Nature Unleashed: Tornado (2004)

Nature Unleashed: Tornado reviewReviewed by The Foywonder

Starring Daniel Bernhardt, Ruth Platt, Casper Zafer, Allister Bain, Anya Lahiri

Directed by Alain Jakubowicz

If you’re wondering why a movie called Nature Unleashed: Tornado is being reviewed on a horror website then you clearly haven’t listened to the Post-Horrorfest Dinner For Fiends during which I briefly blew everyone’s mind by describing the insanity of this film’s premise. Let me sum up why using nine simple words: world’s first Romanian devil cult gypsy apocalypse tornado flick.

First you have to understand the concept behind the whole “Nature Unleashed” franchise: five cheapie disaster flicks bound for the Sci-Fi Channel distributed by Nu Image (the Shark Attack people) each built around a particular natural catastrophe simplistically used in the title proceeded by the “Nature Unleashed” moniker. The other four were Avalanche (exactly what you think), Earthquake (actually more about preventing a Russian nuclear reactor from melting down after be damaged by an earthquake), Fire (a sheriff has to save people trapped in a forest fire set by a burn-scarred arsonist seeking revenge) and Volcano (a volcanologist’s dead wife trying to sending him messages from beyond via a mute girl in order to help him save a village from a volcano soon to erupt). As you can see, a couple of these “Nature Unleashed” flicks were not your typical natural disaster flick. None, however, took things to the delirious heights that Nature Unleashed: Tornado did.

When I got my hands on an advance screener of Nature Unleashed: Tornado back in the summer of 2005 I had no clue what I was in for. Well, actually I did and I didn’t. Here’s what the plot synopsis on the back of the DVD case had to say:

“Haunted by the death of his younger brother who was killed by a tornado years earlier, Josh Barnaby finds himself tracking the deadly storms in open prairies of the Midwest…this time as a photographer. Josh flirts dangerously close to the elements as the reek havoc and leave total destruction in their path. He hooks up with Nickie Flynt, a reporter researching tornado warning technology. He soon finds that she has another agenda as a group of terrorists is also following her. When the ultimate tornado, a category F5, is directly in their path, he rages against fate and nature as the mega-storm obliterates everything and this mother of all storms threatens to take away everything he holds dear…”

Nature Unleashed: Tornado review!That was the movie I expected to watch when I popped the DVD in. Instead I got this preposterous film about a news cameraman sent to Bucharest to cover a world gypsy conference where he learns that he’s a predestined savior who must stop a satanic cult from conjuring up a supernatural tornado designed to wipeout all the world’s gypsies. I kid you not. I’m sure there’s a whopper of a story explaining how the plot synopsis on the back of the box got transformed into the movie I just summarized in the last sentence; one day I hope to have someone in the know explain it to me.

The film opens with a prologue in which our main character Josh, then a child, witnesses his father’s tornadic death. After gifting his son with a strange necklace and then shooing the family into a storm-proof cellar, dad attempted to film the tornado heading straight for their farmhouse by chaining himself to a tractor. Bad idea. But we do get the amusing sight a man flying around inside the tornado in a manner virtually identical to Bruce Campbell flying around the vortex in the opening of Army of Darkness. This is how most of the tornadic deaths will be visualized.

Josh grows up to become a news cameraman played by Swiss martial artist Daniel Berhardt of Bloodsport 2-4, Future War, and the agent who fought Morpheus atop the speeding truck in The Matrix: Reloaded fame. Just don’t expect to see much of any kung fu fighting in this one. Josh gets assigned to Bucharest to cover this giant gypsy conference because his boss knows he’s of Romanian ancestry. You see Josh’s father was a Romanian immigrant, evidenced by the thick southern accent the man spoke with during the opening prologue. Joining Josh is a snotty female reporter, a character that seemingly exists solely because it wouldn’t make much sense to just send a cameraman without a reporter to do the mouth work. Her character is so extraneous she’s not even his love interest.

This gathering of gypsy leaders is supposed to help put an end to the hatred and misconceptions many Europeans have of gypsies – a sad but true reality even to this day. Hearing any character decrying the stereotyping of gypsies struck me as especially laughable given the filmmakers have every single gypsy character dressed up like a fortuneteller, an aging hippy, or a Mexican bandito.

Nature Unleashed: Tornado reviewThe first stop in Romania is to a gypsy village where an Ewok-quality celebration is in progress for no particular reason other than gypsies seem to love throwing jamborees. The hottest gypsy babe spots the necklace Josh’s dad gave him, pulls him aside, and proceeds to tell him it’s an ancient gypsy relic given to the gypsy kings centuries ago by the angel Gabriel that should only be worn by the chosen one who will “stand up to the wind” and protect the gypsy people from an unholy super tornado called the Meta Tempesta.

According to gypsy legend, a big chunk of Europe was devastated centuries ago by this colossal satanic tornado conjured up to cleanse the world of the gypsy people that came to be known as the Meta Tempesta. It just so happens that a book heralding this improbable gypsy legend as scientific fact was co-written by Josh’s dad; suddenly we’re supposed to believe the guy was a brilliant climatologist shunned by his peers for believing in satanic gypsy-sucking tornados and such. In the legend, a lone savior somehow stopped the original Meta Tempesta – no explanation as to how. A new savior is prophesized to emerge and that someone will be wearing the talisman around Josh’s neck. Sure enough, another Meta Tempesta is in the works courtesy of a cult of gypsy-hating devil worshippers and their mysterious leader known only as Ahriman, the true identity of whom is made so transparent I’ve no clue why the film chose to hide it for so long. Why Satan has it in for the gypsies is also never explained.

Naturally, Josh takes some convincing to believe any of this is for real, but once he does and begins his quest to prevent the new Meta Tempesta from coming about, stopping the satanists, and making the world safe for gypsy kind, we will get to witness stuff so ludicrous that if you don’t find yourself enjoying the badness of it all on a “MST3K” level you’ll probably begin experiencing mental anguish. A few examples of that ludicrous stuff:

  • Josh has a dream sequence in which he’s chased by stock footage of actual tornados. Believe it or not, the stock footage tornados are a welcome change from awful CGI tornado effects.

  • Josh and the female reporter are out filming when a tornado appears from out of nowhere. Josh, panicking because he isn’t wearing his magical protective necklace at the time, repeatedly yells, “We’re screwed without my talisman!” They attempt to escape by driving in the same direction as the tornado heading for them; the whole time Josh fumbles through the glove compartment still yelling, “Without my talisman, we’re screwed!”

  • A ten minute stretch of film devoted to Josh’s madcap encounters with wacky Romanians speaking badly broken English.

  • A romantic subplot is set-up between Josh and the gypsy babe that never actually results in any semblance of romance.

  • Satanists in Little Red Riding Hood robes performing generic black mass ceremonies on an altar with “666” spray painted on it and randomly chanting gibberish while standing around their unholy symbol, the design of which looks like a cross between a swastika and The Glaive from Krull. Every time you seen them bunched up together in their robes, see if you can resist uttering, “Gunter glieben glauchen globen”.

  • How do you find a satanic cult in Romania? Why you simply drive through the woods until you hear a loud chorus of sinister chanting. Just pull over at the nearest cultist crossing and wait for some fully robed disciples to come walking by so you can follow them to their secret meeting place. It’s that simple.

    Nature Unleashed: Tornado review

  • Josh goes to a rundown Romanian insane asylum to meet with Malik, the Romanian mathematician that his father co-wrote the Meta Tempesta book with. Think Rumpelstiltskin on a bad acid trip and you get the idea with this character. The old man spends his days ranting and raving incoherently in broken English and scribbling equations on the walls of his cell. As soon as Josh begins asking him questions regarding a certain cult and their demonic vacuum that sucks up the impure races, the cult instantly conjures a tornado right outside the asylum unleashing much comic hilarity: walls blown out like they’re made of cardboard, people flying around in every direction, hypodermic needles turning doctors into pin cushions, and Malik flying around inside the tornado in a manner not all that dissimilar to Jeff Bridges flying scene in The Big Lebowski.

  • Josh gets a clue in the form a one-word name: “Thomas”. He actually goes online, types the name into a search engine, and scrolls down the list while muttering, “No, that’s not it. No, that’s not it either.” I tried typing “Thomas” into Google myself and came up with 128,000,000 matches. Fortunately for Josh (and us!), the female reporter wisely suggests they instead go see the hot gypsy babe and search for the name in her vast library of gypsy lore. That female reporter somehow selects just the right book from the shelf and randomly flips to precisely the right page that reveals what “Thomas” signifies.

  • The Meta Tempesta returns in the form of five computer generated, reddish/translucent tornadoes that spark lightning bolts and randomly flash a demonic face (Leona Helmsley?) during which roofs get ripped off, ugly European cars go flying, the three dozen gypsies that bothered to attend the conference run screaming like Japanese fleeing Godzilla, and Josh dukes it out with Ahriman like two mimes doing that walking against the wind routine. This finale defies words mainly due to the last few moments of the film making so little sense I’m still not entirely sure what exactly happened.
  • Keep in mind that every last bit of this is played with a straight face. But then that’s what makes Nature Unleashed: Tornado such an unintentional laugh riot. Or maybe this is just what makes it a terrible film, plain and simple. One way or another, it’s most definitely a turkey. I cannot guarantee you’ll have a taste for this turkey, but I most definitely did. Amused or appalled, you’re guaranteed to come away from this preposterous motion picture in utter disbelief that thinking people came up with it and actually got it made.

    3 out of 5

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    • Lexx2u

      This review was hillarious and on point! Actually I enjoyed reading this review more than I did watching the movie! Still suffered through it though, it was 2 a.m. and I hoped it would put me to sleep. Wishful thinbking. P.S. you forgot to mention the flying white rats in the asylum…