– Summary –
Director : Steven Quale
Year Of Release : 2014
Principal Cast : Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpter, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Kyle Davis, Scott Lawrence, Jon Reep.
Approx Running Time : 89 Minutes
Synopsis: On the day of school’s graduation, a massive superstorm hits the small town of Silverton. Cameras are there to record it.
What we think : A semi-found footage film that’s big on effects, low on quality storytelling? Kick my nuts and call me unconscious, that’s a surprise! Wow! Into The Storm is requisite build up, generic characters, flawed logic, and a thunderous surround audio mix, but it’s a storm in a teacup (heh) when it comes to dramatic material. Frankly, I’d rather be getting a vasectomy than endure this again.
There’s no flying cows here.
I was gonna spend the opening paragraph of this review writing about how awesome Twister was when it first came out, how it cemented by love of cinema and forever hooked me into the medium of film (and, later, film review), but I’m tired of comparative reviews. Trying to compare Twister with this equally stormy movie, about giant tornadoes hitting a high school graduation (or whatever) is like comparing John Carpenter’s Halloween, and Rob Zombie’s Halloween, expecting there to be similarities. Into The Storm is a film about tornadoes, sure, but it’s a far cry from the fun and adventure of Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt (in that awesome white singlet) chasing down the most mysteriously misunderstood of weather patterns. Into The Storm relies less on science and more on sheer spectacle and terror, and I’ll be honest, it doesn’t always succeed in either case. It’s a film of the “found footage” variety (in parts, plenty of it is made the traditional way), so if you made it past that statement without rolling your eyes and clicking off to another website, stick around and I’ll tell you what you’re missing.
Synopsis courtesy Wikipedia: In the town of Silverton, Oklahoma, the local high school senior class is preparing for graduation. The high school’s vice-principal, Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage), has asked his two sons, Trey (Nathan Kress) and Donnie (Max Deacon), to record messages from the seniors for a time capsule to be opened in 25 years. Elsewhere, Pete (Matt Walsh), a veteran storm chaser, has been attempting to intercept and film tornadoes using a heavily armored vehicle nicknamed Titus, but has come up short all year long. Upon learning of a major line of developing storms, Pete and meteorologist Kitten Stone (Sarah Wayne Callies) confer and decide to head for Silverton in hopes of filming tornadoes. After arriving in Silverton, the team discovers that the cell they had been chasing has dissipated, upsetting Pete. As the team reconvenes to determine its next move, the Silverton cell abruptly strengthens, resulting in a hailstorm and tornado. As the team films, the funnel abruptly shifts course and heads for the high school. Aaaaaaaaaand there’s windy destruction.
Into The Storm has many problems, most of which revolve around the fact that none of the characters are memorable in any way, and the dialogue is horrendous. Not even Richard Armitage’s school vice-principal manages to eke out anything other than “gruff widowed father searching for his son”, a cinematic cliche mined to extinction across multitudinous genre films and now regurgitated here in a mostly forgettable manner. The writing on Into The Storm is largely risible, John Swetnam’s script borders on execrable when Armitage’s “authority figure” is on the screen, and the chemistry between most of the characters is clunky and awkward. It’s like a bunch of chess pieces shuffled into position just to capture the visual effects, rather than organic exploration of dramatic momentum. I’m pretty sure “are you seeing this?” is on track to overtake the Wilhelm Scream as Hollywood’s most overused generic sound bite.
As stiflingly poor as the writing is, the film is built around the astonishingly decent CG effects and destruction. Twister looks positively antiquated next to Storm’s dynamic trickery, as if somebody finally deduced the correct way to computer animate fast moving wind. Storm’s action sequences are plentiful, particularly as the storms converge on Silverton – perhaps the unluckiest American town in the history of tornadoes – and the destruction is on a scale I don’t think we’ve seen outside a Roland Emmerich film. Silverton is all but leveled by a series of increasingly powerful twisters (because that’s the way nature works, right, as if life was a movie?) and as our characters shuffle between disaster and catastrophe they’re caught either right in the middle, or on the periphery watching on, all delivered in glorious high definition.
Into The Storm’s style is a mixture of traditional camerawork and “found footage” handycam stuff, which is weird because a lot of the characters spend a great deal of time being filmed holding up a variety of cameras – prosumer, camcorder, phone, etc – through which “footage” of the storms and their destructive capacity. It’s a unique yet redundant style. If you’re going to show us phone footage of a storm, while simultaneously filming the people doing the filming, why not just show us the storm the traditional way? Why use “found footage” as a conceit at all? That aside, the film looks spectacular, and the camerawork and its insistent shaky-cam manner isn’t as frustratingly fragmented as that style often is. Kudos to DP Brian Pearson that Into The Storm is a crisp as it is considering the airborne detritus often showering the screen (particularly in the latter half).
Into The Storm is a film lacking in humor – aside from a pair of redneck wannabe YouTube stars, the film lacks graceful humor in the face of plentiful carnage. No, there’s no flying cows or subtle irony to be found here (remember that moment in Twister where Paxton and Hunt raced into a local farmer’s barn for cover, only to find it filled with metallic cutting implements? There’s none of that cleverness in this movie.) and the race to fill it with windy destruction means any dramatic beats become lost amidst Brian Tyler’s thunderous score. Also, somebody should be locked up for assault, because the sound design on this film is akin to physically being beaten by sonics. Yet as much as you could consider this film a middling B-movie ride of epic effects and production design, the shoddy writing and destitute characterizations limit its impact.
I enjoyed this stupid movie but I won’t watch it again. It’s probably a worthwhile demo movie for anyone with a decent home cinema system (although there are better movies worth showing people as a demo) but as I watched it unspool I felt my intelligence being mildly insulted. One could ask a summer effects film to focus just a little more on its characters, perhaps make them a little less cliched and a whole lot more believable (if not unpredictable!), and have a concern for the people we’re supposed to be behind, but Into The Storm isn’t an example of that expectation being met. It’s silly, it’s stupid, and it’s crazy visually, and on some weird voyeuristic level, it’s worth a look if only for the effects, but aside from that Into The Storm is a forgettable disaster flick that is all bang, no buck, and plenty of drizzle.