Storm Warning first published by Film4
Film summary: Australian director Jamie Blanks goes back to source for this gory redneck revenge shocker, scripted by Everett DeRoche.
Review: These days, Australian cinemagoers have the likes of Greg Mclean (Wolf Creek, Rogue), the Spierig Brothers (Undead, Daybreakers), Andrew Traucki and David Nerlich (Black Water) to scare them out of their comfort zones – but several decades back, the name most strongly associated with antipodean horror belonged not to any director, but rather to a screenwriter. Patrick (1978), Roadgames (1981), Razorback (1984), not to mention arguably the greatest nature’s revenge film of all time, Long Weekend (1978), all came from the pen of Everett DeRoche, who realised ahead of his time that the bushlands and desertscapes down under are the perfect staging ground for the horrifying clash of civilisation and savagery.
It should come as little surprise that these preoccupations are shared by Storm Warning, the latest film to be based on one of DeRoche’s screenplays; perhaps more surprising, though, is how fresh and ‘of the moment’ the film seems, despite its having been written some thirty years ago. It is confirmation, if confirmation is needed, that contemporary horror has entered a phase of backward-looking nostalgia, with seemingly every new chiller these days sending a bloody valentine to the mean-spirited excesses of the seventies and eighties. Director Jamie Blanks’ career serves to emblematise this process: for while he has previously made the blandly slick studio horrors Urban Legend (1998) and Valentine (2001), with Storm Warning he has not only returned to his country of origin, but also gone right back to the independent, low-budget roots of the genre he so loves – and in so doing, he has been able to import the sort of unapologetically strong material that the studio system tends to avoid. No-one would accuse Storm Warning of tepidly pandering to the PG-13 market. This is horror for only the sternest of stomachs.
“I feel like Goldilocks.” So says French artist Pia (Nadia Farès) to her older, barrister boyfriend Rob (Robert Taylor) as they break into an isolated farmhouse for shelter after a storm has interrupted their weekend boat trip – and sure enough, this bourgeois city couple is about to fall into the clutches of three ferocious bears from the “boonies”. It is clear from the start that Jimmy (David Lyons) and Brett (Mathew Wilkinson) are priapic, misogynistic racists with criminal secrets and volatile tempers, and they are none too happy to find intruders in their home (although they are rather pleased to get their hands on a “female human”) – but if these two brothers are terrifying, they are themselves terrified of their Poppy (John Brumpton), soon to wake from his drunken stupor. Pia and Rob are definitely in big trouble – but as Pia’s dad once told her: “To catch a mad dog, you must think like a mad dog – only madder.” The time has come to fight – with a vengeance – and Pia is going to use her newfound fishing skills and sexual allure to strike back at her redneck tormentors where it really hurts.
There is little new to be found in Storm Warning for anyone reared on a diet of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Last House on the Left, Deliverance and I Spit On Your Grave – but Blanks shifts gears from menacing tension to outrageous violence with such speed and deftness that you can only sit back and admire his craft – if, that is, you are not left struggling to recover your jaw from where it has landed on the floor. And the game is raised by the players, from veterans Taylor and Brumpton to newcomer Lyons, who offer a chilling intensity of performance that is rare in so tawdry a subgenre. So if you want to see Australian masculinity gone insanely awry, and a feminist backlash that unfolds in an escalating series of gory set-pieces, Storm Warning delivers on every front.
Verdict: This modern fairytale of three very bad men and a female avenger represents survival horror cheap and nasty enough to get genre fans drooling – but it is also consummately crafted, heralding the welcome return of Australia’s finest exploitation writer, Everett DeRoche.
© Anton Bitel