The most unbelievable accomplishment of the new disaster flick Into the Storm is that it makes viewers long for the preposterous, over-the-top camp gore of the Sharknado TV films.
It was hard not to feel some disappointment when a hammerhead doesn't emerge from the funnel clouds to cut short the blather from disposable characters trying to establish a sliver of personality. Interest does spark when a fire-nado briefly erupts after a gas station is set ablaze.
Not even the biggest blow ever to hit tornado alley in Oklahoma is enough to suck audiences into the story of an impromptu twister convention hitting Silverton High on graduation day. The 89-minute whirlwind by director Steven Quale (Final Destination 5) is an imperfect storm with its lacklustre forecast of clichéd plotting, laughable lines, forgettable townspeople and no-name cast. The best recommendation is to sit back in awe of the computer-generated special effects.
Two storylines become entangled in Silverton as senior students gather outdoors despite the threatening weather. Grumbly vice-principal Gary Deacon (The Hobbit's Richard Armitage) has his two unhappy teenage sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (iCarly's Nathan Kress) filming the ceremony, when the latter bails to help the class babe gets some footage at a toxic dump.
Into town comes a team of luckless storm chasers who have been flying off in all directions except into the path of a major vortex. The leader is snarly Peter (Matt Walsh of Veep), who travels in Titus, a tank-like vehicle that possesses an anchoring system that can withstand winds up to 170 miles per hour -- a dare that Mother Nature is sure to best. He is desperate to capture the view from the eye of a tornado -- "a sight nobody but God has witnessed."
Writer John Swetnam tells his story with a first-person narrative to reflect a society where everyone has a camera of some kind and many can't help themselves from taking dumb risks in pursuit of the money shot and glory. Within the first 30 seconds, clueless teens are caught in the path of a tornado and instead of fleeing, try to record its fury on their cellphones and are swept away. Two amateur daredevils, Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), with a drunken death wish also seek Internet sensation status as storm chasers, but manage some stupid but effective comic relief.
Peter gets his wish, too, when he spies a behemoth approaching and gleefully announces, "I've waited my whole life for a storm this big." His chief weather-watcher Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies, a Walking Dead veteran) is equally trite with statements like "We've got a vortex" and "I've never seen anything like this." The howling wind has better lines.
The scenes of destruction in the final 20 minutes are eye-popping as a trio of tornadoes dances across the screen uprooting trees, levelling buildings and making quick work of a car dealership. It slams into an airport, sending the planes aloft and somersaulting into each other.
The carnage is interrupted briefly with a hilarious Wile E. Coyote moment that will be the only scene ever remembered from Into the Storm. One character experiences the bliss of reaching the high point of his career only to immediately discover that its all straight down from there.
As expected, Swetnam brings out the sun for the feel-good ending in which, with destruction for as far as the eye can see, the hardy survivors vow, "We will rebuild." All that one-day-at-a-time talk makes you wish for a late-arriving predatory fish -- or at least another tornado.