Thursday, August 21, 2014

Into the Storm - Review

The small town of Silverton is about to be expunged from the map, as several storm fronts move toward the area and are producing multiple tornadoes. The sights and dangers brought on by the funnels are shown through several viewpoints: A "Ghost Hunters"-like television crew, two video-loving high school students/brothers, and two redneck jackasses that even Larry the Cable Guy would ask to tone it down. INTO THE STORM could have been a fine disaster b-movie, able to fully generate mighty thrills from weather terror and the random everyday objects that fly around and nearly splatter people on the pavement. Unfortunately, it's structured through the gimmick of found footage. Simply put, none of the material needed to be done in this style, especially considering the script is filled with basic, by-the-numbers conflict like daddy issues, money over people, and long-distance work engagements. That is, when John Swetnam isn't regurgitating the lines, "Do you see that?" and "Is everbody okay?", over and over again throughout it. The first-person view could have worked in short spurts, or at least stuck solely to the storm chasers, instead of having everyone run around with one or two hands tied down. Because of this artistic decision, you then have to sit through the usual cardinal sins of found footage films: Characters refusing to help out others and instead keep filming; Equipment and footage that somehow survive intact despite massive damage; Cameras, from pocket ones to professional-grade, all having the same high picture and sound quality; Shots that are clearly not from real sources; and incoherent imagery because the director though intense shaky-cam and muted lighting makes it more scary. Couple all of that with a full-blown, non-diegetic musical score and you have yourself a really moronic movie.

Despite my snippy commentary, I did find a few redeeming elements, other than the colossal destruction that makes the popcorn go down. Though the characters are all one-note, the acting is frankly believable, with Richard Armitage doing the bulk of the work as Action Vice Principal. There are a couple of moments where director Steven Quale crafts some visual beauty amid the mayhem, such as the ironic moment of calmness at the very end. Plus, the coda all about American altruism is corny but a nice message to leave on, especially since most found footage horror flicks have sequel bait instead. INTO THE STORM is also a pretty safe disaster movie for general viewing, since the on-screen deaths are often fairly obscured or are cut away. This gets more egregious, however, when some people pop up alive and well at the conclusion, in spite of clearly being hit and sucked up by a tornado at point blank range. If you can forgive that boo-inducing final fact, you make walk out of this more virtually unscathed than myself.


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