Ice Twisters (2009)

Ice Twisters.

Directed by: Steven R. Monroe
Starring: Mark Moses, Camille Sullivan, Alex Zahara, Ryan Kennedy, Robert Moloney

Screenwriters rarely steal the spotlight when it comes to disaster movies. The attention will usually be on famous actors, or skilled visual effects teams, or Roland Emmerich. Not so with Ice Twisters, though, because the dialogue in this made-for-TV movie is so tone-deaf and horribly overwritten, it should get some kind of award. I mean: “There’s nothing we can do, only stop this from happening.” Really? And the nonsensical plot doesn’t exactly help. Yup, Ice Twisters is one for the ‘craptastic’ category.

Joanne (Camille Sullivan) and her team of young scientists are conducting experiments in weather manipulation, funded by an unpleasant suit named Frank (Robert Moloney) through something called the Federal Science Foundation. The experiments involve releasing a squadron of drones into the atmosphere, in order to create clouds, which will then be “seeded” to produce rain. However, the experiments generate an unforeseen side-effect, as they cause sudden and violent storms featuring lethal temperature drops.

Ex-scientist turned science fiction author Charlie (Mark Moses) stumbles across the team as they investigate the storms. It turns out Charlie and Joanne used to work together at the university, before Charlie “abandoned science fact for science fiction”, as one of Joanne’s colleagues sneers. Joanne brings Charlie into the investigation, because he is a “zero-gravity thinker”. And wouldn’t you know it: by referring to plotlines and imaginative concepts in his own novels, Charlie is soon the one driving the investigation forwards.

Not that there is much investigation, though. Joanne wants to shut the drones down, but the drones don’t respond to commands. It appears that Frank the suit has shut Joanne’s team out, because he has a secret agenda (which is never made clear but probably has to do with using the technology for weapons purposes).

Satisfied with the results, Frank has the drones shot out of the sky, but by then it’s too late: the process forming the storms continues unaided. After thinking really hard for several seconds, the team come up with a completely unintelligible plan involving “punching a hole in the ozone layer” and firing some kind of beam from a satellite. And shazam, the massive ice twisters dissolve before they can kill Portland, Oregon.

Plotwise, Ice Twisters is unusually stupid even for a disaster movie. And it almost feels as if the writer (one Andrew C. Erin, also responsible for a couple of other disaster flicks) is actively calling our attention to this fact. The movie opens with a book signing, where Charlie is confronted by a geeky reader who complains about the unrealistic and unscientific plots in his novels. Charlie points out that he’s a fiction writer, not a lab rat. The complaining geek then leaves the bookstore, only to get killed as a suddenly appearing twister hurls a car at him. Whining movie reviewers take note.

We get a bunch of so-so CGI twisters but never get to see that much destruction, since most of the film takes place in rural Oregon. There are several sequences featuring rapid freezing (one including an unfortunate farmer and his unfortunate tractor) that are obviously inspired by similar scenes in The Day After Tomorrow. So extreme are the temperature drops that an airplane actually freezes midflight and falls out of the sky. It is second in silliness only to the scene during the film’s climax where the computer whiz fails to log into the satellite system because he has forgotten to turn off the caps lock (!). Or wait, the part where the gang drive straight through three twisters without even getting frost on the windshield…

There’s some pretty good-looking landscape photography scattered around, but apart from that, Ice Twisters looks like the low-budget effort that it is. It’s also one of those “empty world” pictures, where you never see any people besides the main characters. The acting is bad all around, and the character Charlie is almost unbearably smug and obnoxious.

There’s fun to be had, for sure, but for all the wrong reasons. Go on: get drunk and have a laugh.

Rating: ?!/5 (Craptastic)

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