Horror Review: Twister (1996)
Since this came up so much on a recent episode of Lunatics Radio Hour, I figured I’d take some time to explain my deep, deep love for Twister (1996). For me, Twister is an incredibly nostalgic film that I watched many times as I grew up.
If you aren’t familiar, Twister is a disaster/action film that stars Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Jami Gertz, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Lois Smith. It was directed by Jan de Bont. de Bont has directed Speed, Speed 2, The Haunting but is a much more prolific cinematographer. He was the Director of Photography of Cujo, The Jewel of The Nile, Die Hard, The Hunt for Red October, Flatliners and Basic Instinct just to name a few.
Jan de Bont is a very distinctive filmmaker, who is known for his use of moving or handheld cameras in his work. Twister is notorious for the rigorous conditions the actors endured on set. Helen Hunt gives a great interview to Vulture about her experiences working on Twister. Because de Bont used a combination of practical effects and computer generated effects, the actors had to withstand extreme heat, hail machines, jet engines and shards of fake glass.
The final result is impactful. Despite being from the mid-1990s, Twister still holds up on a technical level. It might have its moments, but for the most part you can watch that film and be completely horrified by the tornados and extreme weather the characters chase throughout the movie.
Helen Hunt plays Dr. Jo Harding, a scientist who has dedicated her life to learning more about tornadoes in an effort to build an early warning system to help save lives. Harding experiences loss from tornados as a child. She recently divorced from Bill Harding. A storm chaser as well. The film kicks off with Bill attempting to get Jo to sign divorce papers, new girlfriend in tow, as Jo chases down tornadoes. It’s a strange, but satisfying mix of romance and disaster. A formula that works well (and is often used) to help balance out the extreme destruction that we see in disaster movies. The quirky and engaging supporting cast also helps to balance out what would otherwise be a very upsetting film.
One of the reasons I loved this film so much growing up was how strong and empowered Helen Hunt’s character is. She’s a genius, she’s brave and she is incredibly stubborn. Of course she is not without fault, but knows what she wants and she fights for it. Her fashion is also unmatched.
All in all, Twister was a summer blockbuster that delivers action, adventure, romance and the thrills of extreme weather. This film may not be as appealing to someone who has to encounter tornadoes or tornado warnings in their day to day life. Which is totally fair.
On IMDB I learned that after Paxton passed away in 2017, a group of over 200 storm chasers banded together to spell out BP using their GPS radar. An honor that has only been bestowed on five people, and usually reserved for storm chasers.
As of now, Twister is fairly available on various streaming apps. If you haven’t seen it before, or if it’s been a while, I encourage you to give it a watch. And for more information on the history of Disaster Films, listen to Episode 98 of Lunatics Radio Hour.