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Storm Warning (2007)
Dimension Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 2/5/2008
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 2/3/2008
I recently reviewed a movie calledHatchet, whose DVD box proclaimed "Old School American Horror". This was meant to imply that the film had the feel of an older, more raw feel. Unfortunately, this didn't come to fruition, as the movie simply felt like a movie which was trying to harken back to another day. The end result was simply a mediocre slasher film. This "Old school" moniker would be appropriate for the Australian entry Storm Warning. If I had been told that this film was made in the early 80s and found in a vault, I would have most likely believed it.
As Storm Warning opens, Rob (Robert Taylor) and his wife Pia (Nadia Fares) arrive at a dock to enjoy a day at sea. They take a very small boat with both a sail and an outboard motor out on the water. After some fishing, they notices dark clouds on the horizon and decide to head home. Rob navigates around an island, and takes the boat into a tributary. Instead of leading back to the dock, the stream takes them inland and they are soon grounded. Rob and Pia begin to travel on-foot and they are soon caught in a downpour. They spot a farmhouse in the distance and make a run for it. They find the house deserted and seek shelter. The house is filthy -- littered with dirty dishes and pornographic pictures. Checking the back, Rob finds that the shed is filled with marijuana plants. Soon, a truck arrives at the house, and the owners, Jimmy (David Lyons) and Brett (Mathew Wilkinson) are surprised to find the wet strangers in their house. They had Rob and Pia until their father, Poppy (John Brumpton) can go upstairs. Jimmy and Brett act a bit odd at first, but when they realized that their visitors have seen the illegal plants, they take them hostage. Rob and Pia are verbally and then physically abused before being locked in the barn. Will these scared outsiders survive the night?
Screenwriter Everett De Roche reports that the script for Storm Warning was written 30 years ago. Again, I find this utterly believable as this film is a throwback to the sort of brutal movie which was quite popular in the 70s and early 80s. The movie echoes movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and The House on the Edge of the Park. It offers the stereotypical "city slickers encounter dangerous good old boys" story, but it does so in a very precise manner.
De Roche (who also wrote the familiar Australian horror films Patrick, Razorback, and Road Games) and director Jamie Blanks (Urban Legend) have clearly studied what has made the other movie in this sub-genre successful, as they've put together a shocker which operates with surgical precision. The story unfolds at a nice pace, and while I went into the film with little idea of what it was about, it quickly became clear that Rob and Pia were going to find themselves out of their element. When it comes to the villainous characters in these films, they can fall into several categories. Some, like the family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, are simply insane and can't be reasoned with. The brothers in Storm Warning fall short of this, but it's clear that they live in a world where they ignore the law, any social graces, or any respect for human dignity. This immediately gives the audience the impression that anything can happen.
Storm Warning is a film which is difficult to critique. Is it an instant classic? No. Did I enjoy myself while watching it? No. But, the movie falls into a particular genre and thus has certain goals, and it fulfills those goals admirably. When the brothers find Rob and Pia in their house, a sense of doom falls over the film which doesn't evaporate until the ending. There isn't a second in the movie where we don't feel that Rob and Pia could die at any moment. The mid-section of the film is almost a chore to watch, as it is so bleak. This portion of the movie isn't really violent, but the threatening sense of menace is palpable. If the aim of the mid-part of the movie was to make the viewer uncomfortable, it succeeded. This lays the groundwork for the third act, where Rob and Pia decide to fight back. As with many films of this ilk, these scenes bring forth some "what would you do?" questions and we find ourselves cheering for incredibly brutal acts.
Recently, movies like Saw have garnered a reputation for being brutal. (For the record, I hate the term "Torture Porn".) However, most of these films are either way over the top, or offer some semblance of a world which we recognize. Storm Warning is one of those movies which takes the viewer into the kind of situation which is inherently frightening: being out of one's element and in grave danger. The opening of the film comes off as somewhat silly (seriously, that boat is tiny), but once the couple reaches the house, all bets are off. Storm Warning isn't very original, and it isn't fancy, but it is effective and fans of brutal 70s horror will get a kick out of this one.
Storm Warning drops the barometer on DVD courtesy of Dimension Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The movie was shot on HD and it looks very good here. There is no grain to be had, nor any defects from the source material. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distortion and very little video noise. The colors look fine. Most of the film takes place at night, but the image is never overly dark. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which supplies clear dialogue and sound effects. The track offers some nice stereo effects and the constant thunderstorm provides satisfying surround sound and subwoofer action.
The Storm Warning DVD contains an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director Jamie Blanks, writer Everett De Roche, actor Robert Taylor, executive producers Mark Pennell & Pete! Ford, cinematographer Karl Von Moller, production designer Robby Perkins, and special FX artist Justin Dix. Although it's hard for everyone to get their comments in, this is a good track, as it's full of information. Blanks does most of the talking, describing the production and the shooting of the film, while the others chime in with their thoughts on their particular contributions. The only other extras on the DVD are the TRAILER and the TEASER.
Review Copyright 2008 by Mike Long