NYC Tornado Terror is a movie that has grown on me over time. When I first watched it I was seriously underwhelmed. Over time though, I have come to appreciate it as being a bit better than I initially gave it credit. As disaster movies that are made for TV become so cookie-cutter and personality-less, at this NYC Tornado Terror dares to have its own identity.
The disasters faced
Tornadoes (lots of), electrically charged buildings (lots of), being tied to a swing (a few) and getting stuck under the fallen Statue of Liberty (just the one of those please).
Cassie and Jim are married and a working team in science and NYC government. Cassie is a climatologist and Jim is deputy Mayor of NYC. For once the main duo are a couple and not post breakup and being forced to work together. Their only needle is that Cassie is broody but Jim is not and the film will continue to place Cassie in situations where she needs to care for someone and she’ll outwardly tell us ‘I’m not ready for a baby!’ Thank you exposition!
Little dust devils start springing up across the city that quickly merge into tornadoes that send a frozen chill down to the ground. Each time they appear, they are stronger than before. Cassie and Jim work out that its the collapse of part of the ozone and the tornadoes are pulling down frozen air. Its a double trouble that allows the film to use a light blue and grey hue on all makeup and effects where possible.
Our feisty duo have issues trying to keep the disaster contained though. Mayor Leonardo wants to continue on business as usual whilst bringing in NASA to overrule Cassie’s suggestions. This forces Cassie and Jim to pull in crazy Dr Lars to arm some missiles to help put out the tornadoes.
Whilst that all goes on, Lori, Cassies sister, is busy on a date with figherfighter Brian next to the Statue of Liberty. Naturally the twisters attack and the arm of liberty is broken off and fall on top of the duo who have escaped down a manhole. Trapped under rubble, these two will spent most of the film trying to get help.
The film moves towards its finale when the main cast minus Lori and Brian end up at a central building that has been electrified by the storm. Jim, his assistant Lucy, caretaker Lefferts and some office workers are stuck trying to get down electrified staircases. Cassie is trapped in a smoke filling floor. The mayor is busy outside creating pandemonium for the city. Just who will survive and will New York City be saved?
Why is it worth watching?
NYC Tornado Terror is a funny one because its not quite at that parody level that Sci-Fi and Asylum movies go for but its not got a bigger budget to do things differently. Largely the movie manages to stay within its budgetary constraints and I applaud it for not going down the usual TV trope of having everyone stare at monitors for half the movie. Instead, it takes you around New York. We’re in parks, shops, office buildings and cars and that keeps the pace up as the movie doesn’t stay sedintary.
Acting wise, for a TV movie, this is above par. I have enjoyed Nicole De Boer in many things and she is understated and normal here. Sebastian Spence does well as the husband and although he is largely quiet for the first half of the movie, he fleshed out later on. It is nice to have a leading couple who are in love and strong enough to get through things together without getting melodramatic too. It keeps the focus on the disaster.
For a film that’s only 90 minutes long, the movie definitely have a two act approach. The first half of the movie I found quite scattered and a bit flimsy. It has small little moments of drama followed by an awkward exposition dump. When everyone ends up at the building for the final half of the movie, a proper structure to the film takes place and it becomes so much better. You don’t need huge budgets to hold my attention, I just need characters to care about and some situations to get through. That’s what the second half brings and I was here for it.
The effects aren’t fab but they are used sparingly. Some of the quick fire tornando sequences include laughable deaths of nameless people being quickly sucked away looking very superimposed on the screen. These don’t fair so well. Other effects such as the electricity sparking off the walls and floors are much better. Sometimes you just can’t beat a good wind machine so it’s good that gets turned on a lot. Just don’t expect much and you’ll be fine. Also, spot the fact this movie has a Hudson-esque sequence a year before the real Hudson event took place.
Whilst I’ve covered the fact the leading couple are stable, there rest of the cast are a smattering of different tropes. Lori just moans the entire movie and needs a slap. Brian is the all American hero. Lucy seems perfectly nice and normal so I assumed she was going to die from the start. Elsewhere people fill in the crazed army guy, twaty NASA guy, token Asian office worker. I wish that some more time had been given to develop some of these characters more outside the main four.
‘That’s insane!’ – Cassie‘And what’s this? A walk down mental health street?’ – Jim
Three memorable moments
- The ball of electricity breaking into the office and seemingly becoming sentient and going after some poor lady, frying her on the spot.
- Watching Nicole de Boer pretending to cry as she see’s a frozen family killed by the tornado. We then see a shot of them and they are blatantly mannequins.
- Lucy and the shakey-shakey-tounge-out-stack-it-down-the-stairs-athon
The obligatory weird moment
When a localised tornado strikes, there are some dogs tied to swing and when we cut back to the swing we have all the dog leads up in the air and all the dogs are missing! How the hell did every dog manage to perfectly slip out of their leads and fly off into the air?! Were they auditioning for Air Bud The Sequel? I had to take this out of the memorable moments because its so jarringly weird and laughable – I can’t not have it as the weird moment of the movie.
The drinking game
Is that a phone call a character is trying to make? This whole film relies on mobile chats and text messages that have interference.
Far from fantastic, far from diabolic, NYC Tornado Terror is a serviceable TV disaster movie. It is pulled above its average dregs by the fact it stays mobile and hired a set of decent actors who captivate the screen. If you see this cheap or on TV, grab some snacks and enjoy!
Rating: 2.5 / 5 – OK
If you liked NYC Tornado Terror then you may like…
- Tornado Warning – similar vibe and production level with a warm and likeable cast.
- Night of the Twisters – a 90s TV tornado movie that is aimed for Sunday afternoons.
- Into the Storm – Underrated mix of found footage and cinematic effects fueled fun.
This review was updated on 26th April 2020 to follow the new ILDM review format.