In the span of a single day, the town of Silverton is ravaged by an unprecedented onslaught of tornadoes. The entire town is at the mercy of the erratic and deadly cyclones, even as storm trackers predict the worst is yet to come. Most people seek shelter, while others run towards the vortex, testing how far a storm chaser will go for that once-in-a-lifetime shot.
When 'Twister' came out in theaters, mine was the demographic that completely fueled it – teenage boys who loved destruction, intensity, and unpredictable mayhem. Why do I say that? Because I remember seeing it on the big screen several times. While 'Into the Storm' definitely didn't compare to 'Twister' during its box office run ('Into the Storm' bowed with $47.5 million domestically and $112.1 million foreign, while 'Twister' earned $241.7 million domestically and $252.7 million foreign – mind you, that's not accounting for inflation between the 18-years-apart disaster movies), it definitely targets the teen demographic and has stupid fun appealing to them.
'Into the Storm' follows two groups of characters and one smaller side group that serves the sole purpose of comedic relief. One of the main groups consists of high-tech storm chasers who haven’t seen action in months. Hard-up for some fresh footage, their two-vehicle convoy needs to suceed, or they'll all be jobless. The other group features a single father (Richard Armitage, 'The Hobbit' trilogy) and his two mildly rebellious sons. With two "white trash" adrenaline junkies looking for YouTube hits, the comedic relief group only pops in and out of the story to break the boredom after overly dramatic too-serious periods.
The movie kicks off with a mildly twisted scene featuring teenagers getting killed by a seemingly invisible night tornado. Unfortunately, it takes a while for the main narrative to get to the real 'nado action that we're expecting. We meet the father character and his audio/video-loving sons. We learn that he's the Vice Principal of their high school and that he's making his kids shoot video of the day's graduation ceremony. We see that the kids don't really respect their father, which is why one ditches the graduation to help a cute and dire peer work on a documentary project in an old abandoned paper mill.
We're also forced to learn about the storm chasers. There's the arrogant, dangerous, insensitive and stressed-out boss, the nerdy out-of-their-element film crew and the cute weather-forecasting single mom (Sarah Wayne Callies, formerly of 'The Walking Dead') who wants nothing more than to quit and return home to her daughter. Of course, having seen the trailers and TV spots, it's obvious that the storm chasers will not only get the footage they need to stay employed, but they'll get a lot they'll get a lot closer to the twister than they want to be. As expected, it doesn't take long for the two groups to meet up, but let's be honest - we don't care about the characters. All we want to see are tornadoes doing what they do best: tearing stuff up! The worst part of 'Into the Storm' is the 30 minute wait for it to get past the cheesy character drama and their flimsy relationships. 'Twister' did the same to us: we had to sit through generic drama to get to the goods. Once the tornadoes finally show up, they rip right through the peaceful mid-western town and don't let up. During this freak occurrence, various types of tornadoes touch down one after the other, including the illusive "Fire 'Nado." Sometimes, multiple cyclones even touch down simultaneously. Watching them unfold is like 'Twister' on crack.
Nothing in advertisements announced it, but 'Into the Storm' is technically a hand-held "found footage" sort of movie – but don't think that means it's at all shaky, gimmicky and annoying. The viewer's P.O.V. is not limited to the characters' camera footage. And making things better is that none of the cameras are shaky like they would have been if they were held by teenagers and 20-somethings. The style is rarely annoying or distracting, which is a breath of fresh air because you'll actually forget that it's a P.O.V. movie as you watch it.
Because it's truly not that good, I cannot recommend 'Into the Storm' – but I'd be lying if I didn't say that it's a lot of fun. It lacks merit in the way of writing, acting and creativity, so I can only recommend it for its absurd, mindless and intense entertainment value. If you like a healthy serving of stupid with your dumb fun, then you'll have a mindless good time with 'Into the Storm.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Warner Bros. has given 'Into the Storm' a combo pack release that includes a 25-gig Blu-ray, a DVD and code for an Ultraviolet copy. All is housed in a blue two-disc Elite keepcase with a plain cardboard slipcover. Upon popping the disc into your player, you'll get an unskippable WB vanity reel and skippable trailers for the upcoming films 'The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies' and 'Jupiter Ascending.'
Just because 'Into the Storm' has been placed on a BD-25 disc (as opposed to the expected 50-gig disc), don't assume that it's lacking in the way of video quality. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode is just as pretty as you'd hope and completely void of compression flaws.
The video quality is so good, in fact, that it reveals how imperfect some of the CG work is – which I somehow didn't notice when seeing the movie in theaters. Although hand-held, because this isn't your typical shaky found footage affair, there's a lot of detail to behold. The imagery is clear. For the most part, it's very clean too. The only times that it's somewhat murky are obvious directorial decisions when the footage bounces around from different camera types (which were actually used to shoot the film). A few shots from the GoPro angles reveal slight noise, but I genuinely believe that it was intended to be there.
The color palette is fittingly full of grays. When colors pop up, they look very natural. Black levels are mostly good and only stray from greatness when the setting is too dark and the camera used is too cheap. Only then do black levels waiver and the objects that should-be clear are muddled – but that's it. I expected to see bands, aliasing and noise, but that wasn't the case with this great video quality.
Having received an Atmos mix in theaters, you can count on the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix of 'Into the Storm' being very strong. This lossless mix features a whirlwind of sound, but is just a little shy of completely blowing you away.
Far better than the movie itself its audio mix. The opening scene, which is completely disconnected from the main storyline and characters, immediately exemplifies its strength. It's pitch black out, but we catch quick glimpses of an approaching twister as lighting cracks and telephone pole transformers explode and shine a little light on it. Not only do we get the whirling sound of intense gusts of wind – which audibly reveals the countless pieces of debris blowing through the air from left to right – but we get the shrill screams of teenage girls as Mother Nature's deadly creation rolls towards them. The sound is completely immersive. It's haunting and disturbing, the stuff of nightmares. The louder you play it, the more effective it becomes. And from this moment of the movie on, whenever the weather gets wicked, so does the sound mix. The only downside is that we have to wade through 30 minutes of character development before we get to the amazing instances, one after the other, again.
Be it the vocal mix or the effects mix, those sounds are always placed exactly where they should be. If a vehicle passes, then it seamlessly images around the room properly. If we're riding on a four-wheel ATV by some white trash peanut gallery full of inbred yahoos, then as we pass the group, their yells, cheers and tauntings also seamlessly image appropriately. Amazing sounds like this can even be layered one atop the other. As the storm drops major chunks of ice and hail on our science team, the crew races to their vehicles. You'll hear the falling ice clusters crashing into metal overhangs, splashing into the motel pool and even hitting the characters. Tens of these instances are happening every second, each one designated to an appropriate position in the mix with sweet precision.
The only odd part of the entire audio mix is the decision to randomly add bits of scoring from time to time. With orchestral horns blaring, no matter how good it sounds, the score is simply unfitting for what we're watching – a (mostly) found footage movie.
When it comes to disaster flicks, 'Into the Storm' isn't the best – but it certainly isn't the worst either. Although played out seriously, it certainly doesn't take itself seriously. It's dumb, mindless fun. The cliché ensemble cast of characters is there to offer cannon fodder to the only characters in the movie that we really want to see – the tornadoes. Both the video and audio qualities are very strong, but the special features are almost entirely throw-aways. Luckily, we're not here for to see how this cheap and pretty forgettable movie was made; we're here to see and hear tornadoes tear things up, which is exactly what we get in an entertaining guilty pleasure sort of way.