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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Storm Warning DVD Review by porfle

From The Weinstein Company and Genius Products' "Dimension Extreme" label comes this extended, unrated cut of 2007's STORM WARNING, an Aussie variation on "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" that owes a lot to the template created by Tobe Hooper's THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

Yuppie barrister Rob (Robert Taylor, who played Agent Jones in THE MATRIX) takes his beautiful French wife Pia (Nadia Farès, WAR) out in a rickety motorboat one day for some fishing. Pia wants to go home when ominous clouds start to gather, but Rob's a big dummy who scoffs "ah, it'll blow over" and decides to explore the coastline. Before long, his brilliant navigational skills have them stranded in an agricultural drain several miles inland and then wandering around in the dark, rainy wilderness looking for a farmhouse with a phone.

You just know that the first house they come to is going to be inhabited by psychotic backwoods killers, and sure enough, it is. Jimmy (David Lyons) and his younger half-brother Brett (Mathew Wilkinson, GHOST RIDER) gleefully terrorize the cowering couple with guns and knives, even forcing Pia to kill a baby wallaby and cook it for their supper. As bad as these guys are, though, they're careful to keep the noise down or risk waking up Poppy (John Brumpton), their dear old dad who's sleeping upstairs. If these guys are scared of him, he must be a real terror, right? Actually, Poppy's not much worse than they are, but he does beat the ever-livin' crap out of them whenever they're in arm's reach. And it's obvious that none of these crazed whackos intends to let Rob and Pia get away alive.

STORM WARNING is an entertaining movie of its kind that consistently held my attention throughout. The opening section with Rob and Pia out on the water features some stunning photography, and the production design is terrific. URBAN LEGEND director Jamie Blanks, who also composed the score, stages it all well and throws in some nicely arty shots here and there. Whatever the budget, it looks like it's all right there on the screen.

The script, which Everett De Roche actually wrote thirty years ago, maintains a fairly high level of excitement and suspense although there's none of the grueling terror that made TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE such an ordeal to watch. Maybe a movie like this needs to be a little more gritty and cinema verite' to put the viewer right in the middle of the carnage and make it seem real. And while the performances are uniformly good, the bad-guy characters are never as threatening as the Leatherface family or even the hillbillies from DELIVERANCE.

The violence isn't nearly as awful as I expected, either. There are some pretty graphic scenes here and there, and the effects are well-done, but this isn't a movie that's going to have gorehounds in a constant state of bliss. These days, war movies and action flicks often feature more stomach-churning stuff, not to mention the charnel house films of the "torture porn" genre. This isn't a negative--STORM WARNING has its share of gory scenes--but you may be disappointed if you're looking to be flabbergasted.

Eventually, Rob and Pia are locked in the barn out back to await their deaths. Rob's leg is broken, taking him out of the equation. So it's up to Pia to take action if they're ever going to escape with their lives, at which point the movie really takes off and I began to fall in love with her character. Or at least felt a deep, temporary infatuation.

With an ingenuity that would make both MacGyver and Rube Goldberg proud, she uses available materials to improvise a trap which proves remarkably effective against one of their tormentors. Another clever idea results in a surprise for Poppy that may have male viewers crossing their legs. And the bloody finale is a nail-biting sequence that gets the old adrenaline pumping.

The image, as indicated on the box, is "presented in a 'matted' widescreen format preserving the aspect ratio of the original theatrical exhibition, enhanced for widescreen TVs." Anyway, the movie looks great to me, and sounds good, too. The detailed commentary track features director Jamie Blanks, screenwriter Everett De Roche, actor Robert Taylor, cinematographer Karl von Moller, production designer Robby Perkins, and SPFX artist Justin Dix. Also included are a teaser and a theatrical trailer.

If you're expecting a really dark and harrowing experience, this may not cut it for you. But for a fun, lively, and relatively gory spookhouse ride with great production values, STORM WARNING doesn't disappoint.


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