Night of the Twisters (1996) - USA - Drama/Disaster Movie - TV Movie
Directed by Timothy Bond
Starring Devon Sawa, Amos Crawley, John Schneider, Lori Hallier, Laura Bertram, Jhene Erwin, David Ferry, Helen Hughes
A standard plot for a tornado movie, tornadoes lay waste to a small town, is brought up a level by focusing on the characters of the story rather than special effects and creating tense storm scenes.
A storm chaser for the weather service tracks a supercell storm behaving erratically through rural Nebraska (I know, that's redundant). On a hunch he goes to the town of Blainsworth. The Hatch family lives in Blainsworth, and on this night the mother is working at the diner, the father is checking on his mother while the son is at home taking care of his baby brother when twisters strike. Survival, fear and chaos are all on order for this evening as families that are separated try to reconnect while the massive storm sits stationary and threatening with more twisters before this night is over.
What separates Night of the Twisters from other twister movies is in creating scenes which accentuate the storm effects surrounding the characters in the story. The main character, a teenage boy, is home with his best friend watching his baby brother until one of his parents get home. With the storm siren going off then failing they are in the dark whether it is real or not. The sounds increase outside the house. Is this a twister or not? The viewer is just as blind to what is approaching as the characters on the screen and feels the tension building as a result. An added bonus is the after effects of the storm are just messy, making it seem like a real storm has been through this town.
What I did not care for with this movie is the pretense given to this storm being some freak of nature working contrary to the laws of nature, with the storm chaser saying (paraphrased) that in 20 years of doing this he has never seen such a storm behave in this way, yet this mystery is never resolved. I can see it as a tension building element by painting the storm as unpredictable, but in the end I was still left hanging about that.
Additionally I didn't feel John Schneider was given much to work with as an actor. He is a more than competent actor from whom I have seen some wonderful performances, but he seems stuck in a singular mood. It is certainly not his acting capability, I just don't feel he was given that breadth in this as the main character is his character's son, and he is more affective to that main character. It is probably just knowing what he is capable of I found myself disappointed is his role, not in him.
Night of the Twisters is somewhat based on the book of the same name, which in turn is a fictionalized account of the Grand Island, Nebraska tornado outbreak on June 3, 1980 which produced a total of 7 confirmed tornadoes in the Grand Island area, from a slow moving supercell, ranging in strength from F1 to F4.
My Rating: 3 Fingers Plus. Though I had some disappointments with parts of the movie, overall it creates an effective tension better than other movies of its kind.
Night of the Twisters is available on DVD but it, as of this writing, is expensive. I found mine in a YouTube search.