Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 29 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Sequences of Intense Destruction and Peril, and Language including some Sexual References
Directed by: Steven Quale
Written by: John Swetnam
Starring: Richard Armitage, Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Arlen Escarpeta, Jeremy Sumpter & Nathan Kress
The theatrical output of 2014 has already had a couple of stinkers that felt like they were Syfy Channel original movies rather than high grossing potential blockbusters (e.g. I, FRANKENSTEIN, ROBOCOP remake, and HERCULES). INTO THE STORM joins this crowd of films, but feels like a Syfy Channel flick somehow made it to the big screen in many more ways. None of the actors here are particularly big names (many having only been seen previous work mostly on TV shows or independent films) and the effects that some are hailing as impressive come off as unconvincing and transparent. It’s actually insulting how much of a failure INTO THE STORM is and to call it one of the worst movies of 2014 is a bit of an understatement.
Mostly shot in the found footage style, INTO THE STORM follows various groups of people encountering the biggest storm ever recorded. Dangerous tornadoes are rapidly appearing in Silverton, Oklahoma. A filmmaking crew of storm chasers are heading towards this crowd of twisters and heavy rain in order to capture a shot from inside the eye of a tornado. Meanwhile, a graduation ceremony is thwarted from the extreme weather and the vice principal ventures out in the harsh weather to rescue his son from drowning in an abandoned factory (where he snuck off to with his potential girlfriend). Also, there’s a pair of rednecks doing stunts in the storm. Not all of these people make it out of the tornadoes, hail, and rain unscathed. Unfortunately, not nearly enough of these already lifeless characters bite it either.
The performers aren’t given much to work with other these characters being walking clichés (the troubled father trying to bond with his kids, the overly obsessed artist, the struggling single mother, the comic relief hillbillies, etc.). Lack of conceivable effort from the cast only serves to show that everyone working on this project already kind of knew this wasn’t going to resemble anything remotely good. What’s even more puzzling was New Line’s decision to release this in the final month of the Summer movie season (against competition like GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES). The most recognizable faces I saw were Jeremy Sumpter (star of some recent good indie fare like EXCISION) and Sarah Wayne Callies (who portrayed one of the most despicable people in AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD). In one of the worst obvious in-jokes I’ve seen in quite some time, a character remarks that “It’s like the zombie apocalypse out here” to Sarah Wayne Callies. Did I also mention that not nearly enough of these people die? It’s a disaster movie so that bears mentioning again.
The effects that are clearly meant to be impressive eye-candy look cheesy. Good special effects convince the viewer subconsciously that what’s on the screen is what’s really happening. I never felt that way during STORM. These tornadoes, etc. look like cheap Syfy Channel CGI, thus adding much to my point that this should have been a Saturday night small screen event for the summer rather than 50-million dollar waste of space hitting 2,000 screen nationwide. Making things even more frustrating is how tonally schizophrenic the film is with corny dramatic moments and forced comic relief. The rednecks (one of which is played by Lil’ Kev from ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) seem like they’re from a totally different movie. The final shot of the film negates any possible serious tone this tried to take for the most part. Also, the score is one of the most manipulative things I’ve heard all year. Solid music in a film adds to the already compelling scene at play, instead of deliberately telling the viewer how to feel. INTO THE STORM’s score squarely falls into the latter category.
Adding to the overall confusion of this mess is the lack of obligation to stick to the found footage format, trekking into traditional narrative every now and then. Another film this year (THE QUIET ONES) switched between both styles of storytelling, but managed to work slightly better in the sense that it wasn’t fully committed to the handheld camera work. INTO THE STORM frequently points out that it’s a “documentary,” but there are shots that clearly aren’t being captured by any of the cameras used by the characters. It’s a lack of creativity and just plain lazy. Also this painfully bad flick is a lot longer than its deceiving 89 minute running time would imply.
I can’t think of a single redeeming factor or nice thing to say about INTO THE STORM. The confused tone tries to be dramatic, funny, and exciting. It fails horribly at all three. I wouldn’t even say this is enjoyable in an unintentionally campy way. It’s also rather apparent that the filmmakers, cast and writers couldn’t care less about the movie they were making. INTO THE STORM is lazy, tired, and worthless.