Don’t you just hate people from the countryside? Seriously, they’re never up to any good. Because of their inbreeding and lack of urban sophistication, they’re all out to nab your face and wear it (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), steal your wife (Breakdown) or just tear her in half between two lorries (The Hitcher) for funsies.
Not true, obviously, but this hillbilly revenge genre does tap into something deep and unpleasant, the vigilante in all of us. Jamie Blanks’ tense and gory outback revenge drama Storm Warning follows in this vein, but it’s difficult to tell just how ironic it’s being.
That uneasiness starts from the very beginning when Rob (Robert Taylor, who looks and sounds like Carl from Neighbours, and like him has the ability to bed beautiful woman despite being old and Aussie) takes French belle Pia (Nadia Farès) on a romantic boat trip, and decides to push on when the weather gets grim. A sensible idea, naturally, and they soon wind up stranded in the middle of nowhere, only to play Goldilocks in the house of a family of deranged criminals. When they arrive, the gun toting sons (who make the pair of Michael Haneke’s Funny Games look like the Chuckle Brothers) play a tortuous game with the pair and push them to the edge.
Just like inbred-country-folk slasher Straw Dogs, Storm Warning features a yuppee couple stranded in a back water who take violent revenge on their sadistic captors. But unlike Straw Dogs, the hero isn’t Dustin Hoffman but the woman. Oh, and she puts a dirty metal pipe with lacerated edges inside her vagina in case she gets raped. Don’t you get toxic shock syndrome from things like that? At any rate, when this happens the film turns completely bonkers, which is both its downfall and its saving grace.
The film is divided into two segments: the first half is a taut psychological thriller as the sons, Jimmy and Brett, manipulate Rob and Pia into committing horrific acts, only slightly let down by the pathetic fallacy of the impending storm. The couple’s accidental discovery of a cannabis plantation in the shed is a thoroughly convincing reason for the family to hold them hostage, rather than just pure sadism, and the fear with which the sons hold for the father off-screen is menacing.
This is until the father shows up, of course. The fearsome Poppy (John Brumpton) bursts in and starts behaving like Russell Crowe, beating everyone up and chewing the scenery in a way that sits uneasily with the previous half. Then Pia turns out to be a dangerous paranoid schizophrenic when it turns out she’s capable of setting horrific traps for their captors, and suddenly we’re watching Home Alone, only this time Joe Pesci is hung, drawn and quartered alive. By fish hooks.
This really ought to ruin it, but it becomes so farcical that you can almost forgive Blanks when the comedy Deliverance banjo music strikes up for the insane finale. If you’re a horror fan prepared to ignore the treatment of women in the film that veers rapidly between brute misogynism and worship, Storm Warning tilts conventions just enough to get some laughs and surprises out of it.
Sadly, the DVD bonuses leave something to be desired. There could have been a great Special Effects featurette (decapitated animatronic baby wallaby, anybody?), but instead we’re only given six minutes of tantalising footage with no narration. And the brief interviews with the actors don’t even include Farès, the star of the show (Perhaps she was having the jagged tube removed). A trailer rounds off the unsatisfying extra features.