The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Natural Disaster Movie Day


‘A disaster film is a film genre that has an impending or ongoing disaster as its subject and primary plot device. Such disasters include natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes or asteroid collisions, accidents such as shipwrecks or airplane crashes, or calamities like worldwide disease pandemics. The films usually feature some degree of build-up, the disaster itself and sometimes the aftermath, usually from the point of view of specific individual characters or their families.

‘These films often feature large casts of actors and multiple plotlines, focusing on the characters’ attempts to avert, escape or cope with the disaster and its aftermath. The genre came to particular prominence during the 1970s with the release of high-profile films such as Airport (1970), followed in quick succession by The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974) and The Towering Inferno (1974).

‘The casts were generally made up of familiar character actors. Once the disaster begins in the film, the characters are usually confronted with human weaknesses, often falling in love and almost always finding a villain to blame. The genre experienced a renewal in the 1990s boosted by computer-generated imagery (CGI) and large studio budgets which allowed for more focus on the destruction, and less on the human drama, as seen in films like 1998’s Armageddon and Deep Impact. Nevertheless, the films usually feature a persevering hero or heroine (Charlton Heston, Steve McQueen, etc.) called upon to lead the struggle against the threat. In many cases, the “evil” or “selfish” individuals are the first to succumb to the conflagration.’ — collaged





List of disaster films
DISASTER FILMS: Description and Examples
10 Defining 1970s Disaster Movies
Climate change and cinema
Apocalypse wow: how Hollywood fell for disaster movies
Disaster films reflect nation’s turbulence
Why we can’t get enough of disaster films
Disaster films examined. Science or fiction?
Disaster Movies: A Loud, Long, Explosive, Star-studded Guide
Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe
Representing politics in disaster films
Can a low-budget Russian disaster film look like a Hollywood blockbuster?
The lure of the disaster movie
A Scientist’s Perspective on Hollywood Disaster Films


Drugged popcorn
by Fred Kaplan


It’s true enough that the boredom of modern life both stimulates and requires the production of various kinds of spectacles, mass entertainment and otherwise. But is that all film criticism has to say in the face of the diverse forms these spectacles take? If it’s all reducible to boredom, then we don’t have to concern ourselves with how and why certain trends appear and gain popularity at different times. Monster and science-fiction films, big musicals, biblical epics, etc., all would then be regarded a essentially the same thing—“just entertainment” movies designed to satisfy the escapist longings of the masses and reap huge profits for the studios. But clearly the problem is more complicated than that.

On the most obvious level, if all spectacular, big budget movies were always equally big box office successes, Hollywood would have its tasks and worries enormously simplified. But beyond that, to argue that the disaster films do in fact reflect contemporary social reality, i.e., a society in crisis, does not require us to posit some kind of deliberate intention to achieve this on the part of those responsible for their production. The ways in which social factors condition and in turn are revealed in artistic production are complex and multifold. They often operate unconsciously, as if “behind the backs” of the individual artist or producer. That person, if asked about it, often quite sincerely denies that his or her work contains a political message, social implications, or anything other than what should be viewed in purely creative terms.

So in examining the disaster films, it may be less important to prove or disprove whether their creators had any consciously allegorical or ideological aims in mind, than it is to analyze what the plot, characterizations, and various dramatic devices are saying to the audience.

In THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, EARTHQUAKE, and THE TOWERING INFERNO the disasters take the immediate form of great, overwhelming natural phenomena: a huge tidal wave, an earthquake, fire. The first two of these disasters could have been mitigated, the third avoided, but for the corruption, greed, or incompetence of certain individuals. The greedy Greek shipping company has made the Poseidon dangerously top-heavy but refuses the Captain’s request to slow its speed. In EARTHQUAKE both the seismology experts and the mayor hesitate to take the appropriate steps for fear of looking foolish if the quake didn’t happen. In THE TOWERING INFERNO there’s the corruption of the building’s electrical contractor who skimped on materials to increase his profits.

I would suggest that all of these films symbolically reproduce what happens to bourgeois ideology — the ideology which continues to maintain its hegemony in capitalist society — when it is subjected to the strains of a period of crisis.

The fact that the disasters come in the shape of natural phenomena corresponds to the fundamental reification of capitalist society. This is the idea that the economy is somehow a “natural” force itself, perceived by human beings as not only somewhat mysteriously independent of their will and activity but actually subjugating them to its own requirements. In the work of the classical bourgeois political economists, and even for some contemporary diehards like Milton Friedman, the market economy of capitalism is a rational, self-regulating force (the “invisible hand” is the mechanism of this rationality). Conventional economic wisdom was modified by Keynesian economics, which, to put it very roughly, sought to be able to remedy the dysfunctions of the market through government intervention in the economy.

What do these doctrines, together with their baggage of associated ideas, look like when they reach the level of mass ideology? Again, to put these things very roughly, there’s the notion that capitalism is “natural,” in accordance with “human nature,” and therefore the most workable system. There is also the idea that either the unimpeded workings of the market economy are rational and desirable (“our great free enterprise system,” which maximizes freedom of choice) or, since this was beginning to ring hollow even in times of prosperity, that the experts will know what to do to keep things running all right.

But bourgeois ideological hegemony is put in different straits, just as most working people are, when a crisis or slump hits. Inevitably the idea of blaming specific individuals for the problem—not the system itself—begins to occur, coined in terms of corruption, greed, etc.. To beat the crisis, what people have to do is to work together, make sacrifices, and get rid of the undesirable elements who were to blame for it, as well as the worn out leaders and “experts” who were unable to prevent and then deal with it. The need for new, fresh, energetic leadership is stressed. At the same time an appeal to traditional values of sacrifice, hard work, and self-help is made.

This is essentially what occurs in microcosm in the disaster films, particularly THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE and EARTHQUAKE. Heroic leaders emerge (Gene Hackman, Charlton Heston) who come into conflict with previous, but now discredited, figures of authority, and ultimately guide people through the disaster to survival. Traditional values are constantly referred to and drawn upon throughout the adventure/ ordeal, from which they emerge revivified.

I hasten to add that it’s not only “the economy” that is reified in bourgeois ideological notions, nor is that sphere the only area of modern capitalist society which has proven susceptible to crisis. An undertow of dissent and dissatisfaction manifested itself in different ways at various times in the postwar period. The dissent intensified in the late 60s in what appeared to be an outbreak of social turmoil in politics, racial relations, sexual attitudes and behavior, culture, education, etc. Each of these related aspects of contemporary society experienced and continues to experience developments similar to what happens in regard to the economy at a time of crisis. Established institutions, conceptions, and authorities are hard-pressed by events and their viability is challenged. In the same way, there are attempts to maintain a sick status quo aimed at singling out culpable individuals as the cause of the problems (“outside agitators,” “over permissive” parents and educators, the press, various “misfits,” etc.). In turn there is a move to promote new, “dynamic” leadership ready and able to confront the culpable ones toughly, and a call for a return to the “time-tested” values and virtues.


30 “disasters” (1972 – 2015)

Ronald Neame The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
‘Even with the exceedingly dated special effects and hammy “Oh gawd we’re flipping over!” reactions, this sequence—which comes just after everyone below decks has finished boozily welcoming the New Year at midnight—is still a jaw-dropper. The subsequent moment when water punches through the wall of the ballroom—bringing certain death to those who refused to follow Rev. Scott’s pleas to evacuate—is almost as startling. And it’s at this point that the movie reveals its most brilliant piece of fashion innovation. At the New Year’s Eve party, teenager Susan (Pamela Sue Martin) is wearing a long dress, but when it comes time to climb to safety, she reveals that the skirt is detachable and conceals a pair of coordinating shorts. Apparently, this was a thing when it came to formalwear in the 1970s? But while Susan’s wardrobe choices are thrilling to see today, the treatment of Belle Rosen (Shelley Winters) has aged less well. “A fat woman like me can’t climb,” the kindly Belle insists. It’s the first in a jarringly mean running series of remarks about her weight, and it never gets any easier to hear them. She’s a grandmother, not a swimsuit model … …But she is—AS IT HAPPENS—a former underwater swimming champ of New York (for three years running!), as illustrated by what’s probably the most famous scene in The Poseidon Adventure.’ — gizmodo

Extended trailer



John Guillermin The Towering Inferno (1974)
The Towering Inferno was produced by Irwin Allen, known as the “Master of Disaster” (also produced The Poseidon Adventure), and directed by John Guillermin. Note: Irwin Allen directed the action scenes. The film, written by Stirling Silliphant, was a fusion of two books: The Tower by Richard Martin Stern and The Glass Inferno by Thomas N. Scortia and Frank M. Robinson. The Towering Inferno was obviously a big budget film, with its ton of special effects and, most of all, its all-star cast: Paul Newman, Steven McQueen, William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Fred Astaire, Jennifer Jones, Richard Chamberlain, O.J Simpson, Robert Wagner, Susan Blakely, etc. A real Hollywood dream. The film costed around $14 000 000 to produce (around $68 000 000 today) and was a big commercial success, winning around $140 000 000 at the world box office on its release ($678 000 000 today).’ — The Wonderful World of Cinema


The Making of …


Mark Robson Earthquake (1974)
‘Inspired by the 1971 San Fernando earthquake that registered a 6.6 on the Richter scale, this disaster movie shook up its audience as well as its all-star cast. The studio employed an innovation known as “Sensurround” that involved giant speakers blasting low frequencies throughout theater auditoriums — the better to make filmgoers feel as if they were in the middle of real rumbler. The use of the aftershock-and-awe ballyhoo admittedly helped sell the abundance of shakicam on display, as well as temper some of the more genuinely giggle-inducing moments of mayhem (debris rains down, the earth cracks open…and then a stunt rider falls off his bike). Yet our favorite WTF moment doesn’t involve a technological gimmick; it’s the introduction of a truckload of cows (?) that careens off the Los Angeles freeway. Every time we watch that bovine nosedive, we can feel the earth move.’ — Rolling Stone



Robert Michael Lewis The Day the Earth Moved (1974)
‘A pair of aerial photographers (Jackie Cooper and Cleavon Little) shooting pix in the Nevada desert determine that a massive earthquake is about to hit a tiny town in the middle of nowhere – but in tried and true disaster-movie fashion, the town’s residents don’t believe them till it’s too late, requiring them to fly back on a last minute rescue mission. An entertainingly cheap, but ultimately forgettable made-for-TV movie that was obviously trying to ride on the coat tails of the then-current big budget flick Earthquake!’ — Keith Act

the entire film


Corey Allen Avalanche (1978)
‘”A mountain explodes, in a shattering blast of white fury!” Well, okay, if by “blast of white fury” you mean “the appearance of a thousand fire extinguishers going off at once.” All Rock Hudson wanted was to open up a nice ski resort and impress ex-wife Mia Farrow — how was he to know that a nearby plane crash would set off “20,000 tons of icy terror”? Directed by Corey Allen (no relation to Irwin, clearly) and produced by schlockmeister extraordinaire Roger Corman, this disaster movie features the sort of laughably bad set pieces that make you wonder if the special-effects budget exceeded three figures. Even the flooding of a hotel lobby by a giant snow drift feels MST3K-ready from the get-go.’ — Rolling Stone

the entire film


Irwin Allen The Swarm (1978)
‘After successfully producing and directing 1974’s Towering Inferno, “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen took on the dual role once again in this outing about a swarm of killer bees that migrate from South America and threaten to infest Houston. Michael Caine’s entomologist teams up with a heavy-handed general (Richard Widmark) to thwart the deadly bugs. Critics gave the film stinging reviews, but it’s camp at its best.’ — infoplease




Ronald Neame Meteor (1979)
‘Another costly casualty of the disaster genre ebb was Meteor, a 1979 production that top-lined an impressive cast: Sean Connery, Natalie Wood, Brian Keith, Karl Malden, Martin Landau, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda. It was produced by Gabe Gatzka and Sandy Howard (among others), two veterans with very respected backgrounds in the film industry. The film was directed by another highly respected individual, Ronald Neame, the man who had helmed The Poseidon Adventure. On paper, the project must have looked like a “can’t lose” proposition. Yet, Meteor turned out to be a major flop at the boxoffice as well as a critical disaster. What went wrong? To start with, it was probably ill-advised to entrust the production to American-International Pictures which specialized in making low-budget horror and teeny bopper exploitation films. The AIP association branded Meteor with a “cheesy” stigma even before cameras rolled.’– Cinema Retro

the entire film


Irwin Allen Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)
‘On the morning after the Poseidon’s disastrous night, tugboat captain Michael Caine and sidekick Sally Field get back on board the Poseidon and find left-over survivors who were not drowned during the original movie, and then bad guy Telly Savalas puts them all in jeopardy, and then… But what did we really, sincerely, expect anyway, from a movie in which Karl Malden plays a character named ‘Wilbur,’ and Slim Pickens plays a character named ‘Tex’? If you can think of a single line of dialog that Slim Pickens, as ‘Tex,’ wouldn’t say in Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, please do not miss this movie, which will be filled with amazements and startling revelations.’ — Roger Ebert

The Making of …


James Goldstone When Time Ran Out… (1980)
‘I recently came across an interesting segment of “The Tonight Show” starring Johnny Carson from 1980 with Carson interviewing William Holden while he’s on the show to promote his latest film When Time Ran Out… (1980), a terrible Irwin Allen-produced disaster film about tourists on a Pacific island fleeing in terror from an erupting volcano. With shoddy special effects, mostly indifferent performances (especially by Paul Newman), slow pacing, and bad writing, When Time Ran Out… is the sort of film that makes people cynical about Hollywood filmmaking since it was produced as part of a deal Irwin Allen made with Warner Brothers to make a series of disaster movies that included The Swarm (1978), Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) and countless made-for-TV movies. My understanding is that Paul Newman and William Holden only appeared in the movie to fulfill their contractual obligation to do another disaster epic for Irwin Allen after making The Towering Inferno (1974) for him. By the time When Time Ran Out… was made, the genre had run its course and Warner Brothers had become impatient with Allen to such a degree that they purportedly cut the budget of the movie in mid-production, thus explaining the threadbare production values and special effects. I’ve read that Holden didn’t like the film at all, particularly as he got billing below Paul Newman, as well as the fact that leading lady Jacqueline Bisset doesn’t end up with his character at the end, but with Newman’s. I also recall reading in Bob Thomas’ biography of William Holden that he drank heavily throughout the production of When Time Ran Out… and that that alarmed the filmmakers since the film entailed difficult stunts and locations. As such, it was apparent that this was hardly one of Holden’s proudest accomplishments as an actor.’ — Hill Place



Kenjirô Ohmori Deathquake (1980)
Deathquake, made in 1980, is a disaster movie that is not a new area for Toho. Films like Nippon chinbotsu AKA Submersion of Japan (1973) were very successful in Japan, among the few other films. In Deathquake, the story itself is quite simple. Seismologist Yoichi Kawazu (Hiroshi Katsuno) finds out that an enormous earthquake will hit Tokyo, Japan. This information will have a strong affect on him, and his relationship with his wife and son is hurting. His superiors and other important people don´t take him that seriously, so he´s looking for comfort with a young woman. In the meantime, the earthquake is coming nearer and nearer. Some effects-scenes are very affective, considering that there were no CGI-effects (all were made via miniatures and sets, with a few photographic-effects here-and-there).’ — DVD Compare

Montage of excerpts


Georg Fenady Cave In! (1983)
Cave-In! is an American action film starring Dennis Cole, Leslie Nielsen, and James Olson. The movie was produced by Irwin Allen in 1979 in association with Warner Bros. Television for NBC but not aired until 1983. A park ranger must lead a US senator, a disgraced cop, his wife, a manipulative professor and his daughter across five miles of dangerous terrain to escape an unstable cavern, unaware that the seventh member of the group is an armed and violent escaped convict.’ — Wikipedia



Jan de Bont Twister (1996)
Twister, directed by Jan de Bont, is tireless filmmaking. It lacks the wit of his Speed, but it sure has the energy. If the actors in this movie want to act, they have to run to catch up with the camera, which is already careening down a dirt road to watch while an oil tanker truck spins into the air, crashes and explodes. The movie is wall-to-wall with special effects, and they’re all convincing, although it’s impossible for me to explain how Bill and Jo escape serious injury while staring right up into the Suck Zone of the Finger of God. I think the movie has to be graded on two scales. As drama, Twister resides in the Zone. It has no time to waste on character, situation, dialogue and nuance. The dramatic scenes are holding actions between tornadoes. As spectacle, however, Twister is impressive. The tornadoes are big, loud, violent and awesome, and they look great.’ — Roger Ebert




Ridley Scott White Squall (1996)
‘Although screenwriter Todd Robinson and director Ridley Scott take forever to get there, the central event is a titanic storm, the white squall of the title, that capsizes the ship and takes the lives of several students and Sheldon’s wife. After the survivors are rescued, despite his heroic efforts to save his students and crew, Sheldon is brought up before a tribunal threatening to take his sailing certificate away. The only question I can think of at this point is “Why?”‘ — SFGate




Roger Donaldson Dante’s Peak (1997)
‘In the opening, Pierce Brosnan makes his debut as shrill vulcanologist Harry Dalton. In Harry’s first words he screams something incomprehensible that sounds like “Get out of here.” The bad news is that you will be able to hear the rest of the dialog in the film. (“I’ve always been better at volcanoes than figuring out people and politics,” Harry tells us. “I move around a lot, wherever there’s a volcano with an attitude,” he explains in another scene.) If you liked TWISTER, you’ll probably find DANTE’S PEAK equally satisfying. In both films, the star is backed up by a rag-tag team of nerds ready to save their hero at a moment’s notice. (The team is at its funniest when the volcano erupts. When the team runs to their computers to see the images, the only female nerd, looking out the window, chides them, “Why look at the computer when you can look at the real thing.”) Like TWISTER, the only reason for the film to exist are the special effects. Although the special effects by Thomas Kittle are spectacular, the sound effects by David MacMillan are even more impressive. Some of the explosions had me almost jumping out of my seat.’ — Steve Rhodes




Mick Jackson Volcano (1997)
‘I expected to see a mountainous volcano in Volcano, towering high over Los Angeles. But the movie takes place at ground level; It’s about how lava boils out of the La Brea Tar Pits, threatens a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard, and then takes a shortcut through the city sewer system. The ads say “The Coast Is Toast,” but maybe they should say “The Volcano Is Drano.” This is a surprisingly cheesy disaster epic. It’s said that Volcano cost a lot more than Dante’s Peak, a competing volcano movie released two months ago, but it doesn’t look it. Dante’s Peak had better special effects, a more entertaining story, and a real mountain. Volcano is an absolutely standard, assembly-line undertaking; no wonder one of the extras is reading a paperback titled “Screenwriting Made Easy.” The movie stars Tommy Lee Jones, professional as always even in this flimsy story, as the chief of the city’s Office of Emergency Management. He races through the obligatory opening scenes of all disaster movies (everyday life, ominous warnings, alarm sounded by hero scientist, warnings poo-pooed by official muckety-mucks, etc.). Soon manhole covers are being blown sky-high, subway trains are being engulfed by fireballs, and “lava bombs” are flying through the air and setting miniature sets on fire.’ — Roger Ebert

Montage of excerpts


Mimi Leder Deep Impact (1998)
‘Rare indeed is the artist/entertainer who can juggle convincing emotion and convincing CGI effects. Deep Impact juggles so relentlessly that it seems positively schizo, giving us a little “character development” here and a little mini-disaster there, leading up to the big event — death from above, the tidal waves and mass destruction, the skyscrapers scattering like petals. And good God, does this ever not work. You can feel the audience’s impatience during the obligatory tedious dialogue scenes, the disappointment when the movie finally gets around to those big destruction scenes, which can’t possibly live up to all the build-up and anticipation.’ — efilmcritic




Mikael Salomon Hard Rain (1998)
Hard Rain is one of those movies that never convince you its stories are really happening. From beginning to end, I was acutely aware of actors being paid to stand in cold water. Suspension of my disbelief in this case would have required psychotropic medications.’ — Roger Ebert

entire film (low quality)


Wolfgang Petersen The Perfect Storm (2000)
‘The special effects and the action scenes are excellent, but this film fails in many ways. It’s very hard to make a good book into a good movie, even a good book that seems inherently cinematic, as this one does, with all its swirling winds and crashing waves. The dialogue is corny, with lines like “This is where they separate the men from the boys.” The storm doesn’t happen until an hour and a half into the film, and each of the characters is trotted out to show one identifying characteristic. Wahlberg, Fichtner, Lane, and Reilly, four fine actors, are left more adrift by the script than their characters are by the storm, while the talents of other good actors are wasted. The book tells a sad story, but the film just feels maudlin, and the scenes on land following the storm go on too long. This is where we really need some insight and some good dialogue, and we just don’t get it. And there is one scene, just before one character dies, where he speaks to a loved one and sees her in an apparition that even the producers of “Message in a Bottle” would have been embarrassed to try.’ — Common Sense Media



James Seale Scorcher (2002)
‘Ripped from today’s theater screens comes the latest direct-to-DVD knockoff, Scorcher, a tepid reworking of The Core. Say what you will about using lame source material, Scorcher is laughably bad in its own right. As with Core, our meddling has caused some kind of tectonic trouble, and if the gap between two plates opens wider than 44 centimeters (yeah, whatever), then we will literally have “hell on earth” as earthquakes and volcanoes sprout up all over the planet. Uh huh. And so our hero geologists (including John Rhys-Davies!), under the direction of President Rutger Hauer(!!!), are tasked with finding a solution. Naturally, that involves setting off a nuclear bomb somewhere. In the case of Scorcher, it means detonating the nuke in central Los Angeles. Sounds like an improvement to me, but whatever, after quietly evacuating the tens of millions of people who live there, a wrench involving our military co-hero (Mark Dacascos) and a kidnapped daughter gets thrown at us, not to mention crossed signals between the military dudes tasked with getting the nukes set just so.’ — Contact Music

the entire film (dubbed into Russian)


Jon Amiel The Core (2003)
The Core is a sometimes humorous but mostly grinding motley-crew-saving-the-world movie. In this instance, the earth’s core has stopped rotating, which means 1) the protective electromagnetic field will fail, and 2) “everybody on earth will be dead within a year.” A grim prognosis and, not incidentally, a nifty set-up for the overwhelming darkness out of which those “truly heroic” characters might find their objects of humor.’ — pop matters



Roland Emmerich The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
‘Though the movie depicts an international cataclysm, the story mainly divides itself between the exploits of Jack, in Washington, D.C., and those of his son (Jake Gyllenhaal), who finds himself stranded inside Manhattan’s great Fifth Avenue library as conditions worsen and temperatures drop. Emmerich relies more on the personal in The Day After Tomorrow than he did in Independence Day, the main reason the new movie is weaker in comparison. Yet it’s difficult to see how he had much of a choice. In The Day After Tomorrow, there’s no villain, no enemy to fight and no obvious climax. When Jack decides he needs to go to New York to rescue his son, the plot turn may seem faintly absurd (what will he do once he gets there?), but Emmerich obviously needed a story. It’s good enough. Of course, Quaid acts as though the story is considerably better than good enough. He acts as though he were in Macbeth, playing Jack forcefully and with no irony. His straight-ahead seriousness may be slightly misplaced at times — the script sometimes fails him — but his commitment is still admirable, and the movie benefits. He’s a rock. So is Sela Ward, who approaches the role of his wife, an oncologist, with a similar, if less intense, gravity. Emmerich clearly did not want The Day After Tomorrow to be yet another smirky blockbuster.’ — SFGate




Christoph Schrewe Post Impact (2004)
‘This movie was absolutely boring. I think the director was on a cheap budget trying to compete against the movie The Day After Tomorrow and failed miserably. the effects were horrible, comedical to be exact. The acting was poor, and the plot was too rushed and shallow. Not worth spending the money on to even rent it from a video store.’ — Mark Blah



Wolfgang Petersen Poseidon (2006)
‘During the age of disaster movies, before Cameron’s Folly, wasn’t there another ocean liner calamity spectacular that scored high at the box office? Yes, indeedy! It was The Poseidon Adventure (1972), in which a cruise ship was turned upside down by a freak wave and a plucky band of assorted “characters,” led by the intrepid Reverend Frank Scott (Gene Hackman), forced its way up through the debris of collapsed infrastructure, as water rushed in, to freedom. Finally, post-T, post-CGI, those imaginative Hollywood execs at head office decided on a bigger, better, bolder remake to suit the PlayStation generation. The result is tame, confusing – without a map of the ship, how does anyone know where they are? – unexciting, predictable and repetitive. Worst of all, you don’t care about the people. Character development has been ditched in favour of yet another scene of devastation and dumb courage.’ — Eye for Film



Roland Emmerich 2012 (2009)
‘It’s not so much that the Earth is destroyed, but that it’s done so thoroughly. 2012, the mother of all disaster movies (and the father, and the extended family) spends half an hour on ominous set-up scenes (scientists warn, strange events occur, prophets rant and of course a family is introduced) and then unleashes two hours of cataclysmic special events hammering the Earth relentlessly. This is fun. 2012 delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year. It even has real actors in it. Like all the best disaster movies, it’s funniest at its most hysterical. You think you’ve seen end-of-the-world movies? This one ends the world, stomps on it, grinds it up and spits it out.’ — Roger Ebert


FX highlights


JK Youn Tidal Wave (2009)
‘At the least the cold-hearted corporates in Hollywood waited for over 60 years before turning the tragedy of the Titanic into a schmaltzy teen romance. No such respect for the 2004 tsunami victims is displayed by the South Korean film industry – five years on, the most devastating natural disaster to ever impact the region becomes fodder for soap-opera posturing and B-movie plotting. There are cheap thrills to be had from the spectacular destruction of the Pusan coastline, and a modicum of tension is generated in scenes involving the heroic actions of the leads. But with too many climaxes to enable suspended disbelief for 117 minutes, Haeundae embodies the worst aspects of the waning disaster-movie genre.’ — SBS Movies



J.A. Bayona The Impossible (2012)
‘Remember when Clint Eastwood’s godawful Hereafter came out in 2010, and everyone said “Well, at least the tsunami sequence is good?” Well, now we can finally forget about that movie entirely thanks to The Impossible, in which Juan Antonio Bayona recreates the 2004 South Pacific tsunami with unforgettable, almost unbearable intensity. The true story that gives the film its narrative is an impressive tale of survival told with maximum schmaltz, and by focusing on a wealthy British family who suffered the tsunami because they were in Thailand on vacation, The Impossible comes dangerously close to minimizing the experience of millions of South Pacific islanders who lost everything in the disaster. But Bayona has picked a story with every emotional note to play, and he plucks those strings perfectly.’ — Cinema Blend

the entire film


Peter Sullivan Christmas Twister (2012)
Christmas Twister, also known as F6: Twister, is a 2012 action thriller that’s awfully light on action and thrills, but positively dripping with terrible acting and even worse special effects. But it does have one huge thing going for it: the (unintentionally) funniest script about bad weather ever written. The biggest name in its cast is Casper Van Dien, looking a bit more weathered than in his Starship Troopers heyday, but still square-jawed and believably heroic. (Look closely and you’ll also spot Steven Williams, forever 21 Jump Street’s Captain Fuller, but also so great on the last season of The Leftovers.) Second-billed is Richard Burgi, whose current gig is General Hospital, but in 2012 was double-hitting on Desperate Housewives and One Tree Hill.’ — gizmodo



Ji-hoon Kim The Tower (2012)
‘If you’re thinking The Tower is indebted to The Towering Inferno you are quite right – director Kim has readily admitted that Inferno was one inspiration for this film, and some scenes echo of similar set pieces from the Steve McQueen classic. But The Tower ups the ante, taking the disastrous events even further with the entire building threatening to collapse – so when the fires are taken care of, our heroes are faced with a new round of problems. Towards the end, the film heads into 9/11 territory which makes for some surprisingly powerful moments. The Tower is certainly as cliché-ridden and formulaic as any other disaster movie, but it still manages to engage and exhilarate. The characters might be flimsy but the setup is handled lightly and economically, and it’s easy to take a liking to them. While the actors all give good performances – particularly Kyung-gu Sol (who also starred in Tidal Wave) as legendary firefighter Young-ki – the brilliant visual effects work is the true star of the film. It simply looks great, and there is not one dull moment as the characters have to face fires, indoor tsunamis, collapsing glass bridges and falling elevators. Also, here’s something as unusual as a disaster movie that manages to deliver a couple of scenes that are laugh-out loud funny – and intentionally so (!).’ — Disaster Movie World




Paul W.S. Anderson Pompeii (2014)
‘As much bloodletting as happens in this movie—and there’s quite a bit of it before the volcano action (presaged by a lot of building foundational cracks and such) gets underway—the movie is otherwise relentless in its wholesomeness. There’s more real depravity on the screen and in the soul of Cecil B. De Mille’s 1932 The Sign of the Cross than there is here. However, the action scenes are choice, and once the clouds of ash and shooting fire and churning seas start up, Pompeii achieves a momentum that most sensationalist studio fare can’t touch. By the end of the movie one senses that Anderson and company were going for a little bit more, particularly in the, you know, profundity department. But the civilians sitting a row ahead of me just giggled at the movie’s final shot, because, well I guess you’ve heard the saying “I wouldn’t be caught dead like that.” Tough crowd!’ — Glenn Kenny



Brad Peyton San Andreas (2015)
‘Kind of noteworthy, if not actually remarkable, then, is that the movie actually works as well as it does, offering up suspense set pieces that are genuinely suspenseful despite one’s security that everyone in the top-billed cast that we’re supposed to care about will be okay. The direction by Brad Peyton is particularly effective during the brisk scenes of disaster, from the felling of Hoover Dam to the snapping of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m not sure whether it was the editing or my own willing suspension of disbelief but the CGI-manufactured scenes of mass destruction are among the most realistic in this mode I’ve ever seen.’ — Glenn Kenny





p.s. Hey. ** Montse, Hey! Oh, thanks, pal, and I’m happy the gigs have had some pay offs for you. Oh, shit, I’m so sorry for spacing on your Val del Omar post. Most of the murdered blog’s posts haven’t been uploaded here yet and are on a hard drive so I can’t access them easily or use them as a reference. But I’ll go upload it, and, yeah, sorry, and I just hope my post is a worthy sequel to yours. How are things there? The weather forecast promised some snow here last night, and I got overly excited and then, of course, there wasn’t a flake. Otherwise, Paris has a nice icebox quality, and I have to figure out how to exploit that today. Much love, me. ** Dóra Grőber, Hi! Good, cool, that the degree acquiring feels liberating. That’s all it needs to do. I remember when I quit university after one year, I worried a little that I’d feel like a perpetually non-adult loser, and I guess I do feel perpetually non-adult, but that feels pretty liberating itself. Forecasting the characters is interesting, yeah. It’s a little tricky because we’re pretty open to different types, so we have to be careful not to lock the characters too much into set types because we don’t want to lose the opportunity to audition someone who might be so cool that we reinvent the character to suit the actor. We did that a few times with ‘LCTG’. But, yeah, it’s fun. You haven’t read Kathy Acker? I tend to think the best book by her as a starter is ‘Blood and Guts in High School’. It’s great and also kind of particularly fun relative to her novels in general. So if you can find ‘BaGiHS’, I’d try that. Oh, the interview about her won’t be for a little while. The writer interested in writing a piece about the making of Zac’s and my new film too, so he might come over to be on the set and kill both birds with one stone. Oh, ‘sparkly silver eyeshadow’, I like the sound of that. When do you think you’ll be ready for the photo shoot? Do you have a model or models in mind, or will you be the model, or … ? I hope your day todays rocks. Did it, and how, or, if not, how not? ** Steevee, Hi. I saw that about the AFA retrospective. Lucky you guys. I don’t know about ‘Lancelot’s’ relationship to Vietnam. Interesting theory. When I first moved over here and had the great honor of spending an evening talking with Guillaume des Forêts, the ‘star’ of ‘Four Nights of a Dreamer’ and close friend of Bresson’s, he told me that when Bresson was preparing for ‘The Devil, Probably’, he did a lot of investigating of the counterculture at that time, and even attended a number of punk rock gigs as part of that. So, yes, and I obviously agree with you about that film. And I agree with you that an interview with Assayas about his taste in music is an inspired idea. Even when I’m not wildly into his films, his music choices are nearly always extremely smart. The way he used Sonic Youth in ‘Irma Vep’, for instance, remains one of my favorite music uses in film ever. I hope that interview works out. ** Joakim, Hey, J! My birthday was perfectly pleasant, thank you. Oh, no, that’s too bad Asger and Paris. I was really looking forward to meeting him, but understood about the stress. Well, obviously it would be awesomeness if you can come nonetheless. Let me know if you end up needing advice about lodgings, and I can ask around and see what’s afffordable and hopefully sans pests. I have gotten your emails, yes! Sorry I haven’t responded yet. My general emailing distractedness is always a barrier, but I’ll get on that. Is the current intensity an inspiring thing? It can be, god knows. Anyway, lovely to see you, my buddy. xo, Dennis. ** _Black_Acrylic, Thanks, Ben. Oh, cool, I was especially wondering if the AnD track would interest you. That whole EP is very good. I just tried the first bit of that Unit Moebius track, and it sounds great. I’d never heard of them before, but I’m a fan of the work I’ve heard via the Bunker label. Thank you! ** Jamie, Hi, J-ster! Yeah, I like how mouthy and wet Dutch can sound. It can sound homey and kind of startling at the same time. It’s a very particular sound. Dutch isn’t such a difficult language to learn. The vocabulary is smallish and doesn’t expand vey much over time, and the sentence structure is odd but regular in a way that can be figured out rather quickly. No, I’ve been meaning to take French lessons for ages, and Zac is really on me to learn some by the film shoot, so I have to. Yeah, totally, it’s like the osteopath does almost nothing, and yet it has this crazily helpful effect when it works. It bewilders me how it can work. I hope the effects from your session last. Glad you liked the Klein and the Warwick tracks. My Thursday was alright, lowkey and work-eaten for the most part. My Friday? I can’t tell yet. Probably see Zac and do some films stuff. I’d like to go to the movies. I haven’t been to a movie in a theater in too long. Maybe the new Jarmusch, if I go. I’m hoping that Friday just hurls some unexpected, fun thing in my path. What’s up with your Friday? Writing can definitely get rusty, yeah. The more you do it, the more your sentences cooperate, and the more they cooperate, the more they become willing to play around. I think. I love snow, but icy streets, eek. The last time I was in Moscow ages ago, I slipped on an icy street and broke both of my wrists simultaneously. Walk like your feet are made of lead. That’s my advice. Be careful. Love, Dennis. ** Kieran, Hi, Kieran! Welcome, and howdy! Thanks about the gig. I agree about the Helena Celle record. I’ve been listening to it a lot. Clouddead, huh, yeah, it’s true, isn’t it? I don’t know Anxiety, no. Great, I’ll use your link and then investigate further. Thanks a lot for that. You saw Linda Sharrock play? Wow. I didn’t realize that she’s performing live. I would love to see that. I’ll keep an eye on the Paris agenda. Real pleasure getting to talk with you. Let’s do it more. Take care. ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff. Thanks about the 4 books. I didn’t know Sharrock’s work from the 70s until I heard that album. I knew Sonny Sharrock’s work to some degree. But I find her new record really fascinating so I listened to some of her older stuff, and, of course, the contrast is really shocking. I’ve only heard that one song from the new Tobin Sprout album, but I have it on preorder. I’m excited, of course. I love that song. God, the political climate just seems to get more overhelming and frightening every day. Neither following it closely nor trying to ignore it seems to help at all. That Genet is not among my very favorite Genets, but of course it’s great. ** Cal Graves, Morning, Cal. So happy the gig was a good thing on your end. I didn’t get a chance to investigate ‘Amiencé’ yesterday, but it’s on the dock for this afternoon. It sounds like an insane dream come true. Holy shit. Best to you! ** Bill, Hi, Bill! Yeah, the Radian is good. I feel like it’s their best so far by far. The Kang book is really excellent. Yeah, I think he’s only just starting to be discovered right now. No interviews with him or anything that I’ve found, but his work is really terrific. Very good day to you! ** Okay. Today I have indulged my fetish for Disaster Movies, and you are the recipients of my indulgence. Let’s see how that pans out. See you tomorrow.


  1. chris dankland

    I want to watch one of these during the weekend, but ever since i stopped smoking weed on a regular basis i’ve sort of lost all my appetite for bad movies and mindless entertainment. Those two things always went hand in hand for me. But fortunately the clips u chose are just the good stuff.

    Watching these clips feels sort of cathartically funny right now. There’s been such a heavy mood of apocalypse in the states for the last year or so. So many right-wing politicians have been painting our current situation in such dark hyperbolic colors, like there’s hordes of zombie immigrants roaming the countryside in search of rape victims, and secret terrorists in every town, and the country is teetering on the verge of collapse. ‘Disaster’ is one of the most overused words of 2016.

    This isn’t really a ‘natural’ disaster movie, but a couple years ago i watched the Left Behind movie starring Nicholas Cage, that one was pretty goofy. I don’t really recommend it, all the special effects are cheesy & low budget, and Nicholas Cage is uncharacteristically boring in it. The premise is that the rapture happens & all the christians suddenly dissapear from the earth. But the funny parts are how the movie takes pains to show how almost all the ppl left behind are shitty assholes who deserve what they got, so as the world descends into chaos there are bunches of scenes of ppl being pointlessly over the top rude to each other, like this one 10 second scene where a little person is trying to hurry off the plane, & this impatient guy behind him just kicks him off the plane for no reason

    And like looters fighting in the background over flat screen tvs and jewlery, & ppl yelling ‘screw u lady, get out of my way!’ instead of taking 2 seconds to help up some screaming old woman that fell down or something. Such an awful movie lol

    I really liked your nephew’s story that was on the fanzine the other day, does he have a book coming out? i’ll keep an eye out for it.

    are u into that band Lambchop? i’ve been listening to their new album FLOTUS & it crossed my mind that it might be something u’d enjoy, idk. he sings autotune the whole album & i think it works in an interesting way, a way i haven’t exactly heard it used before, although i wouldn’t say it’s especially groundbreaking so much as just very natural sounding & complimentary. Neil Young uses some autotune in his latest single Peace Trail but i thought it came off as really corny. Autotune seems like a very hit or miss effect, it either sounds really cool or really bad

    sorry for the long message but have a great weekend !! talk to u later

  2. Montse

    Hey, Dennis!

    Please, don’t worry about that at all. How could you remember all the posts when you’ve been updating the blog six days a week for so many years? I’m sure your post will have so much juicy stuff. When I made mine, I remember it was very hard to find sources in English. Oh, here the weather forecast says the European cold wave is coming this weekend, so we’ll see. I’m not particularly happy about it because the country is not prepared for low temperatures and everything tends to be a mess when that happens. I hope you get some snow in Paris these days. I think you will! I’m such a pussy when it comes to natural disaster movies, especially the ones with tsunamis. I can’t really see them, when I see big waves I freak out. Have you seen Dolan’s ‘Juste la fin du Monde’? It just premiered here and I want to go. Have a terrific Friday! Love,

  3. Dóra Grőber


    I guess feeling non-adult or more like… allowing yourself to feel non-adult is very liberating, yes. I don’t feel like I’ll ever be a stereotypical ‘adult’ and I like it that way. What was it that you originally started to study at university?
    Oh, I haven’t thought about this aspect, it makes absolute sense. And it does make the work a lot more difficult, indeed, but maybe even more exciting, too.
    No! I don’t know why or how but I just never got around to reading anything by her. Thank you for the tip! I’ll look for the book right away!
    I wanted to shoot a few pictures today but it’s snowing heavily and everything’s really dark so there’s hardly any natural light and I need that. So the idea is still in the “birth canal” but as soon as there’s enough light I’ll start it. I’m gonna be my main model but I have a friend who also fits the picture or style in my head so I’ll ask him if he wants to participate, too. I think he’ll be into it.
    How was the day on your end? I hope it was awesome!

  4. Bill

    Ha. I’ve only seen one or two of the ’70s movies, back in the day. I have to admit, I’m tempted to indulge in White Squall’s gratuitousness.

    Re the Swarm, didn’t you have something like an Insect Fear films day?


  5. Jamie

    Dennis, you slipped and broke both your wrists? That’s really awful! That must have been so debilitating. How did you do anything? Shit. I winced as I read that you did that (isn’t wince a funny/good word?). Man, I feel for you. I’ve never fancied going to Moscow and I fancy it even less now.
    Did you make it to the movies? Any good, if so? I went to see Krisha on Monday & thought it was okay, but really loved just being in the cinema. You should go see Star Wars! I’d like to hear what you make of it.
    Yay to learning French. I might make that my thing to do of the year, actually. I’ll start commenting in French! Imagine.
    I love today’s post. I’m not sure that I want to see any of the films, but I love that you love them. Is there not a really funny bit in Towering Inferno where a guy gets into a lift and goes down then comes back up a second later on fire?
    What’s your weekend plans? I’m looking forward to a lazy day tomorrow then Writing Gang in the evening. Hope whatever you do turns out perfectly!
    Lots of love to you,

  6. David Ehrenstein

    Ronald Neame, the director of “The Poseidon Adventure” told me “It was pure cardboard. But we had Shelley!”

    Latest FaBlog: The Loneliness of the Short-Fingered Pussy-Grabber

  7. kieran


    yeah, linda sharrock played a few shows last year in the UK with the band from that record… The Abyssity Of The Grounds… and i saw them in glasgow. really wild show – one 90 minutes of pretty full on free improv no-wave art punk: guy playing a beat up tele with a paint scraper thing, multiple people including sharrock mostly screaming, drummer using pots + pans etc. extremely worth catching a show if yo get a chance. think the story is that these guys live near her in (i think) copenhagen and encouraged her back into performing after she had a stroke a while back.

    hope you have a nice weekend x

  8. steevee

    I’m not a big disaster movie fan – Fred Kaplan ought to meet the environmentalists who wanted to leap on the back of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW to use it to raise awareness about global warming – but I just realized I’m now reading Erik Larson’s ISAAC’S STORM, a history of a hurricane that killed thousands of people in Galveston in the early 1900s, and it’s more or less the same thing.

    It turned out that one of the people I sent my script to is friends with the person I based it on! That was awkward. He recognizes the weirdness of the situation and promised that he won’t tell my real-life inspiration about the existence of the film.

  9. Mark Gluth

    Hey Dennis

    Happy (belated) birthday! Seems like yers was all swell and such. I’ve probably told you that I love Disaster movies… this post is going to be great once I have a chance to read it. My all time fave is probably Earthquake! But I love the contemporary ones too. Rogue One kinda has a bit of disaster movie DNA subsumed within it’s scifi heist film shell. Have you seen it? I kinda loved it.

    Take Care,

  10. _Black_Acrylic

    We got snow last night in Dundee for the first time in 3 years so I took extra care when out walking today. I could really do without another spinal fracture. That’s a potential natural disaster right there.

    The Filmwinter event in Stuttgart is on Thursday next week, so my dad will be driving me down to Leeds this coming Wednesday. That’s suddenly excitingly close! I realised I could do with a card and so designed this, which is kind of spare and doesn’t even have a phone number or email address. Any interested parties can just get in touch via social media if they’re desperate.

  11. lord_s

    enjoyed disaster movie day. have you seen aftershock? it’s a chilean disaster movie written by eli roth. fun/horrific stuff. anyway, hi. hope your 2017 is going well so far.

  12. Openloadmovie

    i like san andreas movie, their story is good and actors and actress is popular.

  13. sonali

    nice article i loved it coolmoviezone

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