Storm Chasers (1998)

Kelly McGillis as Jamie Marshall in Storm Chasers (1998)

Low Expectations Lead to Low Pressure

The greatest compliment I can give the TV Movie "Storm Chasers" is that unlike other movies which deliver weather based disaster it is not just a rehash of "Twister". Oh it has some similarities as inevitably are heroine Jamie ends up in a jeep on a dirt track surrounded by multiple tornadoes and sheltering under a bridge, but it isn't a copy. Having complimented "Storm Chasers" I then have to say it is by no means a good movie in fact it is incredibly cheesy as it mixes romance with storm chasing delivering some monumentally terribly scenes, especially one which features ball lightning. As such "Storm Chasers" ends up a disaster movie for those who enjoy over the top and outrageous disaster movies which make the most of a small budget.

2 years after the death of her husband during a storm, researcher Jamie (Kelly McGillis - The Babe) is still trying to complete his research whilst working at the Center for Severe Storm Research. Sent down to Laporte, North Carolina to investigate a freak storm which devastated the region she meets FEMA worker Will (Wolf Larson) and whilst initially disliking of each other end up having feelings. At the same time Jamie discovers that a mysterious research facility with heavy security is up to something and maybe the changes that they have made to the environment may be the cause of the unprecedented storm activity.

Wolf Larson as Will Stanton in Storm Chasers (1998)

Have you ever noticed how in these tornado movies there is always something in someone's past which drives them on in chasing storms. "Storm Chasers" is no different as we learn that 2 years earlier Jamie lost her husband as they were researching storm patterns, killed in a plane when a storm hit it. But what follows is a bit different because she is sent to investigate what may have caused a storm to devastate Laporte, North Carolina and at the same time we learn that she has also become a thorn in the side of the Center for Severe Storm Research.

Now this is where the movie gets side tracked because we have the tough, cold Jamie meeting a dumb blonde, sorry I mean a himbo, okay she meets Will who works for FEMA helping in the clean up operation. It is all very cliche because Jamie and Will don't get on, she is focussed and abrupt, he is laid back and cocky as well as a flirt. But in what is one of many corny scenes as they end up in a clearing and experiencing ball lightning there is a romantic spark between them and end up snogging. It is incredibly cheesy and will Will's character not being the brightest spark it gets worse especially when she shows him a tornado in a pint glass, by swirling it around and he's like a kid with a new toy.

Whilst we have all this cliche romance going on we also get Jamie's discovery that maybe environmental changes are playing a part in the freak storm activity. There is the secretive Pine Feather research centre up in the nearby hills, there is a section of trees cut down, there are even those at the Center for Severe Storm Research who seem concerned by her snooping. And so doggedly, with the help of Will Jamie discovers what is going on and as you would expect ends up driving down a dirt track into what can only be classed as tornado ally as they end up not only surrounded by them but chased by one as well. It is as corny as it sounds and throw in plenty of big scientific sounding words and a lot of panic and well it is still corny.

Now to be honest the special effects in "Storm Chasers" look fake, they look like the CGI creations that they are, although I am sure some real tornado footage is sneaked in at times. But whilst the CGI looks fake it is also spectacular especially the scene with the ball lightning with these electric blue orbs shooting down from the sky. Even the actual CGI tornadoes look impressive even if they don't sit naturally in the frame. And you have to love the scene where Jamie fires rockets up into storm clouds with copper wire attached to create lightning, OTT but strangely exciting.

Now I've already mentioned the character of Will being a bit of a himbo, muscles flexed as he sits there in a crisp white vest makes that point as clear as the tornado in a pint glass scene. Ironically Wolf Larson does deliver all of this dumb blondeness quite well and also works well with Adrian Zmed who plays Smitty. And then there is Kelly McGillis as Jamie who in fairness has what is really quite a corny character to work with, still not over her husband's death whilst determined to complete his research. But whilst a cliche character McGillis makes her entertaining because of the way she gets off on the excitement of being in the middle of a storm, this is a woman who you get a sense that she gets some sort of sexual kick from all the electricity in the atmosphere.

What this all boils down to is that "Storm Chasers" is really a corny weather disaster movie which plenty that is wrong about it. But a few decent special effects and some elements where it is borders on being so bad it's good it does end up being strangely entertaining.