Devil Winds comes from the made for TV disaster powerhouses of the early 2000’s Cinetel. Usually mixing a broken family, a disaster that brings them together and possibly even a main character death if they are feeling heartless, Devil Winds stays true to the formula. Think Twister Jr and you are in the right ball park.
The disasters faced
Multiple twisters, flying debris, lightning strikes, having your aeroplane door blow out, biohazard spillages, being shot in the bum and in the words of George of the Jungle: Watch out for that tree!
Devil Winds opens with Mary and Kara, mother and daughter, doing a bit of gardening at home when a twister plops down and kills Mary in the opening scene. Mary’s husband Peter was busy chasing the storm with scientist friend Robert at the time and had predicted that the storm would blow in a different direction. Although Kara survives, Peter cannot deal with Mary’s death and so the family fracture apart and when we resume 10 years later, things are not happy.
Peter, now a detective, has become a bit reckless and needs a holiday so books some time off to come back home to Tyler County to visit mum in law Margaret who has been looking after Kara for the last few years. Kara does not want to reconnect as she has gotten on with her life, taking a science lab job and excelling at the newly build biohazard diseases office built to get the county out of an economic depression. There she has found love with Dr John and is making her life what she wants it to be. Peter isn’t happy about it but having been absent, he doesn’t have much of a choice. Margaret is stuck offering dessert in a strange character arc.
John and Kara stumble over a problem though – that the infectious diseases building was erected with costs cut and so whilst sat in the middle of Tornado Alley, it’ll likely collapse if anything large takes place. Add to that, the weather centre are stuck with a new boss that doesn’t want to order any weather warnings so he can look good to the wider government for not causing a panic and you have a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully that kicks off in several waves when twisters hit Tyler. Whilst Peter and Robert are storm chasing to test out some predictive tech, they’ve been joined by reporter Julia and her cameraman Jerry. Jerry gets hurt by a lightning strike and so Julia does the only sensible thing in a 90 minute Cinetel movie and make moves on Peter to kick off the love interest. Together with Robert, they’ll now become Tyler’s saviours as they kick off evacuations and warnings that the weather centre refuse to trigger. This means that Kara and John will need to clear all the biohazard material into the vault underground because they know the building will topple. They’ll need to do this whilst evacuating other scientists and a school trip which seems to have zero security details attached to it.
Will Peter, Julia and Robert get everyone evacuated in time and will Kara and John be able to stop a potential secondary disaster of an outbreak of disease?
Why is it worth watching?
Being a Cinetel TV movie, Devil Winds cuts a quick run at 88 minutes and focuses largely on family drama to cover up the small budget. Whilst it is all relatively standard, I did like the interplay of local government politics and the infectious disease centre adding a twist to the usual antics of these made for TV movies. Joe Lando turns in a decent performance as Peter, as does Pete Graham and Robert. There is quite a lot of overly campy female acting though outside of Nicole Eggert as Julia. Almost every other female character has a weird pantomime stilt which is not helped by some of the camera work that likes to zoom in or film characters walking at a 30 degree tilt. Together these two things make the film feel a little amateur at times. It is like they’ve said ‘if you power walk with a tilted camera, kids will love it!’. No.
Elsewhere, the love section is largely underplayed as the main issue is the healing between father and daughter. Cinetel movies often make it look like the disaster was the best thing to happen to the characters and this is no different at all. Everyone is all smiles by the end as if they want it again same time next year!
Devil Winds surprised me with a mixture of effects and for a 2003 TV movie, they are better than I expected! The tornadoes themselves look poor as they form. It is just a grey swirl with no detail. Where they did impress me was with the detail of debris. A lot of the effects shots have bits of building flying off or a door flying through and they look much better than the tornadoes. The car being lifted off the ground looked good too as a finale effect. Will it win prizes? No – but its better than what we get from sci-fi movies today. Unused Twister footage was used in the opening credits sequence which is why it looks vastly more detailed! The car chase sequence is also stolen from Get Carter which is why it is literally nothing like the rest of the film either.
In spite from the largely stilted female section of the cast, most of the cast seem relatively normal and nice. Kara comes off as a brat initially but you can completely get why, whilst Peter seems unreasonable shouting orders at her after four years away. Once they are separated again, they become much more bearable again. Kara and John also have one of the worst flirting scenes committed to film with a terrible dialogue about their spores. I can imagine not a single scientist getting excited about that. My favourite character is Robert to be honest. He seems like a great friend to Peter, hardworking and enjoys a pint at the end of the work week. What’s not to like?
I was shot… in my…. gluteus maximus… wanna see it?
<several scenes later as Peter and Julia go under the covers>
Ah! My shot wound!Joe Lando, never allowed to have a quiet morning.
Three memorable moments
- The final tornado for its ‘look we’ve done debris’ shots.
- ‘Ah! My shot wound!’
- Watch out for the treeeeee… oh. Bye Mary.
The obligatory weird moment
Aside from the shot wound and the spore sections, Grandma Margaret is utterly useless as a character. She doesn’t do anything during the entire movie and when the big twister arrives, Peter calls her and she doesn’t pick up the phone. Everything points to her being in trouble or in true 90’s disaster movie, she’ll be the one to die. But no. She just pops up at the end to hug everyone as if she had gone shopping and missed the entire second half of the movie. Give me some peril woman, not comments on wine and pudding!
The drinking game
Is that a tornado chasing a car in a straight line again? DRINK!
Completely inoffensive but also largely forgettable too. Poor effects, clunky scripting and some wooden acting do Devil Winds no favours. The twists in the plot, scenario, stealing other movies’ footage and some strange comical outliers make it a bit more bearable though. One of the diehards.
Rating: Poor ( 2 / 5 )
If you enjoyed Devil Winds, then you may like…
- Twister – Does everything this film does in a bigger, better way.
- Tornado Valley – Knows its low budget so goes with pantomime baddie instead.
- Night of the Twister – Low budget family tornadoes done right.