If you don’t count any of ones that have appeared on the SyFy Channel over the years, it has actually been quite a while since we had a tornado themed film in the cinema. Last one I can think of was definitely the 1996 Jan de Bont directed film TWISTER, which starred Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. It wasn’t a great film by any means, but it was still quite a very enjoyable one nonetheless (the CGI tornado effects at the time were amazing). Now 18 years Hollywood has unleashed a new tornado themed film onto cinema screens in the form of INTO THE STORM. So what did I think of it? Read on and find it!
Set during the course of one day, the film follows the lives a group of people from different walks of life whose lives are changed on day when a cluster of violent tornadoes descend upon the small town of Silverton. However when widowed high school vice principal Gary Fuller (Richard Armitage) discovers that one of his two sons is trapped at an abandoned paper mill with a friend, he teams up with a group of storm chasers/documentarians (lead by both Sarah Wayne & Matt Walsh) and two redneck YouTube obsessed daredevils (Kyle Davis, Jon Reep) to go rescue them. Along the way, everyone documents the events as they happen with their video cameras.
I should state that what makes this film different from TWISTER, is that it was shot in the found footage style. Since I’ve stated many times in the past (either in other reviews or on Super Podcast) that I’m a fan of found footage films, I knew his one would be right up my alley. Another reason that it peaked my interest was that directed by Steven Quale, who previously made the surprisingly good FINAL DESTINATION 5 (which was a true return to form for the series after the terrible THE FINAL DESTINATION). So with all those elements, I thought that the film would at lest be a fun good time. Unfortunately, the combination of all these elements doesn’t really work at all and the end result was pretty bad. Plus it doesn’t help that may be one of the stupidest films that I’ve seen so far in 2014. While I enjoy mindless dumb films as much as the next person, but this one was so stupid that I actually shook my head many times as I was watching it. It had the potential to be a silly fun film, but what stops it from being that three things: the found footage style, the performances and the script.
Even though I am a fan of found footage films and while the film does come up with some good excuses as to why the characters are shooting everything (The storm chasers are documenting their adventures, Fuller’s teenage sons are amateur filmmakers etc.), unfortunately the use of it here was really pointless. The visual look of the film was way too slick and polished to be believable as a found footage film. Plus it stretches plausibility when during some scenes where the characters wouldn’t still be using cameras because of the situation they are in, but they still do anyway (which I found rather frustrating). This is a film that would have worked better if it was shot in a traditional way instead of doing it in the found footage style, which added nothing to it and it just feels like a lazy filmmaking choice.
The cast try their best but sadly nearly all of them give poor to awful performances, especially the younger actors (Nathan Kress, who plays Fuller’s son Trey, and Alycia Debham-Carey, who plays Trey’s love interest Kaitlyn, were particularly awful). It doesn’t help that the characters weren’t interesting and the relationships between some of them were absolutely clichéd and half-baked. I was really surprised how utterly bland Richard Armitage was in the film. He has such a commanding presence as “Thorin” in THE HOBBIT films but unfortunately, there was none of that here at all (also his American was shaky as well). Also the two redneck characters (played by Kyle Davis & Jon Reep) were really annoying and they didn’t contribute much to the film other being unfunny comic relief side characters. The only person in the whole film who actually gives a remotely convincing performance is Sarah Wayne Callies (from the TV show THE WALKING DEAD), who does a solid job with her role. Also the script is badly written and clichéd (particularly when I comes to the character development), the dialogue is terrible, Bryan Tyler’s score is forgettable and there a lot of really dumb moments.
Now where there any aspects of the film that I actually did like? Surprising there were some things about it that did save it from being truly terrible. Even though I had a lot of problems with the found footage style used in this film, but I still that thought that director Steven Quale still a pretty decent job with his direction here. On a technical level the film looks visually fantastic and the sound design is incredible, it makes you feel like you are there in the mist of this chaos. Also the action set pieces where we see tornadoes causing so much destruction were really well done and thrilling, particularly during the film’s climax (the CGI effects in this film were terrific, particularly the scene with the ‘fire tornado’). They do sometimes get a little ridiculous at times, but they are quite fun. I had laugh during one scene where two category 5 tornadoes came together to form a… Wait for it… A super tornado! Quale definitely learned a thing or two from his mentor James Cameron on how to create a memorable set piece.
So overall while INTO THE STORM does deliver in some aspects on the technical level, unfortunately it’s still a pretty bad film that’s let down by some really awful performances and a really dump clichéd script (the SHARKNADO films have better acting than this film does). If you are vaguely interested in checking it out anyway, wait until it comes out on DVD/BluRay. Or just go back and watch TWISTER instead, which I would say is the better option.
– Bede Jermyn