There's a good reason we keep popping those DVDs into our players, always hopeful that THIS one will be a cut above the rest, or (at the very least) toss a cool coat of paint onto a very familiar concept. So if you did a little digging on a new Australian horror flick called Storm Warning, you'd quickly discover that A) it's about yet ANOTHER city couple who end up in the wrong part of the wilderness and stumble across some grungy killers, and B) it was directed by the guy who gave you Urban Legend and Valentine. And so you'd probably (smartly) approach Storm Warning with some skepticism, which is pretty much what I did. And hey, guess what? It's a pretty crisp and efficient little thriller that's both well-shot and well-paced. I didn't see that coming.
Original or shockingly unique? Hell no. But for a brisk and creepy 83-minute affair, it's a pretty commendable little flick. Plot-wise, it's pretty simple: a young couple from the city trek into the Aussie forest for a little fishing expedition, but when the day is done, they (stupidly) stumble across the activities of three mega-sleazy pot-growers. These guys aren't Cheech & Chong, folks, and one dead body tells our heroes all they need to know. And that's this: They're in big trouble. A mild disdain turns to overt discomfort, and you know where this is headed: City-boy crumpled with a broken leg and the "helpless" female looking all sorts of ... appealing.
Obviously Storm Warning is not out to re-invent the genre wheel or even forge a new path; director Jamie Blanks and veteran screenwriter Everett De Roche (Road Games, Razorback, Link) seem perfectly content with doling out a very familiar tale, only they want to do it with a little style, vigor and ferocity. And so they do. Acts I and II exist mainly as slight-yet-compelling set-ups for the big third-act massacre, but one has to admire a movie that accomplishes its simple goals. Storm Warning gets your blood boiling early as our poor victims (Robert Taylor and Nadia Fares) earn all sorts of unpleasant punishment, but once the tables are turned (and Blanks' surprisingly excellent musical score kicks in), Storm Warning turns into all sorts of basic-yet-undeniable fun. It helps a lot that Ms. Fares is very beautiful, but also halfway believable as a woman pushed well beyond the limits.
The details of the violence do manage to strain credibility here and there (check out how elaborate those traps are!), but on the other hand, the generous gore effects are quite impressive. Plus, as previously mentioned, even if you're half-bored by the first 50-some minutes, odds are you'll be suitably impressed by the hyper-kinetic finale. Storm Warning might be derivative, obvious, and simplistic, but it's also shot with a lot of style, edited with a lot of kick, and (best of all) it knows just when to deliver its goods and roll the credits.
So if this is what Jamie Blanks is capable of outside the studio system, I say keep the guy away from Hollywood. (OK, Urban Legend had some good stuff in it, but Valentine? No way.)
[ Storm Warning screened as part of the UK FrightFest 2007 event. The region 1 DVD will arrive on February 5th, 2008, as part of the Weinsteins' Dimension Extreme banner. ]