I was obsessed with the movie Twister back in the ‘90s.
I had just moved from Massachusetts to Indiana. Indiana was flat, covered in corn and- according to my mother- had no trees. When we pointed out trees to her on the drive from the coast, she would state “Those aren’t trees, just tall broccoli.”
The midwest was a bit of a culture shock. School consisted of not just fire drills but also tornado drills. I had never done a tornado drill before. Tornado drills are completely different than fire drills.
You run outside for a fire. You head to the most interior part of the building (the gym showers at our school) for a tornado.
“What if there’s a fire AND a tornado at the same time?” would be inevitable smart-ass question my classmates would ask the teacher during a tornado drill.
“Pray,” our teacher answered.
It was Indiana during the ‘90s. We didn’t have active shooter drills yet. Columbine had not even happened until a couple years later.
The year I moved to Indiana the movie Twister was released. I was OBSESSED with the movie. My sister and I watched it close to five times before it left the theaters. “It will lose everything on a small screen!” I would tell my mother, “We have to see it now.”
Twister is a purely effects-driven movie. And oh my memory is sharp when it comes to how stunned I was when I first saw Twister. That first twister we see, the long slender white twister, was so beautiful and so eerie. I still remember the chills running down my spine as the twister slowly glided almost parallel to the ground like a graceful, deadly snake.
When I decided to watch Twister again for the first time in quarter century, I wondered how the effects would hold up. Would I still get the same chills watching those storms?
And I regret to inform y’all that… no. Nope. The effects from 1996 don’t really impress in 2023.
It’s ‘90s CGI folks. It’s grey. It’s fuzzy. It’s sub — Sharknado. It’s as eye-popping as the rubber puppets from the ‘50s creature features.
Our modern-day eyes have become too jaundiced. Twister no longer holds up under the scrutiny of 21st-century gaze that has been trained to spot the smallest imperfections in AI-generated photos.
So is Twister worth a re-watch despite the laughable Netscape-era effects? Oh hell yeah! Especially for us ‘90s people here. Twister is a blast of nostalgia from the late 20th century years. I mean, the scenes of people frantically grabbing paper maps (yes, paper maps) and hurriedly gabbling over CB radios where the storm chasers should turn next is worth the rental price. It’s like, “Oh right, we used to have to use those shitty hard-to-fold, constantly-tearing paper maps back before Google started holding our hands during long car trips.”
Plus there are slight gems hidden among the grey pixelated twisters in the film. The scene where a tornado rips through a drive-in movie theater showing The Shining is still exciting. (Yes folks, drive-ins were beginning to die in the ‘90s but they were still around). Also Helen Hunt is always fun. She has the cheerful mom energy going on. She’s the parent who’s happy to let you chase twisters through the mud but will absolutely ground your ass if you try to sneak out of the house after 10 pm. Plus we have a pre-famous Philip Seymour Hoffman as “Dusty,” an almost feral storm chaser who is mostly kept around as comic relief. Dusty is a one-note character but Hoffman still makes him entertaining.
Even the bloopers are fun. The film opens up on a small farm in 1969. A farmer is frantically leading his family to a storm cellar because of an approaching tornado. “TV says it’s big! Might be an F-5!” Never mind that no farmer in 1969 would be talking about an “F-5” tornado since the Fujita scale rating tornados (F- zero through five) was not developed until 1971. Screenwriters should have probably googled (well, “Ask Jeeves”-ed) the history there before filming the scene.
I also rather like the complete disregard for continuity at the end of the film where Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton battle a monster tornado while the sun shines full on their faces during close-ups. It’s a lovely day for a picnic and a fuzzy brown tornado.
Honestly if you were born after 9/11, Twister isn’t going to do much for you. For the rest of us older millennials however, Twister is awesome. It’s a movie meant for teenagers, portraying an idealized version of adulthood that’s full of adventure and blazing your own trail. It hooked us 90s teens good.
So go ahead and stream that sucker. Enjoy the trip back to the ‘90s when all we had to worry about was bad weather.