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Storm Warning (DVD)
Member Name: plipplop
Storm Warning (DVD)
Advantages: A gruesome, nasty 'peril' horror
Australian Rob and his gorgeous French wife Pia decide to spend the day fishing and messing around on a small boat. As the weather starts to turn colder and less predictable, Pia suggests that they head back to land, but Rob decides that they should make their way round the next headland and find shore that way. After hours of sailing deeper into mangrove swampland, they realise that they are hopelessly lost and as the water gets too shallow for the outboard motor, they drag the craft to land and go in search of help. As night falls, Pia spots the lights from a truck, but hesitates to go and ask for help when the three occupants appear to be assaulting a helpless young man. Understandably frightened, they make their way in the opposite direction, where they find a large, rundown farmhouse and shelter from the rain. But guess whose house it is........
Storm Warning is what you might call a hidden, horror gem. Barely making a scratch at the cinema or on DVD, it's one of those films that will come to your attention by word of mouth and for fans of the 'lunatics at large, people in peril' genre, this is one of the better examples of recent years.
Director Jamie Blanks has definitely matured since his earlier material (the teenage slashers Valentine and Urban Legend) and now settles on more hardcore subject matter. The set up is very simple (and not particularly original, if we're honest) but what sets Storm Warning aside from the competition is Everett De Roche's spot-on writing, that side steps pretty much all of the corny clichés and instead plays things exactly how you'd expect them to work. De Roche's story is pushed along by the brisk pace and conservative running time, and instead of a constant stream of unrepentant gory bits, the writer opts instead for restricted, extreme nastiness that will have even the most hardened genre hound grimacing and reaching for a cushion.
Crucially, De Roche knows how to work his audience and, even more importantly, fundamentally understands the psychology behind this kind of movie. We're presented with two seemingly normal individuals who (representing the viewer) are plunged into a nightmare conflict against a family of nutcases (representing our fear of the unknown). Completely abandoned by sanity and decency and left to their own devices deep within the isolated mangroves, it's pretty clear that these people can and will do anything and when the boundaries disappear, the viewer really doesn't know what to expect. More recently, writers and directors have opted to go down a bleak, hopeless route where our heroes (that's us by the way) are outwitted and brutalised at every turn and there really doesn't appear to be a way out. But in Storm Warning, De Roche decides that real people pitched into really bad circumstances will behave appropriately. As Pia herself says, 'to catch a mad dog, you have to think like a mad dog, only madder' - and that's exactly what she does.
Tinged with hints of I Spit On Your Grave and The Last House on the Left, Storm Warning is therefore a much more satisfying game of cat and mouse because against the odds, the mouse seems to have as much chance as the cat. Essentially incarcerated in the barn, Pia's boyfriend can only watch helplessly as his feisty girlfriend fights for their lives so it's a good job she's up to the task. It's imaginative and gruesome stuff. Unhindered by the genre shackles of being feeble and screaming a lot, Pia has a lot more gumption and isn't afraid to do what needs to be done. This, of course, presents a much more admirable character than we might normally expect (although boyfriend Rob is a bit of a waste of space) and means that, unconventionally, you actually care what happens to her.
The lunatics are a gruesome, disgusting trio comprising two half-wit brothers and their deranged father. In fear of their 'Poppy', Jimmy and Brett skulk around the farmhouse, leering at Pia's body at every turn and tormenting the couple as much as possible. It quickly becomes clear that they are very dangerous but (crucially) Pia inherits most of the peril, as it's clear that all three men see her as nothing but a sex object. The build-up to Poppy's entrance is something of a genre convention and his arrival is almost disappointing (you're led to believe that he's something a little more than he is) but it's clear that he shares his son's appetite for rape and violence. To be clear, this is an extreme movie, with very strong language and I suspect that it would be difficult viewing for many, particularly women who would find the sexual violence disturbing. But there's a lot of satisfaction to be had here, too. Notably, De Roche doesn't insult the viewer with the normal 'twists' we expect to find, with the bad guys getting up and coming back time and time again. In Storm Warning, when they're down, they stay down - it's just up to Pia to get them there.
The performances are strong. The intimate cast (there are really only five people in Storm Warning) means that they all have to pull their weight. Pia (Nadia Fares) and Rob (Robert Taylor) are convincing enough, although all they really need to be is 'normal'. Fares's feistiness is a welcome addition to the film and she gets that balance of fear and 'fighting' pretty much spot on. The three family members are so utterly grotesque that you can only hope that the three actors are that good at acting but it's Poppy (John Brumpton) who probably gets the top award for nastiness (and subsequent come-uppance.....)
There is, of course, a sub-current of social observation here, with Rob and Pia portrayed clearly as 'yuppies' and the family resenting them for it. It's not an entirely relevant theme within the film and serves little purpose other than the fuel the hatred between the sides. At times, you wonder whether the writer has something cleverer in mind but if he did, it's never fully realised.
This aside, Storm Warning is a resounding success on nearly every front. Perfectly timed and plotted, deliciously nasty when it needs to be and fundamentally exciting, this is how the 'peril porn' genre should work and is highly recommended. Don't say you weren't warned......
Summary: A married couple find hell in the swamps of Australia