Too much talking, not enough twisters‘ – MacDara Conroy on found-footage disaster movie Into the Storm

If you’re going to put out a natural disaster movie in 2014, you’ve really got to–I mean it absolutely behoves you toup the ante. By now audiences have been exposed to virtually every variation of wanton destruction – in the last year alone we’ve had giant robots smashing monsters into skyscrapers, and even Superman himself levelling an entire city, just for shits and giggles – that the prospect of a little town being ravaged by weather events that reoccur on an annual basis evokes barely a shrug. Meh. Besides, we’ve all seen Twister, right? That was awesome. So how can Into the Storm do any better?

It doesn’t, even though it does try to distinguish itself with its own twists (geddit?) on the same premise. The first of these is in the concept, which has buckets of entertaining potential on the face of it: a small midwestern town is ravaged by not one, not a succession, but multiple tornadoes – all at once! – in defiance of all natural laws just to take you, the eager moviegoing punter, on the ride of your life. In these post-Sharknado times, that’s exactly what’s needed to stick out from the crowd.

The second twist is less promising, as Into the Storm appropriates that hackneyed ‘found footage’ gimmick to piece together a kind of faux-documentary compiled from various sources (and breaks its own logic whenever the action demands). Cue a roll call of plot conceits – two brothers filming a video time capsule for the senior class of the local high school–cum–storm shelter; a team of storm chasers rolling into town for the ‘big one’; and a pair of YouTube wannabe daredevil hicks blundering into harm’s way – that would be serviceable if not for the fact that they comprise at least 85 per cent of the film’s already short 89-minute running time.

It seems director Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) and writer John Swetnam (who has prior in the found-footage genre, going by his IMDB credits) did take their cue from The Asylum‘s Z-grade TV fodder, but not for the reasons you’d hope, because there’s So. Much. Talking. About. Nothing. (Except when they’re talking about stuff people in their situation would never say, like “What’s that loud windy noise?” coming from a lifetime resident of a town in FUCKING TORNADO ALLEY.) And all that from a decidedly average cast that’s a veritable who’s-who of nobodies; you might have seen Richard Armitage in The Hobbit, or Sarah Wayne Callies in The Waking Dead, but you’ll more likely look up the film on Wikipedia after and be like “So THAT’S who that is!”.

So it’s really up to the special effects to carry the weight. And what little they give us is, in a word, underwhelming. Maybe if the makers had gone for anything higher than a PG rating there’s be something to gasp at. The very least you’d expect is one big OMG moment, and you’ll be waiting for it right up to the end, when all gets calm and it still feels like a whirlwind of a final act is coming. But it never comes. And you’ll wonder why you bothered, before going home to watch Twister again and pop for the flying cow.

Too much talking, not enough twisters: that’s Into the Storm for the TL;DR crowd.

Into the Storm opens nationwide on August 20th