Adventures In Celluloid
Film critic Dominic Corry celebrates, clarifies and justifies his love for all things film.

Dominic Corry: How to make a disaster of a disaster movie

Dominic Corry dissects the film-making disaster that is Into The Storm and works out exactly why it's so bad.
Richard Armitage, right, in a scene from 'Into The Storm'. Photo / AP
Richard Armitage, right, in a scene from 'Into The Storm'. Photo / AP

I was looking forward to tornado thriller Into The Storm, which opened this week in New Zealand. Call me shallow, but I love the idea of a film that exists pretty much only for spectacle.

I've enjoyed all manner of similar films, from Daylight to Twister. Heck, I even liked Roland Emmerich's 2012.

And in an era when it seems like every single genre movie's franchised future is mapped out before anything else - if it isn't a reboot itself to begin with, that is - it's nice when a reasonably-budgeted genre exercise that features no brand names and no big stars comes along.

But oh boy is Into The Storm a turkey, even my my admittedly lax standards for films of this kind.

Here I will lay out five methods followed by the people behind Into The Storm which helped them make a disaster of a disaster movie.

1. Embrace found footage half-heartedly

Cloverfield aside, I'm not sure the found footage model suits a film all about spectacle to begin with. But I was very willing to give Into The Storm the benefit of the doubt in this regard - it's not hard to imagine the idea looking good on paper "We'll put the audience right on the ground in the middle of a tornado!" somebody probably said at some point.

Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from Into The Storm. Photo / AP

However, Into The Storm wants to have its found footage cake and eat it too - it desires the intimacy that found footage brings, but falls back on traditional filmmaking techniques when it feels like it. District 9 dipped in and out of the style as well, but seamlessly and effectively so. The way Into the Storm jumps between formats repeatedly yanked me out of the reality of the film.

And the narrative serves the found-footage construct in blunt ways - the protagonists are a documentary crew following some storm chasers, and some high school kids filming video time capsules. So there's a reason for everything to be being filmed, but neither scenario is remotely captivating.

All we get is a poorly-corralled assemblage of clichés - when one of the trapped teenagers started recording a final message to her parents into the camera, à la The Blair Witch Project's most famous scene, I rolled my eyes with flagrant abandon.

2. Be overshadowed by your clear inspiration

One film looms over Into The Storm like an angry cumulonimbus cloud, and it's Jan De Bont's 1996 non-classic Twister, perhaps best remembered these days as one of the films Eric Bana's character cites having watched on the plane in The Castle.

Max Deacon, Richard Armitage, and Nathan Kress in a scene from Into The Storm. Photo / AP

Thanks to Into The Storm's thunderous (sorry) crapulence, Twister now looks like a gritty modern classic. The new film's tornandos may be more technically accurate and more plentiful, but Into the Storm never comes close to generating the tension of its mostly forgotten predecessor.

If you're going to so blatantly rip something off, you should at least out-do it on some level, but compared to Twister, Into The Storm feels small, derivative and inconsequential.

3. Telegraph all your deaths

Pretty much the only fun in a film like this is trying to work out who will be eaten by the tornado (or walrus or alien or whatever) and who won't. Into The Storm does not wish to surprise us at all in this regard, with several characters screaming "DEAD MEAT" just by their whining and overall jerkiness. There's a lesson here kids - whiners die.

Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from Into The Storm. Photo / AP

Plus the film is great at offering up characters you WANT to die, but don't. Their names are Donk and Reevis.

4. Cast poorly

English actor Richard Armitage is great as the tallest dwarf of them all, Thorin Oakenshield, in The Hobbit films. He surely has a fine career ahead of him, but he doesn't suit his role here as a high school principal at all, as thankless a part as it is.

Richard Armitage and Sarah Wayne Callies in a scene from Into The Storm. Photo / AP

The guy playing his son (Max Deacon) is one of those movie high schoolers who look about 30. The familial bond on which the film hangs much of its drama was all the weight of a Cruskit.

Veep co-star Matt Walsh, an American improv genius, is wasted as the closest thing the film has to a villain. Where's Bill Paxton when you need him?

5. Feature no good set-pieces

Into The Storm director Steven Quale displayed a real knack for creative mayhem in his previous film, the delightfully sadistic Final Destination 5. None of that flair is present here - especially in the pre-title sequence, when a film along these lines traditionally throws down its gauntlet. This opens with damp squib of a scene that sets an appropriately low standard for everything that follows. Even at this early stage, I was already wistfully recalling happier times with Helen Hunt.

Watch the trailer for Into The Storm below:

They could've solved all these problems by making the tornados sentient, and evil. Thoughts? Gonna see Housebound this weekend? Comment below!

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