Shitty Movie Sundays: Ice Twisters

Ice Twisters movie posterSyFy has been performing a valuable service for the shitty movie fan for decades, now. They have been willing to purchase and show the absolute worst dogs that the 21st century has to offer, making them the inheritors of the legacy of drive-in movie theaters. Since SyFy is commercial television, these flicks are light on gore and devoid of gratuitous nudity — staples of the drive-in — but they make up for that by featuring movies with outrageous premises, and the type of shoddy production values that are near and dear to we many denizens of the darker realms of cinema. There are true believers at work at that network.

From screenwriter Andrew C. Erin and director Steven R. Monroe comes Ice Twisters, which is exactly what is sounds like. It’s a movie that rips off the blockbuster disaster flick Twister, upping the stakes by making tornadoes icy cold, freezing everything they pass over or fling into the sky.

There are even character analogues to the earlier film. Whereas Twister had Bill Paxton, Ice Twisters has Mark Moses as Charlie Price, a former scientist turned popular science fiction author. Twister had Helen Hunt, while Ice Twisters has veteran Canadian television actress Camille Sullivan as Joanne Dyson, who is heading an experiment where drones are flung into the sky, not to study tornadoes, but to create and control weather systems. She even has a passel of assistants and minor characters to assist her, just like in Twister. Unlike in Twister, there are no future Oscar-winners amongst them.

The experiment Joanne and her team are conducting, in rural Oregon, goes awry. Instead of creating rain clouds, the manmade weather system draws down frigid air from the far upper atmosphere, creating the deadly tornadoes written of above. Charlie just happens to be in the area for a book signing, and he and Joanne also happen to be former colleagues. After witnessing one of the wayward storms, Charlie inserts himself into the plot, providing snark, much-needed exposition, and possible ways to stop the storms and tornadoes from propagating.

Charlie is a bit of a weird character. He’s an angel of plot development, singlehandedly driving events forward, while whipsawing back and forth between likable and punchable. No one in Joanne’s team likes him, as he left the noble confines of science to pursue the riches of popular fiction. This gets a little over-the-top at times, as Charlie gives very reasonable and accurate advice, but remains a foil for much of the movie.

Eventually, though, everyone comes around and realizes that this guy knows what he’s talking about, and he becomes crucial to saving the day. How that is done is through more science and stuff. This being a b-movie, details and accuracy are not essential. Just know that the drones flying up there in the sky and creating the tornadoes have gone rogue, and it takes quite a lot of piercing gazes at computer screens and frantic tapping of keys to save the world. To keep things interesting for the viewer, Charlie, Joanne, and company have to pick up and move many times, as the tornadoes always seem to pop up right where they are.

The tornadoes are the meat of the film, after all. They have to be on hand to provide spectacle and danger, or this would be a dull movie, indeed. A flick like San Andreas made the mistake of keeping its scientists locked away in a single location while The Rock ran wild. Put the geeks in danger. It raises the stakes for a film when the people in the know can become casualties.

Viewers should not expect this flick to have decent CGI, though. Ice Twisters is a bargain basement production, and nothing will reveal that to an audience more than the special effects. Nothing looks real. Monroe had a decent grasp of storytelling for a film like this, though, so he kept things moving along, and provided audiences with destruction at regular intervals.

That sense of pace and general competence makes this among the more watchable of SyFy’s cheapies. Ice Twisters manages to sneak into the top half of the Watchability Index, displacing Mach 2 at #157.

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