The movie is based on a novel by the same name by Ivy Ruckman, which in turn is loosely based on a real-life 1980 tornado outbreak in Grand Island, Nebraska. Much of the movie omits these facts and alters them.
The plot follows a teenage boy named Danny Hatch (Devon Sawa), who along with his mother (Lori Hallier), stepfather (John Schneider), baby brother, and his best friend Arthur (Amos Crawley) find themselves in the middle of a unusual violent tornado outbreak at an unusual time. While at home babysitting, Danny's stepfather leaves to check on their grandmother, and soon after, a monster tornado bears down on the home. After the tornado has passed them, Danny struggles to reunite his family as the night wears on and more tornadoes ravage the town.
This Film Provides Examples Of:
- Adapted Out: The film excludes a few characters from the book, including:
- Minerva, the Hatch family cat that ultimately dies in the first tornado.
- Mrs. Smiley, an old lady that lives next door to the Hatches.
- Officer Kelly, an officer that Dan, Arthur and Stacey help after he loses his eyesight to flying glass.
- Mrs. Minetti, the matron of the jail at the police station.
- Anachronism Stew: The Tornado warning sirens are old stock sound effects of air raid sirens from World War II.
- Possibly Truth in Television, as "used" sirens might well have been installed from Army Surplus.
- A Storm Is Coming: Done often with seeing tornadoes on a rampage with mileage distance from the town where the movie is set.
- Do Not Touch the Funnel Cloud: The last part of the movie violates this trope egregiously. The heroes outrun a tornado's funnel cloud that was literally right on their bumper during the finale. The film almost averted this during an earlier scene that had a tornado tear a wall off the protagonist's house while the funnel cloud was still hundreds of yards away.
- Jerkass: The father's response to his son avoiding a pedestrian, crashing his bike into a curb, and nearly cracking his head open on a fire hydrant? "You are not going to avoid finishing this race! You drag your bike across the finish line!"
- Shout-Out: "It's Twister Auntie Em!"
- Trailer Park Tornado Magnet
- Truth in Television: Tornadoes are often associated with early spring but can happen all year round. This film is set in autumn.
- The characters opening windows when the sirens sound off. It has often been thought (but thoroughly debunked) that opening windows equalizes air pressure, reducing damage to the house. Possibly subverted, since the Hatch house is still destroyed even after they open the windows.
- Taking shelter under an overpass, also a common and potentially dangerous tornado myth but played straight in this.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also does advise hiding in a windowless room with some form of padding. While the Hatch home did have a basement, any windowless room and/or interior hallway or closet are also safe places for a home that doesnt have a basement. Hiding under the stairs is effective as well.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As mentioned above, the book, and by proxy, the film, was a semi-fictionalized account of a freak tornado outbreak in Grand Island, Nebraska in 1980, where seven tornadoes touched down in the area, taking the lives of five people. While the book keeps the Hatch residence in Grand Island, the film changes this to the fictional town of Blainsworth. Also of note is the fact the event occurred in early June, where the film depicts it happening in autumn.