Into the Storm (2014)
Directed by Steven Quale
In rural Ohio, especially in August, even the lousiest tornado flick is a chilling horror story. So despite failing on multiple levels, “Into the Storm” was able to unnerve this moviegoer with terrifying thrills to spare.
Silverton High School in Oklahoma is preparing to graduate its class of 2014. Rain might spoil the ceremony, they fear. But nobody expects what’s really coming. The assistant principal (Richard Armitage, “The Hobbit” trilogy) has told his two sons (Nathan Kress and Max Deacon) to record the ceremony, but when a freak storm breaks out, their handheld cameras will capture something much more momentous. The historic storm brings chasers (Matt Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies, Arlen Escarpeta, and Jeremy Sumpter) to the small town, but even their tank wasn’t built to handle something like this.
I’m a huge sucker for a disaster epic. If the special effects are right and the destruction is beyond imagination, I’m going to enjoy myself. And “Into the Storm” doesn’t disappoint when it comes to explosive and deadly disaster. But, like you’d expect, 89 minutes and a deadly tornado plot don’t leave much room for character development. Each and every one of the film’s characters remain one-dimensional. Selfless acts intended to be indications of character development completely miss the mark. Cheap emotional ploys involving family relationships don’t work, either. We neither know nor care about the family dynamics enough to get emotionally invested. I wish the acting was good enough or the script original enough for me to care about the faux sentimentality. It’s just a big storm of clichés. The throwaway script does nothing to build suspense (the only other feature writer John Swetnam has on his resume is “Step Up: All In”).
So “Into the Storm” relies on its real star, the CGI twister itself. And, at least for this cinematic adrenaline junkie, that part didn’t let me down. The found-footage genre, which usually irritates me beyond belief, finds a fitting partner in the natural disaster movie. The POV shots amp up the natural tension of the situation. You see what you come to see (assuming you didn’t expect Matt Walsh to suddenly pull an Oscar-worthy dramatic performance out of his ass). Richard Armitage, the only actor whose performance may be worth salvaging, is far better than this script allows. He’s doing his best. Nathan Kress returns to making snarky remarks behind the camera, a la “iCarly.” I get the homage, guys, but it’s only fun for a few minutes. Aside from Armitage, these performances can just get swept up in the next storm that comes along. I won’t miss them. At some point, though, even cheap thrills are thrills. Lower your expectations enough, and you’re in for a block-blustery storm of summer entertainment.
Find me on Letterboxd! https://letterboxd.com/loganburd