Curse "The Blair Witch Project."
Ever since that film captivated audiences in 1999 with its "found footage" approach to filmmaking, directors have been trying to mimic the style — and generally failing at the effort.
"Into the Storm" is the latest attempt to pull off the "found footage" style, but it stumbles so often it takes a lot of wind out of the sails of this film about massive tornadoes. Couple that with some absurd dialogue and scenes that look like they were lifted out of another movie, and "Into the Storm" is little more than a cheesy cable film with a lot more money to spend and a lot fewer sharks.
What starts out as a beautiful sunny day in Silverton, Okla., turns into a meteorological nightmare. Numerous massive tornadoes pop up and send a small town's population heading for cover during a high school graduation ceremony. The unusual weather is being tracked by a group of tornado spotters, including: single-mom weather forecaster, Allison (Sarah Wayne Callies); her nervous boss, Pete (Matt Walsh); and camera operators who, if they were on the original "Star Trek" TV series, would have worn red shirts.
The tornado spotters join forces with local high school vice principal, Gary (Richard Armitage), and his two sons (Max Deacon, Nathan Kress) to try to survive the weather onslaught. There's a mild attempt to give the characters a back story, but it really doesn't matter because the tornadoes are the stars.
Director Steven Quale — who was the visual effects supervisor on "Avatar" — seems most comfortable when his cameras are focused on the mayhem supplied by the storms. That's because the effects are almost good enough to counter idiotic dialogue — such as a girl bemoaning how her cellphone won't work when she's standing neck-deep in water — or a script that announces upcoming plot points with the subtlety of an F-5 tornado.
The visuals also almost cover oddities like Silverton — with only one sleepy main street — having an airport that makes New York's LaGuardia Airport look small. All of the massive planes make for a nice visual when they get tossed around, but the air armada just doesn't fit the story.
Quale's biggest failing is not sticking strictly to the "found footage" rules. There are too many scenes in which the style is dropped, which keep undermining the movie's overall structure.
"Into the Storm" ends up being a passable action film, but the box-office forecast would have been much brighter if more attention had been paid to the script, acting and filmmaker's approach.
"Into the Storm," rated PG-13 for action sequences, language. Stars Sarah Wayne Callies, Matt Walsh, Richard Armitage, Max Deacon. Directed by Steven Quale. Running time: 99 minutes. Grade: C-