It’s not often the main characters in a movie are not played by the actors. I’d say it’s even less frequent the main characters aren’t even the special effects. That being said, I think Into the Storm may be the first film I’ve ever seen where the main characters are the cameras and yet, I still have a hard time calling this a found footage film, but the cameras are certainly the closest thing to actors you’ll find in this travesty as CG thunder clouds and tornadoes make up the rest of the running time.
In an era where made for TV movies such as this have found their place on the SyFy channel with the likes of Sharknado and Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda it’s somewhat amazing to think a studio would even consider spending the additional money to beef up the effects and put it on the big screen. Watching this cast battle their way through this film as if they were reading cue cards just off camera was painful stuff and to know it was only 89 minutes long is to know it was 89 minutes too long.
Director Steven Quale didn’t exactly get off to a rousing start with his feature directorial debut Final Destination 5 and he’s taken a giant leap backward here, making a film so bad it’s somewhat telling in the fact New Line didn’t even spring to post convert it into 3D to pad the box office figures.
The biggest question I have for movies of this sort is to wonder why they bother with story at all? Why set up the mother (Sarah Wayne Callies) with a daughter she hasn’t seen in months as she’s been traveling with a group of storm chasers? This story is never going to get involved enough with its characters for that relationship to resonate.
Why set up the leader of the storm chasers (Matt Walsh) to be some kind of asshole, pressuring his crew into FINDING THE STORM AT ALL COSTS!!!!! and why have that crew question what they are doing to the point they want to quit only to contradict that very sentiment minutes later? Seriously, one guy is ready to quit and then he damn near walks directly inside a tornado that’s on fire. THE TORNADO IS ON FIRE! What the hell are you doing standing there admiring it? Get the hell inside!!
Then you have Gary (Richard Armitage or Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit trilogy as most probably know him) a vice principal at the local high school and terrible father to his two sons Donnie (Max Deacon) and Trey (Nathan Kress) who just so happen to be video enthusiasts. Because, of course they are, someone needs to hold the cameras.
All that said, the most fitting characters in the whole film are a pair of idiot rednecks, Donk (Kyle Davis) and Reevis (Jon Reep), whose goal in life is attempting to become YouTube stars by performing stunts, which eventually leads them to their own bit of amateur storm chasing as a massive grouping of tornadoes descends on the small town of Silverton.
The only positive working on the film’s side are the visual effects, which in and of themselves are impressive. Again, there’s a flaming tornado and Walsh even gets his own Matrix Revolutions moment as he rises above the storm before falling back down to Zion… I mean, Earth.
And I can’t fault the actors too much for their performances as the words they’re reading are hollow and empty, just as are the characters themselves. Asking an actor to establish any kind of sense of character or emotional connection with an audience when the focus of scenes is just as much about what’s being said as it is the Nikon camera on the dashboard is asking too much. If screenwriter John Swetnam wanted the focus to be on the cameras, make it about the cameras and stop trying to tell a story about people we don’t care about and stick to impressing us with wind blown carnage and destruction.