Into The Storm (dir. Steven Quale)
INTO THE STORM would be a perfectly solid made-for-TV movie, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how it got a theatrical release. While the film functions well and does not make any terrible missteps, it feels like it is going through the motions of being a natural disaster thriller rather than actually thrilling the audience.
The film follows a series of tornadoes as they tear across a town during the course of a single day. The plot plays out from various townsfolk’s points of view and a storm chasing documentary crew.
I have no basic problem with found-footage films, especially in horror films. It can help you identify better with the victims by giving you no choice but to see the situation through their eyes. INTO THE STORM attempts to be shot entirely with found footage, but it is spends an unnecessary amount of time explaining why there are cameras firmly planted into many character’s hands. Yes, there is a crew filming a documentary on tornadoes, but we did not need an extended tour of their tank-like vehicle along with descriptions of all of the different cameras mounted on the brig. The two young brothers in the film each have two separate reasons for their camera addiction: while they are both in the video club and in the midst of taping a video yearbook, the younger brother is filming the high school graduation and the older brother is helping his crush with a video application for a summer internship. It’s as if the film goes out of its way to prove that there is a reason for it being found-footage, rather than just owning the format confidently.
Another aspect of the film that falls flat is the obvious character motivations. The father of the two brothers is a hard ass who never shows much affection. Within the first few moments of on-screen interaction with his sons, both of them say that they know they can never live up to their father’s impossible standards. The documentary crew is on the verge of having their funding cut off, and their meteorologist misses her daughter. All of these motivations are told to the audience, occasionally through directly telling the camera as a part of an interview. We are not left to piece anything together on our own. I am used to having plot points spelled out to me, but the lack of trust in the audience ends up coming across as lazy storytelling.
Even with these issues, INTO THE STORM does deliver some decent storm chasing. Though it takes nearly half of the film to encounter a twister (not counting the inexplicable first scene which shows a tornado getting a car full of teenagers late at night, as if tornadoes were slashes stalking their prey), when the storms finally do touch down the filmmaker takes a step back from the plot and lets the action of the storm takeover. As promised in the trailer, there is a tornado of fire, and it is awesome. The strength of the film really comes through as soon as the film surrenders to the storms. No one who seeks out this film does so to see the superficial family drama or half-baked characters- you go to see films like this to watch destruction and mayhem. By the end of the film I stopped caring about who survived, or even what their names are, and just let the fun of the CGI tornadoes take over my cinematic experience.
INTO THE STORM is not a terrible way to spend 90 minutes, but it is better suited to catch the second half when you wander into it on TV on Saturday morning, rather than spending money to see it at a theater.