Hell’s Rain (or Anna’s Storm depending on where you are in the world) takes the Stepmom approach to Sunday afternoon disaster movies. Not content with having a selection of meteorites hitting the town of Cottonwood, Anna and her town must deal with love, loss and a whole lot of crying all wrapped up in sentimental bible quotes. Ah yes, we’re going sentimental and emotional with this made for TV disaster movie.
The disasters faced
Meteorites, dead son visions, gas lines, fallen trees, driving a stick shift, being trapped in a small town and having type O blood.
As with many of the wiser made for TV disaster movies, Hell’s Rain is a character centric disaster movie. Anna is the outgoing major of Cottonwood. She wants to leave her town because everywhere she turns she see’s her dead son Ricky. Her doctor husband Jack has withdrawn since the death six months ago as he blames himself. Her daughter Emily has shut down too, finding refuge in her boyfriend Seth instead but since Anna wants to move away, Emily isn’t happy. Seth is unhappy too but with his father Clint who is local policeman. Their relationship is broken after their wife and mother left for pastures new.
Anna’s days are spent power-housing around the neighbourhood solving issues from logistics, tax increases for business in trade and even popping into the local church. She is frankly supreme in her role although her current issue around a civil workers strike means she is having to make deals to get Douglas and his crew back to work rather than picketing.
That is when the meteorites strike. They come in waves. The first smashing into local shops right infront of Anna. It smashes the shop of Miriam – Douglas’ wife and she is trapped under rubble. Anna, her right hand man Marty and the fire-chief go to rescue her but a second wave hits. This overturns a car where Tyler is sat. Tyler is Anna’s dead son’s best friend and a constant reminder of their loss. A third wave then hits the cafe and other areas where Emily and Seth are presumed to be.
The movie then moves into survival mode. Anna is in charge and leading the logistics whilst keeping her frosty relationship with Clint calm since they don’t get on. Anna also convinces husband Jack to return to hospital practice. In doing so he will join forces with his feisty replacement Dr Julie O’Ryan. She’ll be taking no shit today, wants a black coffee and is great at her job. Sadly, her people skills under pressure may be a bit lacking. Between them they’ll be treating the wounded and looking after Tyler and Miriam – the two most critically injured. Miriam has type O blood and the hospital has little in reserve and they need a delivery of some.
Anna then rallies to the cafe with Douglas to help the cafe rescue thinking Emily is inside but infact she is stuck up the mountain with Seth, who is trapped under a fallen tree. They’d planned to have sex but the only wood that is getting any action in this film is the tree pinning Seth down. Anna also has contact with Tab who is her eyes and ears in the sky throughout the film. When he then tells her that all these meteorites are a prelude to a larger meteor heading for them, he gives them a 45 minute warning. Assuming the worst may happen, how would you spend your last 45 minutes?
Why is it worth watching?
Hell’s Rain leaps between disaster movie threads quickly and with ease. The acting in general is decent enough to sell the emotional story that pulls everything along. Everywhere Anna goes, she can see Ricky – her son who died six months earlier. He just seems to be chilling out on his bike most of the time in a slightly awkward creepy manner but it always stops Anna in her tracks. Whilst the meteorite storm is unfolding, its really all about how you deal with the loss of a child and film tells the story from different points.
Anna has decided to escape, busying herself with everything she can. Jack is shut down and can’t move on. Emily feels isolated because she can’t grieve one way or another. We then see how Tyler’s mum Janet has to deal with her son being in intensive care and the thought of her joining the club. There is a lot of well intended and thoughtful moments scattered between the usual disaster movie fare and it helps sell the more emotional and sensitive movie that this is trying to be. It does all culminate in a cringeworth religious undertone which personal didn’t sit well with me at all but the sentiment works.
Outside of that, I always enjoy the small town big personality vibe disaster movie and this is another one to add to the pile. Although there are not very many big personalities, the community spirit of Cottonwood shines and that makes the movie much more watchable. That being said, if I was about to die you wouldn’t catch me singing Amazing Grace at any point during the ordeal!
The meteorites are subpar CGI but I’ve seen a lot worse from movies made a lot more recently. What I did appreciate was the use of real rubble, real flames and some actual stunt explosions with cars in. A little bit of debris goes a long way and Hell’s Rain is better for it.
This film is centred around Anna and Sheree J Wilson gives a well rounded performance. She can be decisive when she needs to be but never forgets to be a mother either and is a great role model style character. I found Clint to be an old school idiot and I found it funny that Nurse Natalie spends the entire film attending to everyone in a cardigan. Clearly hygiene is less of a priority in a small town hospital that seems to also have beds in full view of waiting rooms. I found Jack to be so gently lost in it all too. It is a quiet role but it was lovely to see him gain more focus and confidence over the film thanks to Anna’s support.
How do you get over the death of a child?
I don’t know – I don’t think you ever do. I certainly haven’t.Jack and janet discussing the death of ricky and the critical conditional of tyler
Three memorable moments
- The initial explosions set for being fast paced and well put together.
- Anna’s speech on the local radio station to announce the last meteor is a biggy.
- Jack and Janet’s discussion around carrying on as a parent after losing a child.
The obligatory weird moment
For a film that is all about sentimentality and emotions, there is a weird five minute segment after the first meteorite waves where the film decides to go shaky cam and quick edit happy. It soon drops this and returns back to normal afterwards but it is really jarring and off-putting. Its strange because there are some really interesting shots and are quite cinematic (in a low budget artsy way) so it makes the misstep and change of pace really in your face.
There is also the discussion of what Ricky and what it really all means. You could go full on conspiracy theory and say the ghost of Ricky sent the meteorites down to test Anna’s strength and courage to stay in the town and move on from his death. It’s also mildly implied that he is a guardian angel watching over her to safety too. You can take the visions of him on many levels if you want to but I’ve kept it basic. He is just a haunting reminder and an emotional prison.
The drinking game
This film has an obsession with the word ‘stat’. ‘We need it stat!’ Have a shot for each time its said, usually in the hospital, and you’ll be needing a sick bag stat!
Hell’s Rain is a bit mushy, a bit wholesome and like the Dr Quinn of disaster movies. That will greatly change your mileage with the movie. I like variety and in some ways its sensitive and quiet nature helps it stand out from the many other mass produced made for TV disasters. It isn’t a top tier recommend but this is legs above the usual derivative trash that gets churned out for us these days.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 – OK
If you liked Hell’s Rain then you may like…
- Deep Impact – How do you deal with the end of the world?
- Tunnel – Korean drama of survival and hope over several month long rescue.
- Tornado Warning – Similar warming small town survival vibes but windier!