Into the Storm: It looks gripping, but won't blow you away
The special effects in this disaster movie may be impressive, but don't expect too much from the plot, says Andrew Johnston
Into the Storm is the kind of movie the Hollywood studios love: no stars, minimal budget and an easily conveyable premise. Basically, it's a 'found footage' version of Twister, complete with the CGI tornadoes the 1996 film wasn't in a position to deliver. Into the Storm has also done pretty well at the US box office, recouping most of its production costs in less than a fortnight. The bonus for audiences is it's not total rubbish.
Director Steven Quale – who made Final Destination 5, so is on safe ground here – is unashamed in his embrace of cliched characters, cheesy dialogue and manipulative plot developments. It's all building to the 'disaster porn' special effects, anyway, and unlike the recent Godzilla, Quale and screenwriter John Swetnam (Step Up All In) don't dress it up with any pretensions to grandeur.
Into the Storm gathers together the usual stock types: a distant dad and his two teenage sons, a gifted scientist who also happens to be a single mom with a heart of gold, a cynical media type desperate to cash in on the approaching super-storm and a couple of comic relief, Jackass-inspired "Twista Hunterz" keen to shoot their own YouTube hit.
They're not the most unlikeable bunch, even if Richard Armitage's Gary Morris – the vice-principal of the local school – is the grumpiest man ever. It's a good job the hinted-at romance between him and Sarah Wayne Callies's Dr Alison Stone never comes to fruition, as it would have been a suspension of disbelief too far.
Elsewhere, comedian Matt Walsh plays documentary filmmaker Pete, who drives about in a tornado-proof, tank-like vehicle named the Titus, barking orders at his crew and generally acting like a sexist so-and-so. Happily, thanks to Walsh's light touch, he remains a tolerable presence, and his final scene is so daft, it's almost genius.
As for the inevitable computer-enhanced carnage, when it arrives, it certainly doesn't disappoint. Roofs are torn off, school buses fly through the air and anyone who gets too close is sucked up into the twisters.
Interestingly, the movie conjures an almost supernatural atmosphere surrounding the weather fronts, which is a nice touch, perhaps a holdover from Quale's Final Destination days.
Ironically, Into the Storm's weakest element is its main selling point: the found footage angle. Apart from the fact the sub-genre that gave us such gems as The Blair Witch Project, REC and Cloverfield is now past its prime and has to do something pretty amazing not to appear stale, Quale's film doesn't even play by the rules. The opening scene hints that we're in for 90 minutes of shaky clips shot inside tornadoes, but the conceit is ditched any time it becomes too tricky to convince viewers that people would keep the cameras rolling in such situations.
With found footage, it's all or nothing, and Into the Storm doesn't have the courage of its convictions. Still, it's hard to begrudge a film that is so clearly geared towards being entertaining.
Into the Storm probably won't blow you away, but it's a breezy enough affair.