Steven Quale’s first movie was Final Destination 5. Hailed as a slight return to form for a franchise bogged down by the sequel dogma of most protracted horror franchises, perhaps this spelled good things for Quale, maybe by upping the spectacle, action, and tension of a disaster flick? Into the Storm represents all those things; a perfect playground for an upcoming genre talent. Sadly, it rarely pays off on any promise – and reminds you that, actually, Final Destination 5 wasn’t all that good anyway.
In the American town of Silverton, it’s Graduation Day. But a bright future is darkened by black clouds, as the stormchaser team led by Pete (Matt Walsh) and Allison (The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies) detect a massive storm system heading straight for Silverton. After the initial tornado hits, Gary (Richard Armitage) must rescue his son, Donnie (Max Deacon), before the next twister wreaks more devastation – but none of them, not even the stormchasers, can predict what nature has in store for them.
Primarily, Into the Storm is an experience – something the trailers and posters have been very clear about. You should try to see this on the biggest screen possible; immersion in the admittedly impressive visuals is vital to enjoying the movie’s more ridiculous moments, of which there are many. And that’s because, unfortunately, there isn’t much else to recommend it on; the acting from the cast, of which there are a handful of established – and talented – performers, is generally flatlined by the louder-than-thou maelstrom of the film’s real star, the fully-realised storms. In its most memorable sequences, Into the Storm becomes Dorothy Gale’s worst nightmare; the eye-popping effects continue to steal every scene, but also any genuine human drama from them too.
That’s not to say that the action is bereft of tension. Quale has a knack for stitching his shots together for maximum effect, so that even if we don’t particularly care for the characters, enough conflict is wrung from what’s happening onscreen for an at least partially enjoyable ride. And that’s where Quale excels – the thrill of the moment, whether that be a twister theatrically splitting into four, or a tornado sucking up a blaze of fire and providing a particularly memorable (read: funny) death scene. But despite his flair for bombast, there is simply too much, too many times; genuine suspense comes from the calm before the storm, not the storm itself. Instead, Into the Storm opens with a short, instantly forgettable scene that immediately dials up the stuff-happening-on-the-screen factor to 10. Quale climaxes far too early, and we’re left feeling disappointed.
Also detrimental is its found-footage format, which continues the trend of actors holding cameras in just the right position, instead of doing their actual job of playing characters, not being cinematographers. But that’s merely one shortcoming for a picture filled with them, making the ‘disaster’ part of the genre applicable in a different way. It’s far from the worst film you’ll see this summer, and it does deliver an all-out experience of sorts. But once the dust settles after Into the Storm has ripped your cinema screen in two, it curiously leaves little evidence it was ever there.