Review: Into the Storm

Into the Storm
4 10

PLOT: A series of deadly tornados wreak havoc on a small midwestern town.

REVIEW: At its best, INTO THE STORM offers a handful of show-stopping moments: Buoyed by thunderous sound and excellent visual effects, the film's highlights are meant to be experienced on the largest screen possible.

At its worst, it's a glorified Syfy channel movie, frequently unintentionally hilarious, featuring not one flesh-and-blood character and not one string of believable dialogue. In fact, Syfy channel movies offer more snippets of plausibility than INTO THE STORM does.

Unfortunately, INTO THE STORM is at its worst far more often than it's at its best. It's like a splendid 30-minute VFX reel persistently interrupted by a bad acting troupe.

Utilizing a wholly unnecessary - and unconvincing - found footage gimmick that distracts more often than it enhances, INTO THE STORM fits into what might be called the "weather horror" subgenre, where natural disasters act as seemingly omnipresent agents of terror against feeling cardboard characters. The entire point, of course, is to show off wholesale destruction for our amusement, and this flick delivers that in spades, hence it's difficult to get too worked up over it. But when the script is filled with clunker after clunker, when each and every character - supposedly smart and resourceful - does everything in their power to put themselves and others further into danger, we're pulled out of the surface-level enjoyment of the movie and have no choice but to judge its numerous flaws.

The story involves - oh hell, like there's a story other than "dozens of tornados vs. midwestern town." We're introduced to a handful of disparate characters early on, all conveniently either toting cameras or being filmed by them. There's teenage Donnie (Max Deacon), who is in charge of putting together a time capsule for his high school, but is more interested in capturing the attention of the girl next door (Alycia Debnam Carey) and getting his gruff assistant principal dad (Richard Armitage) to respect him. His younger brother Trey (Nathan Kress), who records everything with his phone, also wants his dad's respect. (This movie isn't high on imaginative motivations or character traits.) Intercut with this lame family drama is the saga of a team of storm chasers, led by the movie's Quint-equivalent Pete (Matt Walsh), who butts heads constantly with a meteorologist/single mom (Sarah Wayne Callies); her backstory is that she doesn't have enough time for her daughter. There are a few cameramen who barely have names, let alone personalities. These characters have been sketched as thinly as possible.

And I'd hate to forget mentioning the local yokel daredevils (Kyle Davis and Jon Reep) who function as the movie's desperate attempt at comic relief. These are the guys who strive to get a million hits on YouTube by filming themselves driving headfirst into trees, so when the twisters come a'knockin, they see their big chance to become famous. Take it from me: with this as our comic relief, you'll want them to be the first to go.

Soon these humdrum protagonists are thrown together into a series of escalating and horrifying circumstances when the evil tornados descend upon the placid town. Of course, none of these situations make a lick of logical sense, but it can't be denied that a handful of them are exciting. Director Steven Quale (a James Cameron protege) was hired for the action stuff, and when a tornado rolls through an airport or literally become one with fire - forming a firenado! - you'll quickly forget the moronic characters you're supposed to be rooting for and become captivated by the impressive sights and sounds the viz effect people have churned out.

That said, the dreadful script cannot be forgiven. There is so much droning exposition in the first half of the film, so much of it idiotic, that the movie can never recover. Example: Our lead character, evidently talking to his future self for his video time capsule, sees his father, the assistant principal of the school, and says to the camera "This is your dad, the assistant principal of the school." Yes, your future self really needed to know that. The movie is filled with gems like that, where characters state the plainly obvious for the audience's benefit. It's almost as if they stop the movie every few minutes so the characters can talk directly to us, catching us up on what we should know. A lot of Hollywood blockbusters treat the paying public like it's stupid, but INTO THE STORM takes it to a whole new level (or new low, whichever you prefer).

The disrespect for the audience's intelligence extends to the "found footage" angle. We've seen plenty of found footage movies where we balk at the characters shooting everything, even as they run for their very lives, but Quale and company don't even attempt to buy our suspension of disbelief. Friend of yours getting sucked into a tornado? Everybody just stand there and record it. About to drown to death? Definitely take the time to film a long, drawn-out farewell instead of trying with all your might to survive. There is no earthly reason INTO THE STORM needs to be a found footage movie - none! - and at several points it just seems like Quale has abandoned the gimmick altogether, because all you can think is, "Who the hell is filming this?!"

Perhaps the most absurd moment in INTO THE STORM arrives during the epilogue, when things are tidied up with a groaner of a message: Live every day to the fullest, because you just don't know when a tornado is going to show up and try to murder you. Thanks, movie! Most people can start by skipping this foolishness and doing something else.

Source: JoBlo.com



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