Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Steven Quale
Stars: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callie, Matt Walsh, Jeremy Sumpter, Max Deacon, Nathan Kress, Alycia Debnam Carey, Arlen Escarpata, Lee Whitaker, Jon Reep, Scott Lawrence, David Drumm, Kyle Davis.
The more cynically inclined will quickly dismiss this as Twister 2 with a largely no-name cast and employing the found footage aesthetic. But Into The Storm is steeped in the tradition of those classic disaster movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, etc, and it even draws upon the established template of the genre and combines it with the hand held camera work that worked so effectively in Cloverfield.
As an unprecedented tornado wreaks havoc on Silverton, a small midwest town, this disaster film follows three separate groups into the maelstrom. Into The Storm follows the three groups as they film events as they unfold, which gives the action a sense of immediacy and also takes the audience right into the thick of the action.
A group of storm chasers and documentary filmmakers, armed to the teeth with lots of high tech gear and driving the indestructible vehicle known as the Titus, have spent the hurricane season unsuccessfully trying to film tornadoes and get footage from the centre of the storm. The leader of the group is the determined and driven Pete (Matt Walsh, from Veep, etc), who is growing frustrated with their lack of success. He is tiring of the predictions of meteorologist Allison Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies, from The Walking Dead, etc) which have often led them in the wrong direction. But more by good luck than anything else they find themselves in downtown Silverton as the mother of all tornadoes strikes.
Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage, from The Hobbitt trilogy, etc) is the widowed assistant principal of the local high school who seems to have become consumed by work and has grown apart from his two teenaged sons Trey (Nathan Kress) and Donnie (Max Deacon, from I, Anna, etc). He is busy with preparing for the graduation day ceremonies, and reluctantly agrees to let Donnie film the event for a time capsule project he is working on.
And then there are the two self styled redneck adventurers Reevis and Donk (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) who are pursuing You Tube fame by filming themselves embarking on a series of harebrained Jackass style stunts. When they spot the stormchasers, they hit on the crazy idea of driving into the heart of the storm themselves for an epic video stunt. Their characters may be self destructive and stupid and grating, but they bring a touch of welcome humour to the material.
Writer Jon Swetnam (the little seen horror film Evidence, and the upcoming dance movie Step Up All In, etc) takes many of the familiar tropes of the disaster genre – the catastrophic carnage befalling a town, the race against time to save loved ones trapped in a dangerous environment, characters willing to make sacrifices to save the lives of others, and lots of personal stories – and weaves them into a series of cliched scenarios.
Director Steven Quale is a long time associate of James Cameron and has worked as a visual effects supervisor on films like Avatar and Titanic, so he obviously knows his stuff. But he also directed films like Final Destination 5 and he does a good job of maintaining a fairly frantic pace throughout the film’s brisk and brief 89 minutes. The subplot involving Fuller and his two sons adds an emotional heft to the material. But for the most part, the characters are one dimensional, cliched and forgettable, and it is hard to care for them.
The film’s meagre budget can be seen writ large on the screen. The special effects that create the CGI tornadoes here are quite good, and they recreate the intense path of destruction the tornadoes wreak on the small town, ripping buildings apart, tossing vehicles around easily, and even lifting a couple of jet airliners into the maelstrom. This is Twister on steroids, although it may not quite blow you away in quite the same way. Into The Storm uses a faux-documentary style, involving lots of hand held camera work, which takes us into the middle of the action and gives the material a sense of immediacy, but is occasionally nausea-inducing. The eardrum busting soundscape, courtesy of the Dolby Atmos sound system, is brutally effective as the winds howl and the storms rage around the audience.
Having helmed Final Destination 5, which used the 3D process, it is remarkable that Quale resisted the temptation to film Into The Storm in 3D. There have been many other recent films that have unnecessarily used the retrofitted 3D process; but if ever a film could have used 3D effectively it is surely Into The Storm. Imagine the type of debris that could have been thrown at the audience and have them ducking in their seats!