Review: Disaster Movie Supercell Is Its Own Kind of Unmitigated Mess, If You’re Into That Kind of Thing

For reasons I’ll never understand, I have a deep affection for bad disaster movies, and in any given month, there are an assortment to choose from. Because I know I love them too much—far more than they deserve—I keep myself from watching them too often. But there were things about Supercell’s description I couldn’t resist. Marking the feature film debut of Herbert James Winterstern and based on a documentary of the same name by the same filmmaker, Supercell tells the tale of William Brody (Daniel Diemer), the son of legendary stormchaser Bill Brody, who dies in the film’s opening, the victim of a super-tornado that he willingly runs toward in the name of research and thrills. In addition to leaving a son behind, he leaves a widow, Dr. Quinn Brody (the late Anne Heche), who was his better and smarter half and ran the research part of their operation with the hopes of developing a means to better track severe weather to give anyone in its path both more time to get to safety.

Ten years after the elder Brody’s death, his son is now in high school and restless to know more about his father. His mother doesn’t want to talk about her late husband because she’s afraid doing so will encourage Junior to take up an interest in severe weather and endanger himself. The kid is a moody brat who blames his mother for him not knowing his dad, when in fact it was the dad running headfirst into a twister that made that true. He doesn’t take into account that dear old dad loved his wife and son so much that he didn’t hesitate to put himself in harm’s way with barely a thought.

One day a package arrives in the mail with Bill Brody’s field notebook, complete with theories and drawings of possible devices that he and Quinn were developing, and it sparks such an interest in William that he runs away from home to find out who sent him the book. Turns out it was his “uncle” Roy (Skeet Ulrich), his parents’ former research partner, who now owns the Brody name and helps his boss, Zane Rogers (Alec Baldwin), operate severe-weather tours in Texas and other hubs of tornado activity. And they can tell there’s a doozy of a storm a-comin’, right when William arrives. What are the odds?

The cast is rounded out by Jordan Kristine Seamón’s Harper, William’s would-be girlfriend, who sees his potential, encourages him, worries about his safety, but understands that he’s a wild stallion that must be free to run at a tornado if that’s what he wants. Naturally, she bonds with Dr. Quinn almost immediately.

Look, when I say I love these C-grade disaster movies, I don’t mean I think they’re all good. Far from it; they are unmitigated garbage. Diemer is so bad in this movie that half the time, you can’t even understand what he’s saying, and I don’t mean the times when he’s screaming over an oncoming spinning wall of wind. 

The one thing Supercell has going for it are the weather effects. Almost without exception, the weather patterns these people are driving toward, away from, into and under look shockingly realistic. For a time, I thought maybe they used real bad-weather footage as backdrop (the film was shot in Montana, although it’s set primarily in Texas and Kansas). The dark, foreboding clouds, the tornadoes reaching down and picking up debris, the lightning display that resembles rapid-fire fireworks, it all looks authentic. As ill-conceived as the rest of the film is, the effects are nearly flawless. I wish I could say the same about any other part of this movie. Although Baldwin and Heche don’t share a scene together, when they pop up on screen, they clearly mark themselves as the professionals on set, which at least gives us something to lock onto for brief moments. Beyond that, Supercell is a trainwreck that I’m glad I caught up with.

The film is now playing in a limited theatrical release and is available via VOD.

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Steve Prokopy
Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet
Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for
Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and
filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a
frequent contributor at /Film ( and Backstory Magazine.
He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently
owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for
the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer
for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the
city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.

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