brambles don't make the mistake of bounding round the country like giant spiders or worms, and thus catching people's attention. They move very slowly. And yet I once saw a David Attenborough programme in which he showed us speeded up film of brambles growing, at a tremendous rate, and you could see that these things can do several inches in a day.
            That's all they need.
            To take over.
            Of course, by producing white blossom in summer and later succulent blackberries, they manage to persuade us that they are really loveable little creatures. But they are not. They are evil. They send little scouts ahead into our gardens to infiltrate them. They put their roots down at every opportunity, like Israeli settlers going into occupied territory. They spread undergound, like moles. They try to choke country footpaths even more avidly than Nicholas von Hogstraten or the average farmer does. They scratch us, and cut us, and fill our teeth full of pips, and stain our favourite clothes with purple streaks, which won't come out...
            There is a field next to us which runs alongside a railway line. On our side of the fence it is all grass, cropped close by sheep and cows in summer. On the other side of the fence it is a jungle, all rosebay willow herb and dog roses and, mostly, brambles. The brambles come right up to the fence and crush against it, like football supporters on a cup-tie day. If you look into the brambles, low down, it is so thick in there that it is quite dark, even in bright sunlight. It is sinister. It is evil.
            When I retreat to a safe distance I see people standing up at the fence, reaching up to the brambles and picking blackberries. They think they look picturesque. "Country Folk Picking Blackberries: A Peaceful Scene". But that's not what I see. I see people putting their heads into the jaws of the enemy. I see people dicing with death. I want to scream to them: ‘Get away before the brambles get you!’.
            I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that I have seen too many low-grade horror movies. Well, perhaps I have, and perhaps I haven't. But one thing I do know. In all those films there is one character who sees what is happening while the others are all blithely getting on with life, walking towards their doom, and they never believe his warnings, and he can never persuade them that they are in danger until it is almost too late.
            I know how he feels now.
            Next time you go down a path, and feel something catch at your legs, and you look down, and say, ‘Heavens, don't these brambles grow fast, ha ha ha’, remember what I said.
Footnote:  I am now working on a horror movie script in which all humans are eliminated and giant intelligent brambles take over the world. Just as soon as they have evolved their own technology, a spaceship containing human colonists returns from space only to find that Cape Kennedy is now a huge briar patch. Little suspecting that they are being watched by hostile brambles, they get out of their ship, when suddenly...
            That's all I'm telling you. Potential investors can hear more. Let's see the colour of your money first...

The Independent  Aug 31 02

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