In the Australian film Storm Warning, a couple gets lost and encounters a small group of scary hillbillies. Yes, you have see this movie a thousand times before, but now it takes place in Australia.
In recent years, this highly repetitive sub-genre has maintained itself by become ever more gruesome and depraved; but Storm Warning breaks the trend by pulling every punch possible. Just when you think something really bad is about to happen to the couple… it doesn’t.
Although some of the hillbillies (I use that term despite the fact that they are Australian, and thus not technically ‘hillbillies,’ but the principal is the same) do suffer gruesome deaths, but they deserve it.
And that’s the problem. It isn’t really horror if justice always prevails.
The two victims are Rob, a lawyer and fisherman; and Pia, his French wife who doesn’t like killing things. They land their small boat on an island when a storm rolls in, and seek refuge in the first dirty house they find. Normally at this point, we’d find the house filled with dismembered body parts as it’s revealed that the hapless protagonists have stumbled into a house of cannibals. In this case, they find a mass of porn and a marijuana grow op.
For a group of psycho-sexual killers (who at one point mention that they have, in fact, eaten a person), minor drug peddling seems like a disproportionate crime. It’s just bad story structure. The crime doesn’t have the gravitas to illicit fear or dread on the level necessary to sell the rest of the movie.
Anyway, the hillbillies offer the couple a shower and then steal their clothes (although they leave them with shirts long enough to cover everything, one example of the film pulling its punches). Thus begins a night of intimidation and threats that seldom go anywhere.
The characters aren’t that well developed. Like when Pia, who has a deep-rooted aversion to harming anything, constructs a series of Rube Golbergian death traps. Even if you’re smart, that’s not the kind of thing you can do on the fly with no experience.
Storm Warning is well produced and has a beautiful visual style. And despite the characters being largely uninteresting, the acting is good. The cast includes David Lyons (Monroe on the TV series Revolution) as one of the hillbillies. Nadia Fares, who plays Pia, imbues her character with a believable strength; neither helpless victim, nor superhero (if you ignore the inexplicable trap building).
So, if you need to see another movie in this genre, Storm Warning is a good enough choice; just don’t expect any surprises.