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New Review: Into the Storm

Updated on August 23, 2014

Director: Steven Quale
Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Nathan Kress, Max Deacon, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Kyle Davis, Jon Reep, Scott Lawrence

Even if one goes to see Into the Storm with the lowest possible expectations, it's unlikely they'll be satisfied with what this movie has to offer. Yes, the special-effects are well-done, and yes there are a couple of mildly thrilling set-pieces. What's more, the movie never overstays its welcome, and clocks in at a brisk 89 minutes. In between the big set-pieces, however, are some truly atrociously written dialogue scenes. As a mindless exercise in special-effects, the movie delivers the goods, but getting to said goods shouldn't be as much of a chore as it is here.

The movie opens up with four obnoxious teenagers in a car at night, celebrating their upcoming graduation. Suddenly, a storm approaches. The girl driving the vehicle begs her boyfriend to get back in the car, but he's too busy recording the approaching cyclone with his camera, and isn't leaving until he gets a good shot of it. Of course, things end badly for him, just as they do for the other guy who makes the exact same mistake later on in the film (the later guy actually drops his camera, and tries to go and retrieve it as a flaming twister inches closer to him).

After the movie's witless opening, the movie introduces us to a number of one-dimensional characters, whose stories are the very definition of clichéd.

There's Gary Morris (Richard Armitage), a vice principal at Silverton High School who's had to raise his two sons by himself after his wife died in (you guessed it) a car accident. He's asked his two sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress) to go around and record messages from the seniors for a time capsule that'll be opened in 25 years. They talk to some of the students, as well as (for some reason) a couple of local construction workers and an elderly man who lives in their neighborhood.

Okay, I'll admit it: That's pretty cool!
Okay, I'll admit it: That's pretty cool!

There's Pete (Matt Walsh), an a-hole veteran storm chaser who wants to get a shot from within the eye of a tornado using a tank-like vehicle he calls the Titus. He's been getting grumpy with his team because they haven't seen any action in months. He's especially impatient with the pretty team meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callie), who has an adorable daughter she hasn't seen since in months. Allison insists that if they head on over to Silverton, they're going to see some action. Pete warns her that this is her last chance, but of couse, she's right on the money.

Then, there's Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), two local hillbilly nitwits who are around to provide some comic relief. They're introduced performing a Jack Ass-inspired stunt where Donk drives an ATV over a flaming above ground swimming pool. Any time a tornado pops up, they race toward the action in order to get a good shot of them near the twister. These two characters are loud and grating, but never endearing. Every time they came on screen, I groaned and started squirming in my seat.

The first tornado strike happens when the seniors of Silverton High are participating in a graduation ceremony outdoors. The principal (Scott Lawrence, who looks an awful lot like Barack Obama in some shots) makes a speech, the rain starts, and the students run back inside and take shelter in the hallways of the school. What follows is an admittedly intense set-piece, made all the more unnerving because it's filmed via a camcorder. Gary and Trey are at the school during the strike, but Donnie snuck off before graduation to help Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey), the girl he fancies, with a video project about the dangers of a nearby abandoned paper mill.

These two have what is easily the film's only emotionally sincere scene, where they each leave farewell video messages for their parents and loved ones. The rest of the drama scenes are predictable and written entirely in clichés. Gary has difficulty connecting with his two sons because, "Seriously dad, you're not the easiest person to talk to." Allison calls up her daughter and has a phone conversation with her that involves her saying "I know I said I was coming home, but it looks like I'm gonna be a while longer." Donnie tells Kaitlyn that his mother was a nurse who taught her family CPR. Who wants to bet that's going to come into play at some point in the movie?

"Where did the tornado go?"
"Where did the tornado go?"

The climax involves a handful of survivors hiding in a storm drain as an EF5 tornado plows through the town. One character hops out of the storm drain and into the Titus because, "This footage could save lives." This leads to what is perhaps the funniest shot in the movie. The tornado picks up the Titus and sends it flying high above the clouds, and the character in the vehicle stares in wide-eyed wonder at the bright sun shining in the distance. That one shot is funnier that any of the antics performed by Donk and Reevis.

The movie is directed Steven Quale, who can certainly handle the big effects scenes, but seems clueless when it comes to working with the actors. The performances are wooden across the board, although something tells me that even if the acting were good, it would do little to engage us with such lifelessly written characters. The movie is filmed partly like a found footage movie, with lots of shaky camera shots that aren't as painful as you might fear. And while it is difficult to care about the characters or what happens to them, the special-effects are wonders to behold, and are always a pleasure to watch.

It's refreshing that the movie is as short as it is, and the special-effects are frighteningly convincing. Yet outside of the visuals, there's very little about Into the Storm that's worth recommending. Your time might be better spent revisiting the 1996 tornado thriller Twister. While that, too, was far from a great movie, it had better acting and at least a somewhat interesting storyline. Plus, the special-effects are just as good there as they are here. Plus, it had flying cows. You can't beat that!

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of destruction, some violence, language

Final Grade: ** (out of ****)

What did you think of this movie? :)

Cast your vote for Into the Storm (2014)


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