Casper Van Dien went through a period during the 90s and 00s in the UK where he was referred to as the budget Jean Claude Van Damme. They’d do similar movies but at opposite ends of the budget scale. Flashforward to 2015 and Dien doesn’t just act – he executive produces a movie that perfectly showcases lofty ideas without the budget to do them. Fire Twister is brave but it is also wildly inconsistent.
The disasters faced
Twisters made of fire, corporate corruption, a CEO who loves to golf, easily the worst-hit squad commissioned in recent years and the answer to what happens when the weather gets hungry.
Eco protesters Scott, Carla, Jason and Barbie (yes Barbie) arrive at an energy site to place some cute protest banners on the site. Little do they know they have stumbled across a plan already in action by corrupt CEO Mitch. A bomb is ticking down ready to go off and when it does – it unleashes a deadly fire twister. As the quartet escape its wrath they run into Anthony. Anthony works there and explains the energy silo was full of a new sentient type of fuel that runs longer and actively seeks fuel to re-energise itself again.
This would be a bad day at the office for the five of them but they are also being chased and shot at (poorly) by V, Daryl, Huey and Louie – four utterly mindless and terrible hitmen who want to kill them. They are following orders from Mitch but seem genuinely incapable of doing anything aside from letting V shoot her own phone after each call.
The fire twister wrecks havoc as it moves from fuel source to fuel source – chasing heat like a sentient tornado. This leads our band of heroes to think of different ways to try and stop the fire twister in its tracks as they chase after it.
Meanwhile, reporter Jane is sniffing around Mitch and his company as things aren’t adding up. As word gets out that things are pointing back to the company, Mitch orders his assistant Shane to start shredding all evidence and smashing all hard drives. Shane, who seems like he only thought he’d be making coffee for the boss is then put in an awkward situation when Jane decides to break into the offices to find evidence of a coverup. Mitch has decided that it is more fun to report that Scott and Carla are terrorists and pin the blame on them.
Whilst that’s all going on inside, outside the fire twister hits the city and our quintet becomes a trio. The three remaining cast, lead by Scott, swap their car for a fire truck and fill the water compartment full of fuel. They head out to the vast land of Synco, the company where all this is taking place. The idea is that they’ll bomb the fire engine and the ensuing explosion will blow out the fire. The only problem is – they have the hit squad in tow and they are arriving onto Mitch’s doorstep! Will it happen? Who will survive? Will you care?
Why is it worth watching?
Fire Twister is full of throwbacks to the 90s cheesy humour but I’m not sure how intentional it is. Casper Van Dien is an executive producer here and yet his character – indeed all the characters that survive – are the ones who have the least personality until the final 20 minutes. The other characters make quips and silly retorts. V, shoots every phone after each call. It is literally the only thing that gets shot accurately in the movie. The other villains are Huey and Louie and the actors roll their eyes on camera. Jason spends the entire movie trying to chicken out and hide. Mitch and Shane are both hugely under-utilised when there is a sitcom waiting to happen with terrible puns. It is all there, but the movie chooses to just soldier through it all.
More frustrating is that the tone shifts dramatically and the film tries to make dramatic statements. There is a section where we have long slow-motion shots of firefighters looking knackered in their engine. Then we have another one of a young child saluting the fire truck… but Barbie and Carla are posing on top of it with water hoses spraying fire. It is like a Weird Al Yankovic music video but it is being played entirely seriously…I think. Then the movie moves towards some comedy deaths. It is jarring and amateurish but if you enjoy bad movies, this is the kind of stuff you will lap up in dregs. Also, spot where lots of plots just stop and aren’t completed too.
It isn’t all bad-good though. One thing that Fire Twister gets right is pacing. The incident kicks off in the opening scene and it doesn’t stop causing trouble until the movie ends. The fire twister may look poor but it is ever-present and causing deaths every few scenes. I think there must have been a shrewd paid extras crowdfunding for the movie because one of its oddities is that often extras have an entire 30-60 seconds of filler activity before they are either killed or run away. This includes the crappest card magic trick – which is recorded with a slow-motion effect no less. It also includes one of the funniest death sequences involving a rollercoaster committed to film. The acting in these extra sequences is appalling and the green screen isn’t much better. Don’t come here for a good film, come here for the car crash.
The CGI of the fire twister is used a lot but it is very unconvincing. This film has a lot of effects shots which is unusual for a film so low budget. They clearly do not mind that some of the effects are terrible but they aren’t the worst I’ve seen. What stands out worse is when the green screen is used for showing large scale carnage. The humans being filmed sit so far off the rest of the graphics it sticks out like a sore thumb. Little has been done to try and blend them in and I’ve seen these types of effects used on mobile phone apps. This also makes the two impaling comedy deaths look laugh out loud stupid when they’ve added CGI blood splatters. That is what gives the film its 15 rating and it adds nothing.
Scott and Carla are in a relationship but you’d never know it. Carla and Barbie seem to end up like a weird mother/daughter combo but they aren’t. They will shout things like ‘let’s get this bitch!’ though and act like wielding fire hoses with fire on is a feminist statement. On the flipside, Jane is smart until the script determines she is not allowed to be, Jason a chicken until he shouldn’t be and Anthony in shock until he isn’t. The script flicks switches on characters for the plot sake and so you don’t really get attached to any of them. Its a letdown. Also – shout out to the male reporter who is one of the poorest, hammiest actors I’ve seen in a film for a while.
Mitch – ‘Do you ever play golf?’
Jane – ‘Not really my thing’
Mitch – ‘You know that really makes sense. You don’t like a lesbian’
Three memorable moments
- The man who gets chased down the road by the fire twister after mowing his lawn.
- When the mountain people try to steal our gangs’ car in the name of Jesus.
- That rollercoaster scene is low budget gold.
The obligatory weird moment
Aside from the bizarre quote above that sticks out like a sore thumb, I have an issue with the finale and it contains spoilers so sorry in advance – you need to move on here. When Anthony drives his car into the fire twister downtown and his car explodes, Scott, Carla and Barbie decide they need a bigger explosion. Yet the explosion they make at the end of the movie is actually smaller. Add to that, with all the C4 and fuel – Scott has about ten seconds to run away and he drops to the floor after a few – he should be toast. It just makes the ending utterly anti-climactic.
The drinking game
V, Daryl, Huey and Louie are four of the worst henchmen I’ve seen on a TV screen. Take a shot for each one they miss… Good luck.
Fire Twister is a film that is so bad it is good again. Some of it is intentional, some of it isn’t. What is clear is that the mish-mash of big-budget ideas and low-budget reality make for some compelling movie watching. It is just that the entertainment is for those of us who like a trier rather than those of you looking for something genuinely decent.
Rating: 0 / 5 – So Bad It Is Good
If you liked Fire Twister / Firestorm then you may like…
- 500mph Storm – Casper Van Dien stars in this low budget plop too
- Metal Tornado – Has a similar vibe, production value and effect on its audience
- Into the Storm – This has a fire twister in it but has the effects budget to do it right