Tornado Warning (2012)

a.k.a Alien Tornado (USA)

Jeff Fahey stars in a surprisingly enjoyable meterological horror from director Jeff Burr. Signature UK R0 DVD.

The Film

Judd Walker and his daughter Kelly live on a farm in rural Illinois. Their livestock are wiped out by a strange green-tinged tornado that seems to appear out of nowhere. Meanwhile in Chicago, a weather blogger Gail Curtis receives reports on these tornados but is confused as to why reports on them are not appearing on the weather service. She travels into the country and there finds that there is something odd about the tornados - joined by a reluctant Judd and enthusiastic Kelly, they encounter mysterious government agents seemingly tracking these storms and suspect something very strange is happening...

A low budget Syfy channel movie about alien tornados is hardly where you would start looking for high quality cinema, but writer Paul A. Birkett (who also scripted another Kenneth M. Badish produced meteorological film Weather Wars (2011)) manages to provide an interesting storyline and a decent ninety minutes of entertainment. As in his earlier film, Birkett for a thriller approach rather than making a traditional disaster movie - although the main characters here of Judd and Kelly are 'normal people' who find themselves caught up the the events rather than being directly connected - the script balances needing to provide some relevant background information about them, without clunky exposition or the gratutious subplots and unnecessary backstory that flounder many similar films, they even manage to make Kelly act like a plausible 17 year old (her father not being able to afford to send her to college is the 'end of her life') without it becoming grating. The rest of the characters are similarly treated, all acting quite believably given the strange situations that are occuring, even the apparent "villains" in the mysterious government department are sutiably nuanced and the explanation for their actions do make sense.

The one part of the story that does not ring true is the apparent media black-out about the twisters - a big deal is made of Gail Curtis being a popular blogger with lots of followers, yet no attempt is made to suppress her when it is obviously happening to local newspapers and radio, who are mentioned more than once to be ignoring the events. The notion of an alien controlled tornado is pretty nutty, but the script is at least consistent with the tornado's power and behaviour and the eventual ending does at least make sense given what has come before. The film plays itself straight, there is no attempt at parody and given the production's television roots, it eschews any nudity - although it is a pity that the bloody and inventive deaths of Badish's previous Miami Magma are missing here. Pacing for the mostpart is strong, the first two-thirds of the film have a good balance between storyline and action scenes but the final third does drag a little as the climactic action scene just goes on far too long and the script might have benefitted from a trimming by up to 15 minutes here.

Director Jeff Burr has spent his life working in low budget productions and does a pretty solid job here, keeping the film visually interesting without falling into the over-edited mush of many similar productions. He works well with the CGI effects and they look surprisingly effective for the most-part, like the storyline the production does falter a little in the final chapter and the destruction of Chicago is obviously beyond the budget, leading to scenes of tornados roaming the city but doing very little visible damage.

A beareded Jeff Farley takes the lead role here as the father Judd - a veteran of low budget pictures, he seems completely unphased by the storyline is well suited to the role. Young rookie actress Stacey Asaro handles the major role of Kelly quite well and it is surprising that aside from an all-too brief bikini-clad appearance in Miami Magma (2011) she has no other credits to her name. David Jensen is well cast as the mysterious government agent.

Tornado Warning is a surprisingly enjoyable and decently made film. Obviously not one for someone wanting a deep, meaningful masterpiece, nor a gory action-fest, this is however an entertaining TV production that takes a rather daft premise and low budget and makes it work, only the overlong finalé lets it down. One of the better SyFy movies and recommended to low-budget film fans.

In Brief
Anyone famous in it? Jeff Farley - a veteran of low budget movies, best known for The Lawnmower Man (1992)
Directed by anyone interesting? Jeff Burr - best known for helming Leatherface: Texas Chainsaw Massacre III (1990) he also worked on Puppet Master 4 (1993) and its sequel and more recently, British film Gun of the Black Sun (2011).
Any gore or violence ? None
Any sex or nudity? None
Who is it for? Fans of SyFy Original Films and cheesy DTV flicks should enjoy this.

Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.78 anamorphic widescreen. Colour.
The clean digital print, no transfer issues.
Audio English 2.0 stero - sounds fine.
Subtitles None.
Extras None.
Region Region 0 (ALL) - PAL
Other regions? Also available in the UK on Blu-ray. Not currently on DVD in the USA.
Cuts? Believed to be fully uncut. Print language is English.



All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 9th November 2014.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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