I’ve been circling STORM WARNING for weeks now, always suggesting to watch it, always finding an excuse not to, often landing on the knowledge it was made by the guy who did URBAN LEGEND. The IMDb plot description did little more to muster interest, "A yuppie couple lost in a swamp seek refuge at an isolated farmhouse only to discover they’ve jumped out of the frying pan into the fire." What does that even mean? I comprehend the analogy, it just sounds like a TV Guide description for a Lifetime Original Movie.
If Lifetime Original Movies were made in hell [avoid obvious pun], it turns out. STORM WARNING is brutal, filthy, vile, sleazy fun that could easily have slipped out of a wormhole to 1977. The mechanics of Everett De Roche’s script are familiar; a couple in need of assistance encounter a family of repulsive rednecks who have no agenda to make good on their offer to ‘drive ’em into town’ the next morning. Familiarity be damned, though, because Jamie Blanks also has no intention to standardize the whole of the film. I never thought I’d say it of the guy who did URBAN LEGEND, but Blanks sifts the common ground, bringing to the surface a rich, dark roast of an inbred slasher with a final half hour that will have you, if not on, at least in close proximity to the edge of your seat, cheering for him to bring more and more of the gore.
First some clarification so as to not grant the illusion that STORM WARNING is a faultless diamond in the rough. It is not. It has scores of problems. Not one of the characters is anything new. The rednecks in lethal need of dentistry are over the top caricatures that could have walked off the set of a dozen other pictures. The family dynamic is ripped straight from TEXAS CHAINSAW. The "yuppie couple" are as deep as those two words describe. The flick is only 82 minutes long, which includes a skipable 10+ minutes of the couple in love getting themselves lost during an afternoon of boating, and takes a further 45 minutes to prove its worthiness to the viewer before unveiling a film-saving last act.
Even in its cliché territories, Blanks overcomes. The set design is of elaborate decrepitude, but is well explored both by the characters and Blanks’ energy as a director. All of the players pull out solid performances, particularly Nadia Fares as Pia in the feminine role sure to be most victimized and Mathew Wilkinson as the eldest brother. The flick even has an ear for timing and humor, going so far as to feature a death-by-trap of such malicious ingenuity that Pia must be pregnant with Macaulay Culkin.
Perhaps one of the reasons I liked STORM WARNING despite its flaws is that it also avoided the pitfalls films of equal ilk dove head first into. It starts out with what seems like a promise of abusing these two people to the detriment of the viewer, saying nothing about the who, what, why or how of their conflict. The script has nothing to say (why is it even called STORM WARNING? Why does the man on the DVD cover have a machete that never appears in the movie?), but it also ends up not being a film depicting the helpless torture and rape of innocent people. Think of it as the second half of LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, not the first. If that comparison makes no sense to you, no huge loss. You’ll miss out on why STORM WARNING is straight out of the late ’70s, but I’d wager the flick can still mount enough momentum to entertain.
If you’re a casual horror goer who digs the genre but doesn’t watch it as often as they’d like, STORM WARNING is not a priority, but for those who gobble it up, make a note of this greasy Australian slasher/survival outfit. It may be hard to grab a hold of (figuratively, not literally) at first, but stick it out and be treated to some meaty shocks that sport a breed of ludicrous rationality that offers no sense in the real world, but makes jovial, bloody sense in cinema land.