Seeing Mother Nature on a rampage is a good reason to go to the movies. True enough, on the chaos front Into the Storm delivers, being the film’s only cylinder that fired. Like tornadoes themselves, the next 89 minutes is jaw-dropping to look at but there’s nothing but mess within.
After a rather unsettling opening, viewers are introduced, documentary-style, to our storm chasers including head honcho Pete (Veep’s Matt Walsh), meteorologist Allison (The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies), videographers Lucas (stunt coordinator Lee Whittaker), Daryl (Final Destination 5’s Arlen Escarpeta) and Jacob (Peter Pan’s Jeremy Sumpter). It’s quickly established that their search for some wind to film has been fruitless, but fear not, for the fictional town of Silverton will be ravaged by all sorts of twisters soon enough. Here’s hoping local high school’s Vice Principal Gary (The Hobbit’s Richard Armitage), his two sons Trey (iCarly’s Nathan Kress) and Donnie (Flashbacks of a Fool’s Max Deacon), plus Donnie’s girlfriend (At the Tattooist’s Alycia Debnam Carey) are prepared. Yet if they are, where’s the fun, right?
Here’s the case with Into the Storm: if it isn’t a tornado, it’s no fun. Our performers belong somewhere else – Armitage, Walsh and Callies in a better film, the rest at wherever to hone their acting skills further. Same thing applies to Bryan Tyler’s score, too dramatic to mesh with the film’s style despite being his most identifiable in years. And don’t get me started on the humor delivered by two YouTube fame-seekers/hillbillies/”Twista Hunterz” Donk (Enlisted’s Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Rodney’s Jon Reep). A couple of reviews said they’re the film’s bright spot – a statement I hope is sarcastic but hey, it could be true after you’re so numbed from the torrent of idiocies in the script.
But what could you expect from the scribe of Evidence and Step Up: All In? Characters are ink spots instead of being completely drawn; their dramas asking you to invest as much emotion as you would to a pebble. You can almost sense the pain our actors go through delivering some of the lines. Jan de Bont’s Twister, for all of its clichés and flaws, at least gives its characters enough substance for viewers to register them as humans rather than tornado chow. For a wide release, the basic quality of Into the Storm’s script, if you can call it one, seems like it was made to be on SyFy.
Thankfully, Steven Quale’s keen visual eye prevents it from belong there. With all that experience being James Cameron’s protégé and a rather solid debut called Final Destination 5, moments when hell breaks loose are just horrifying and incredible to witness. The decision to jump between found footage, Steadicam and traditional filming is more than just a nice genre-spin here, it’s a fantastic way to capture the tornadoes with maximum clarity and make them absolutely threatening. The film isn’t released in 3D, but with the stable handheld camerawork and lack of frenzy editing, it wouldn’t be a waste.
The 2014 summer movie season is coming to an end, so far with more duds than greats. Provided that you’re only looking for a showcase of sights and sounds, Into the Storm is an okay distraction. Other than that, it’s dumb fun with most of the suction force towards “dumb” than “fun.”