Aussie lawyer Rob (Robert Taylor, THE MATRIX) drives his new French wife, artist Pia (Nadia Fares, THE CRIMSON RIVERS), down through the countryside and to a small dock where they hire a two-man boat for the afternoon.

Their foray into the sea goes well while the sun is out, but Pia decides she wants to turn back when it becomes a little chilly. Rob insists they venture out a little further, just enough to see what lies between two small islands that they are approaching.

It's here that the couple's problems start. Having ran out of gas for their boat's motor, the pair row a little too far in-between the islands and find themselves lost. Then the rain comes down heavily as a storm arrives in the guise of thunder.

Rob and Pia decide it would be wise to leave their boat on the banks of one of the island, and try to find shelter on land. They walk through long grass searching for life, but when they find it, it's not what they'd hoped for. They crouch in the grass and watch as a truck pulls to a halt in the middle of a road and two silhouettes get out to kick the shit out of a man on the kerb.

Petrified, Rob and Pia scarper through the fields until they happen across a farmhouse. Seemingly abandoned, the pair let themselves into the building and are immediately struck by their surroundings: a blow-up doll on the settee; pictures of naked ladies all over the place; litter everywhere. But at least it's warm and dry.

Investigating outside behind the farmhouse, Rob discovers a shed where marijuana is being grown. He rushes to tell Pia what he's found, and that they should get out of the house sharpish. Unfortunately, before they have a chance to flee, the truck from earlier pulls up outside.

And so we meet mental brothers Jimmy (David Lyons, CACTUS) and Brett (Mathew Wilkinson, GHOST RIDER). After an initial slanging match with their intruders, they decide to let Rob and Pia stay for the night (after refusing to drive them anywhere and advising them that they are miles from the nearest telephone). But first, Rob and Pia must hide while the brothers put their grouchy father, Poppy (John Brumpton, SILENCER), to bed.

Once Poppy's in bed, Jimmy and Brett set about showing their unexpected guests some good old-fashioned horror film hospitality. It starts tamely enough, with Jimmy stealing the couple's clothes while they shower, forcing them to spend half the film in dirty tops and towels. Then things get hairier as the boys start getting drunk: Rob takes a few punches; Pia is forced to first bare her arse, and then kill a wallaby.

It's understandable then, that when Rob and Pia are put in a nearby barn for the night, they wait for Jimmy and Brett to go to bed then attempt an escape. But when their plans are foiled and Poppy is awoken, things take a turn for the (even) worse, and Pia realises that they must fight back if they are to stand a chance of surviving the night �

STORM WARNING opens with some lovely wide shots of the open Australian countryside and continues to please aesthetically with lots of gorgeous colourful compositions that make full use of the scenic summer's sea.

Aside from looking good, the film also benefits from good lead performances from the experienced Taylor and Fares. They don't overplay for sympathy, but deliver naturalistic performances that complement Everett De Roche's realistic dialogue.

It's only when Poppy and his sons turn up that everything seems to take a nosedive. The dialogue soon becomes risible (most notably from the villains, but also later with even Pia being resorted to laughable lines such as "My father said to me once, to catch a mad dog you must think like a mad dog � only madder"). Lyons, Wilkinson and Brumpton overact wildly, presumably trying to inject a dangerous energy into proceedings. The results, unfortunately, are more comedic than horrifying.

Director Jamie Blanks (URBAN LEGEND) keeps things ticking over nicely in a manner that recalls any competent but unremarkable thriller you may stumble across on Satellite TV these days. With an overused premise, an economic plot and nowhere to really take his action, Blanks does what everyone else who's ran out of ideas seems to be doing these days � and piles on the gore.

STORM WARNING is definitely a lot bloodier than URBAN LEGEND ever was. I was surprised by how bloody it was at times. Of course, it's all of the splashy kind rather than uncomfortable torture-porn variety. But, if you're looking for a novel way to injure a rapist, or one of the best punchlines involving a dangerous dog and someone's genitals, then here's where to look.

The disc offers STORM WARNING uncut in a 1.66:1 transfer that has been enhanced for 16x9 TV sets. Images are generally bright and sharp, with good strong colours and contrasting.

The English audio is available in good 2.0 and 5.1 mixes.

Animated menus include a scene-selection menu allowing access to the film via 8 chapters.

First out of the stalls in the extras department is a fairly engaging commentary track from the likeable Blanks.

Next up we get a Behind-The-Scenes featurette which is too brief at only 5 minutes in length. It's essentially an annoyingly edited on-set look into how the splattery FX were achieved.

A trailer runs for little over 90 seconds and gives a fairly accurate portrayal of what to expect.

We also get interviews with the three villains of the piece. These are promotional tools filmed in a studio against a black background, and last 10 minutes in total. It's all about "character motivation" and so on - very little insight into the actual filmmaking process.

Finally, the disc opens with trailers for WOLF CREEK, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and CANNIBALS: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE.

If you like your horror gory, but silly (not intentionally) and not altogether original, then this may fit the bill. If you can wait though, this is the type of thing that will no doubt turn up randomly on Channel 5 in a couple of years' time.

Review by Stuart Willis

Released by Optimum
Region 2 - PAL
Rated 18
Extras :
see main review