I count myself lucky to live in the Great Northwest, as far as natural disasters go. People from other parts of the country say with wide eyes, “But what about earthquakes? What about volcanoes? What about tsunamis??!?!” and my answer is always, “Well, we don’t have THAT...” (making swirling tornado gestures). Recently I was in Chicago, in traffic, wedged in a carload of co-workers, and a tornado alarm went off. I freaked out. They all laughed. “Shouldn’t we jump out of the car and hide under that overpass, like in Twister?!?!?” I shrieked. After seeing Into the Storm, I have to admit my fears of this sort of climatic nightmare have not quelled.
It is the job of disaster movies to scare the crap out of us, but to be sure to take that extra step to add some corn and cheese so that we can go home with a buzz, rather than emotional trauma. Often that is accomplished by having C- or D-list quality acting and script. On that level, Into the Storm is right on track, with its “biggest” marquee stars being an alarmingly normal-sized Hobbit king (Richard Armitage, as a hot high school principal), and a zombie queen (The Walking Dead‘s “Lori”, aka Sarah Wayne Callies, as a tornado chaser/scientis). The rest of the cast is forgettable, and it is just a roll of the dice (or a placing of bets) as to who will not survive the next twister.
Because there are a lot of twisters. A lot.
To its credit, Into the Storm really doesn’t waste any time setting up its scenario (The storm cell of the century! Multiple tornados striking at once! Huge tornados converging to create the biggest storm EVER!!!). As soon as a high school graduation ceremony is interrupted, sending kids running for the shelter of their soon-to-be-decimated school, it is non-stop. Parents are separated from their kids. Buildings are ripped apart. Stupid storm chasers continue to put themselves directly into harm’s way to get the ultimate footage. And all that time, the special effects artists go hog wild.
Yes, there was dialogue in the film that had the audience giggling. At one point, you had to wonder when the screenwriter decided enough was enough, that it needed to be wrapped up. But in the meantime, I’m not embarrassed to admit that several scenes in Into the Storm freaked me out. I did not like the tornado of fire. I do not like drowning scenes. I do not like the idea of holding on for dear life, but just… not… being able to hold on. I know that would be me, since my upper body strength is for shit. On that level, Into the Storm does exactly what it is supposed to do: scare the pudding out of a chick who can’t imagine why anyone would live in–(making tornado gestures)–tornado country.