Storm Warning

English Title: Storm Warning

Country of Origin: Australia

Studio: Resolution Independent, Storm Warning Productions

Director: Jamie Blanks

Producer(s): Gary Hamilton, Pete Ford

Screenplay: Everett De Roche

Cinematographer: Karl von Moller

Art Director: Justin Dix

Editor: Geoff Hitchins, Jamie Blanks

Runtime: 83 minutes

Genre: horror, backwoods horror, survival horror

Starring/Cast: Mathew Wilkinson, Robert Taylor, Jonathan Oldham, David Lyons, Nadia Farès, John Brumpton

Year: 2007

Volume: Australasian

Ignoring a storm warning, city lawyer Rob and his French girlfriend Pia, are forced to land their boat on a remote island. Lost and stumbling upon a ramshackle farmhouse with no one at home, they let themselves in to look for a phone only to discover a clandestine marijuana plantation. Before Robert and Pia can flee, the owners – Poppy and his two sons Brett and Jimmy – return to find their home violated and their secret uncovered. Imprisoned in a barn by a dysfunctional sadistic redneck ‘family’, Robert and Pia are plunged into a world of violence, torture, sexual and psychological abuse, horse pornography, and dogs with a taste for human flesh. Against overwhelming odds, Pia turns the table on her captors in a desperate struggle for survival with the help of a fish-hook trap, an anti-rape device welded from scrap metal, and a hammer.   

Storm Warning is Australian director Jamie Blanks’ first horror film directed down under. After being lured to Hollywood with only a short film under his belt, Blanks became a household name for horror aficionados with his popular US teen slashers Urban Legend (1998) and Valentine (2001). Urban Legend grossed over US$ 70 million at the worldwide box-office, while Valentine earned over US$36 million (although receiving poor critical reviews). A very different movie to his Hollywood horrors, Storm Warning is a typical low-budget independent Australian horror movie in a similar vein to Wolf Creek (Greg Mclean, 2005) and Dying Breed (Jody Dwyer, 2008). Like these films, Storm Warning has a budget between A$1 and A$5 million, it has an ambient and moody aesthetic feel typical of Aussie horror cinema, it explores similar themes of isolation and the dark side of tradition, and revolves around everyday people in an isolated locale where outsiders are not welcome. The movie received strong critical accolades from major horror fanzines (including and despite its release straight-to-DVD despite an original commitment to theatrical release given to the filmmakers by Dimension Films. While critics acknowledge the film brings little new to the ‘backwoods’ or ‘survival’ horror sub-genres, they applaud Blanks for a tense, foreboding film driven by an exquisite visual style – particularly masterful digital clouds prevalent throughout the film and constant rainfall generating an ominous mood. The movie was written by veteran Australian horror screenwriter, Everett De Roche – who had written earlier Aussie horror cult titles Razorback (1984) and Patrick (1978) – and was inspired by the classic children’s fable Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Based on a screenplay written almost 30 years previously, it is perhaps unsurprising that ordinary people pitted against sadistic killers and the triumph of strong female characters over their tormentors have become clichéd themes in horror cinema. Nevertheless, De Roche’s story was arguably ahead of its time and sheds light on dark aspects of Australian culture and society still relevant today. Storm Warning examines tensions between working-class ‘country’ folk and upper class ‘city-folk’. Poppy, Brett, and Jimmy’s violence towards Rob and Pia arises as much from their hatred of Volvo-driving city yuppies, as it does from their sadistic nature and need to protect their illegal marijuana trade. Similar to Wolf Creek, a deep-seated hatred of foreigners pervades the film. When Jimmy notices Pia’s accent he quips, ‘you got yourself a frog [French] chick, hey … Hey darling, see this? [Cradling a baby kangaroo under his overcoat] I found him on the side of the road. You like kangaroos darling? Wanna pat him? [When she hesitates] Com on, he won’t bite. [As Pia reluctantly reaches forward, Jimmy shouts at her violently, causing her to recoil in fright]. I might though’. Like numerous recent Aussie horror films, Australia is portrayed as a dangerous destination for a holiday. Foreigners in particular, who stray from the ‘beaten track’, do so at their own peril. This reoccurring theme explored in numerous contemporary Australian horror flicks, is perhaps an allegory to underlying racism in Australian culture. Such racism was forged into the popular consciousness in 2005 during the ‘Cronulla riots’ as mobs of white Australians rampaged through the suburb of Cronulla attacking anyone of ethnic appearance, and made international headlines more recently for a surge in alleged racial violence against Indian university students. Overall, Storm Warning is an impressive addition to Blanks horror resume, although it paints a bleak picture of aspects of contemporary Australian society.

Author of this review: Mark David Ryan