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Movie Review: 'Into the Storm' (2014)

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Notwithstanding the spurts of painfully juvenile dialogue, an abundance of pointless characters, and countless continuity discrepancies, “Into the Storm” could have been a perfectly serviceable disaster film - if it weren’t for the exasperating and highly overused “found footage” structuring. The audience shouldn’t be constantly forced to ponder where cameras are positioned and who is manning them. But with “Into the Storm’s” jigsaw puzzle of handheld devices, clunkier equipment affixed to tripods, cellphone recorders, and more, the question consistently edges itself to the forefront. Additional preposterousness surfaces all too frequently - from the absurdity of which forgotten character might be filming certain sequences to the implausibility of other shots being taken at all (due to extreme angles, distances, and aerial placements). The overly lenient viewer might be able to look past the nonsense, but the reward would only be an occasional scene of suspense with uninvolving characters and intermittent bouts of impressive CG whirlwinds.

In Silverton, Oklahoma, an unprecedented gale takes shape that will change the lives of every citizen in the area. A professional storm chaser crew, led by documentarian Pete (Matt Walsh) and meteorologist Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies), hopes to predict the touchdown location of the emerging tornado in order to capture breakthrough imagery. Thrill seekers Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep) wish to record Mother Nature’s ferocity amidst their own daredevil hijinks. And Silverton High School’s vice principal Gary Morris (Richard Armitage) just wants senior graduation to go off without a hitch, while his two sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress) prepare to film the ceremony. When the tempest suddenly escalates and numerous twisters begin ravaging the town, Donnie becomes trapped at an abandoned factory with classmate Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Teaming up with Pete and Allison, Gary must venture further into the danger zone in a desperate bid to save the children.

It begins like a horror movie, with something obscured and menacing descending upon a foursome of roistering teens. There’s something instantly off about the introduction, however, as it foreshadows the primary fault with the film: found footage. Yet again, as if oblivious to the overdone, hopelessly tired narrative technique, the filmmakers responsible for “Into the Storm” have chosen to construct their project from various recorded sources like a documentary - culling together high school time capsule clips, news footage, YouTube submissions, interviews, promotional materials, security camera angles, and home movies showing very personal proclamations of love during presumed final minutes of life. In fact, the majority of footage is generated from a documentary crew, comprised of a few experts and a legion of amateurish cameramen.

The style is so distracting, flawed, and laughable that it’s difficult to simply enjoy the large levels of destruction. Instead of shooting the tornadoes, the cameras seem contrarily preoccupied with capturing the reactions of scared survivors, dismal facial expressions, mundane business relationships, familial contention, and even eavesdropping on personal phone calls. Why would a real storm chaser want so much footage of bland human interaction? Why are most of the cameras inside the armored transport Titus aimed at the interior passengers rather than the exciting weather right outside?

It’s bad enough that countless scenes intrusively ask the audience to speculate on who is holding the camera (especially when all of the possibilities are trapped underground, running around wildly, or fighting for their lives). But it’s absolutely unacceptable that the acting is substandard, the dialogue is terribly generic, and the characters are unrelentingly clichéd. Even the twisters themselves lack originality. The equipment and special effects might be better than the stuff of Jan de Bont’s “Twister” (1996) but everything else is preposterously inferior and unusually dull. Teenagers spouting revelations wise beyond their years, hordes of fodder for a movie too timid to boast a decent body count, a goofy “save the planet” message, phony heroism, and constant reminders that cameras should keep rolling no matter what the costs, add to the wretchedness of this piteously designed pseudo-movie.

- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)

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