With “Into the Storm,” director Steven Quale (“Final Destination 5”) manages to make tornadoes rather boring. A found footage-style film that owes a large debt to 1996’s “Twister,” Quale relies on special effects to carry the movie. Unfortunately, his unappealing characters are so annoying that it’s almost a relief when a few disappear into the vortex.
“Into the Storm” opens on high school graduation preparations in the small town of Silverton. Donnie (Max Deacon) is filming a video time capsule segment for school, but he’s also mooning over classmate Kaitlyn (Alycia Debnam Carey). His brother Trey (Nathan Kress) teases him about lack of nerve, but he’s irritated when Donnie blows off videotaping the graduation ceremonies to help his would-be girlfriend.
Meanwhile, Pete (Matt Walsh), a storm chaser who sank his life savings into a heavily armored vehicle, looks for twisters with his crew. He relies on Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies) to track storm systems, and her numbers determine Silverton is the place to go for great storm footage. Pete wants to collect data to help people, but making money on the project wouldn’t hurt, either.
Both plotlines intersect as twisters descend upon the hapless town. Not even deadly hail and flaming tornadoes can salvage “Into the Storm,” though. Director Steven Quale keeps the audience waiting too long before unveiling his computerized funnels. By then, dull dialogue and cardboard characters have killed any chance of a decent story.
Richard Armitage barely cracks a smile as Gary Morris, the high school vice-principal and father of Donnie and Trey. As the so-called hero of this piece, it looks like he may be heading for a romantic encounter with single-mom Allison, but that subplot never materializes.
Matt Walsh has better moments, though, as the obsessive storm chaser Pete. But when it comes to scene-stealing, Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep) are the ones to watch. Donk typically performs stunts like Johnny Knoxville, so he’s ready to film twisters for his YouTube channel. These guys unfortunately may inspire a new genre of dangerous amateur stunts.
In many ways, however, “Into the Storm” exploits real-life tragedy. The characters mention the twister that hit Joplin, Missouri, a few years ago. The folks who lived through that particular disaster will find little to like about this film. Who wants to see computerized twisters after watching their homes and families devastated by the real thing?
Overall, this film is a colossal waste of time and money. Director Quale introduces one or two good ideas, but it’s impossible not to think back to the superior “Twister.” With that one, Jan de Bont knew that good characters top special effects every time. Hopefully, Quale learns that lesson for future projects.
“Into the Storm,” rated PG-13 for sequences of intense destruction and peril, and language including sexual references, currently is playing in theaters.