Australia; the land of sun and sea, of summer Christmas and backwards swirling toilets. You would be forgiven for thinking it was a dream-like paradise shorn from the imagination of God, but you would be wrong. You would be ignoring about the regular shark attacks, the irregular shark attacks, the thousands of snakes, spiders, outlaw cannibals, ex-pat convicts, washed-up soap stars, and Steve Irwin’s ghost. Yes, Australia may look pretty on the surface, but underneath it is a nightmare of Cthulu proportions which will swallow your body and soul within moments of you setting foot on its scorched earth if you aren’t armed with the responses of Royal Marine Commando who specializes in Ninja tactics. Basically, unless you ARE Steve Irwin, Australia will eat you up, and look what happened to him. Suffice to say, only the toughest or most foolhardy specimens dare to visit or emigrate the country which looks like an inverted pair of testicles from space.
Thanks to the internet, 24 hour news channels, and Neighbours, most people are aware of Australia’s dual charms and dangers. However, there is another place. A place which most people will not be as familiar with, a place whose varied dangers are inexplicably told only to those who already carve out a meager existence there, as a damning, sick reminder that you basically have no hope of getting through the day. As one of those people, and in the year where we celebrate the Centenary of the Titanic’s build and launch (yes, only our country would choose to celebrate something which caused so many deaths) I feel it is my duty to warn any potential guests to STAY AWAY from Northern Ireland.
Thankfully, those aforementioned reminders can serve me in my mission to save the lives of as many gap-year travellers, and folks on a pilgrimage who think they’re Irish because their great-grandparents came (escaped) from here at some point. If you have no interest in coming here then I applaud your wisdom and send you back to your cosy, sheltered existence, but if you are one of those people who has seen images of sweeping vistas of green land, ancient castles clinging on to cliffsides, or snug little pubs with jolly locals telling stories of giants and leprechauns and want a piece of it, let me remind you first that it wants a piece of you; so, pull up a swivel chair, cellotape back those eyelids, and prepare yourself for some unsavoury viewing. This is not for the faint of heart.
I feel like I should break you in easily with this one, as it points, more than anything else, towards the stupidity level of the people you may encounter here.
Now I’m sure some of you naysayers will be saying that you deal with stupid people on a daily basis, and that they are harmless, but would a harmless stupid person do this:
For those of you too lazy to click the link, the ad tells the joyous story of a computer generated arm returning to a clearly, still lit firework. The fact is, that you may be enjoying a cigarette outside one of those pubs you have fantasized about visiting and find that you left your lighter at the bar. So, knowing that the locals are friendly you ask for a light and one of these buffoons hands you firework with a millimeter of fuse left. As you feel your eyes melt down your face in the aftermath of the explosion, you’ll probably wonder why you were so stupid to ignore my advice. You will be dealing with morons and in a place where even the bushes try to eviscerate you.
You should respect the fact that these morons are not harmless, but as deadly as a grenade painted with a smiley face.
8. Prank Call
Now, I enjoy a good prank call as much as the next idiot, but here in Northern Ireland, we seem to have a bit of a fetish for it. According to the current Health and Public Safety Minister, these are costing us £3 million a year. That’s impressive for a country with a population of just over 1.5 million. It’s a well-known fact here that certain groups get entertainment out of calling the emergency services to send a patrol to a specific area, only for those emergency services to be attacked with bricks, bats, fists, bombs, and guns. Now, it isn’t just the Police who have to endure this sort of behaviour, it’s the fire and ambulance services too. Vehicles will arrive, promptly be set upon by masses of chimp-like youths, and will eventually be set on fire in some sort of bizarre pre-historic sacrificial ritual.
Those whose job it is to save lives will find themselves fighting for survival to escape being set alight too, as an added bonus. And it happens every. Single. Week. This advert is all the more horrific given the fact that we know those making the hoax call get so much delight out of their prank, that they will not be caught, that there’s little anyone will do to stop it, and that they will do it again.
On a similar, more embarrassing note, a recent series of shorts featuring CG characters barely capable of coherent speech has been plaguing the airwaves. You’ll notice with most of these adverts that they come with a tagline. Thee are usually cringe-inducing local lines given a new twist when set to the aftermath of something nasty. These ones simply have – Are we getting through? Well, no and you probably never well because as the lowest of us like to say ‘We’re not Brazil, we’re Northern Ireland…and we don’t give a fuck’!
You can take your pick of those, and there are plenty more. The fact that there are so many of those shorts is a pretty damning, honest indictment of an awfully common trope.
Unlike some of the commercials higher on the list, those which cover domestic abuse have so far failed to hit the terrible heights which leave us as trembling wrecks. A few come close, and don’t make pleasant viewing, but fall short of making a genuine impact due to some atrocious acting.
Take this first one; A Billy Mitchell-lite goon screams his partner onto the floor, while a child sits terrified on the stairs, before Mitchell spots the cameraman and chases us out of the house. Now, aside from looking like he would blow over if the child farted, or would get destroyed in an arm-wrestling match by Sweetchuck from Police Academy
The message is clear – abuse can happen behind any closed door, between any two people. Ironically (as this isn’t what they were going for), the ad conveys the fact that the abuser, often like the school bully, does not have to be large, muscular, or even remotely scary – they can be the quiet man, the small man, the business man, the neighbourhood joker, the elderly gardener, the nurse, the policeman, the bullied, the wife. It may be more powerful by outside viewers, but for a Northern Irish person, the abuser just reminds me of the wee scumbags you’ll see on any Saturday night, strutting all of his 10 stone stature around like he’s carrying two bags of spuds under his arms, only to run away and shout from three streets away at the first sniff of retribution.
The second commercial I’ll offer hits more of the right notes, being suitably chilling without actually showing anything graphic. It’s abuse through a child’s eyes, and doesn’t suffer from bad acting or insulting localisms.
Ah kids, love ’em or beat ’em, you can’t help but marvel at how much they pick up. What’s interesting is how the other family members react – the son seems passive, and reverts to watching TV, while mum stands in the background, looked both hurt, saddened, and scared. What I take from this is that she is more worried about getting another beating once dad finds out than the effect the abuse is having on her children. I’m sure this isn’t intended, but perhaps the commercial would have been more potent had they not shown mother or son at all. Still, it’s a dark, and necessary glimpse into an all too common problem.
6. 2012 – year of culture
I’m guessing some of you braver folks are giggling in your shirts rather than quaking in your boots at this point. So how about something a bit more visceral?
This advert is the most recent from our famous Driving Safety advertisement board and it appears to target everyone from students on their way to class, children playing football, city workers, pensioners, and people simply trying to make it home alive from the shops. The advert is ironically called ‘Just Because’ a title chilling in its apathy; you’re laughing with your mates but suddenly get crushed into teenage pizza-why!? Just because. You’re jogging down the road whilst looking like Cordelia Chase
but get wiped out in a cloud of gore- why, Lord, why!? Just because. You want to make drivers and pedestrians more aware of what is going on around them, but make yet another excessively graphic advert and inadvertently scare us into staying indoors and lobbing petrol bombs at any cars which pass within a hundred yards of our homes – for the love of all that is holy, why!? JUST BECAUSE.
In keeping with the theme of car massacres, I would like to present some of the shorter ads we have produced over the years. Northern Ireland has a history of high road accidents and fatalities, and an equally long history of adverts warning us of the dangers of being a driver, passenger, cyclist, human. In my inadequate and drunken research for this article (Rum and Buckfast combo) I couldn’t find some of the better remembered ads from my youth, proving conclusively that someone must have stolen the originals, and all copies, and buried them in a piranha infested lava pit somewhere below the Ardyone. Luckily for this article, the DOE are still producing enough shorts to make us choke on our spuds as they pop up unexpectedly between halves of Coronation Street.
The first one isn’t too graphic, but does remind us that if (or more likely when) we hit a motorcyclist, that it isn’t just a loner biker that we’ve ticked off our bucket list, but that other family members and friends are impacted just as strongly. Fair enough, until BAM, the shot of a biker’s head falls into view, his lifeless eyes firing so many guilt arrows at us.
The next short starts innocently enough with a man and woman enjoying a pre-orgasm, and apparently psychic, drink together. The man sets his car keys on the bar and the woman gives him a ‘not tonight’ look for no apparent reason. We are to understand that the fact he has keys on his person means that yes, he will be getting bladdered and attempting to drive home. The woman disdainfully projects images of suffering into his brain, and joy of joys, we get to experience them too. Naturally it’s all R rated stuff; two shrieking men trapped in the wrecked shell of a car, covered in blood and glass shards, while a fire officer wonders which one to ‘cut out first’; a maimed female attempts her first gruelling steps after an apocalyptic injury; an elderly couple struggle to decide who will look after their zombie son after they are gone (presumably this is not a typical zombie-bullet-head-scenario); two police offers despair over how to break the news of a child’s death to a parent. It goes on like this to the gentle strains of a woman singing ‘just one look’ until the man decides to put his beer away. He gets some poontang, and we can all move on with our lives, trembling ever onwards.
The final short is one which I remember being forced upon school children. As if exams, bullies, teachers, and forbidden breasts weren’t enough to contend with, pupils had to be reminded about the true evils of texting and heterosexual relationships. Not stubby fingers, or teenage pregnancy, hell, not even STDs. No, mobile phones will kill us all because of their ability to suck us into a Final Destination zone of traffic blindness. One step onto the street without giving a look both ways will see you struck head-first by a blue van and sent flapping through the air with a QWOP leg hanging uselessly to the side.
As amusing as this was when we first watched it, time has a habit of letting these images creep up on you, so that before long you’re leaving the house with a carrier pigeon for communication instead of a phone, and a suit of armour instead of vintage shirt and tie.
Do we really need the explosion of gore from the boy’s mouth? Was it necessary to show the grim funeral march aftermath, accompanied by jolly 1950s pop rock? You decide, I’ll hide.
As an interesting bonus, this short was featured heavily on NI television, although it originated in England. It’s one for you fans of Asian-style ghost children, with snapped bones and limbs re-adjusting, or those who simply get a kick out of watching dead children sliding gently backwards up a concrete minefield. Sweet dreams:
Naturally, there are more, but I’m starting to feel ill. For some truly harrowing stuff, visit http://www.crashedlives.com/ which features adverts (shown on tv frequently) which are basically interviews with the parents of the recently deceased.
4. Fire Safety
Lets take a well deserved break from the streets and focus on the dangers we face indoors. One of the few lessons I remember from primary school was that woolen jumpers stick well to brick walls, especially if you throw them high enough. Another lesson I remember is never leaving a chip pan unattended, because that will ALWAYS end in choking, smoking, burning death. There are a whole host of these adverts, stretching back as far as I can remember, but the DOE really hit their stride when they announced their catchy Just Do It Nike –esque catchphrase for their Fire Safety Adverts. ‘You forgot the battery, mummy’ has been lurking around billboards and interrupting dinner time for over a decade now, in ads like: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmVU0mm9fwI
or this one, where Daddy gets the blame:
or this one, where every possible Summer treat is shown to be a gateway to hell:
However, the one I want to focus on is probably the most famous, featuring a Beetlejuice-type afterlife waiting room, where victims of fire or smoke are mocked by a ghoulish receptionist. The only thing more horrific than the acting is the content:
Number 3: Teens, walls, legs, heads.
Leaving the fires behind, it’s time to heat things up for the top 3. And to that there is only one possibly course of action- to return to what we do best- film irritating youths getting pointlessly mutilated for our own entertainment.
Ok, I’ll admit I’m cheating a little with this one, because it’s actually two. But there is so much horror out there that I feel a duty to share as much of it as possible with you. There are quite a few similarities with this one – both feature teens getting wiped out, both feature pumping soundtracks (to appeal to the kids who like their scenes of death peppered with pop hits?) and both feature concrete wall cuddling. I’ll be the first, and probably last, to admit that here in Northern Ireland there aren’t too many places where two teens can show affection towards each other, and even though I’ve had my fair share of embraces outside a random countryside house, I don’t think it’s the norm. Anyway, all of that is simply set to contrast with the blood and guts.
Now, there’s no messing around with this one – we get about 4 seconds of plot – girl wraps legs around boy in loving road-side-top-of-wall embrace – and 1 minute of shrieking horror as boy is hammered into oblivion by somersaulting car.
The second begins in a similar fashion, with another slice of brick wall, country-lovin’. We know things won’t end well when the lovebirds neglect to clunk-click in the back seat. You may think that you could get away with a minor lapse in concentration, but not here in NI, where BMW drivers like to drive at high-speed up the middle of the road instead of keeping to their own lanes. Cue thirty seconds of slowed-down, ballet carnage, as skulls mash brains, faces erupt windows, a random third car arrives to make the only threesome in history no-one wants to be part of, and we’re left with the cosy image of bodies snuggled up in the back of an ambulance. And it wouldn’t be complete without the ironic strains of Samantha Mumba’s Body To Body.
Number 2. Boy, fence
As if those weren’t bad enough, one advert caused a public-kiss-between-homosexuals level of controversy when it was first shown pre-watershed (note, only idiots would be offended by a public kiss between homosexuals, but those who complained about this ad were arguably justified). As with most of these ads, viewer discretion is advised, but this one comes with a special warning due to its refusal to self-censor. This is a brilliantly made piece, a high-budget, clarity-inducing, thought-provoking sixty-something seconds, but you’ll likely only be able to stomach it once.
Like a few others on the list, it lulls the viewer in gently with an idyllic scene, and has a prominent soundtrack. Viewers are known to immediately switch over as soon as they hear the opening notes of the song which is played in the background, I dread to think what would happen if the song was played on the radio whilst driving. Actually, maybe that would be an effective deterrent. Anyway, we see a boy playing football in his back garden juxtaposed with a man finishing a football match with his mates. Everything is going well until this happens:
You can imagine what the rest of the commercial covers. For those moments when you get distracted or pissed off driving home, you owe it to yourselves to at least watch this one.
Number 1. Cats in the cradle
I feel like this post has been a little too focused on car crashes, but that will all change with our number 1 choice. For those of you outside of Northern Ireland, you probably associate the country with years of war and violence rather than abuse, fire safety, and road disasters. For those of you from Northern Ireland, over the age of twenty, you probably knew what the number 1 choice would be as soon as you saw the name of the post. Now, I know that many of you probably just scanned this post and didn’t watch all of the videos, but I implore all of you to watch this mini-epic – show it to your family, show it to your friends. Although time has moved on, and we are largely a Troubles free country (at least when compared to the past) the message is still relevant, powerful, and can really be played in any country with a history of violence. All inappropriate humour aside, it’s the single greatest thing Northern Ireland has ever produced. You’d be best avoiding the comments on this one, or any of the other uploads (finding a decent quality version is difficult), of the same commercial that you find, as they will present some of the most dire voices ever given breath.
So maybe now you’ll think twice about coming over? No? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you 🙂
Thanks to the makers of The Simpsons, Police Academy, The NI DOE, and all the groups who created these adverts for much more than puerile entertainment purposes.
Here’s a compilation: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hRTm0L7FNJc
(Note: originally written in 2012)