Just before a giant hurricane hits Florida, something Godzilla-huge rises up out of the water and knocks an airplane right out of the sky. Various residents prepare for the coming storm, and some, like Sheriff Underlay, are acting kind of strange. The storm also brings on some family drama. Park Ranger Russell, his son Jesse, and his daughter Rose plan to ride out the storm at home, along with Russell's new pregnant newscaster wife, Larkin, and her conspiracy-theorist brother Dave. But Russell's bitchy physician ex-wife, Mariel, who just happens to be married to Sheriff Underlay, shows up just in time to discover that the young daughter has run off to find her cat. Jesse tells his mother off and Mariel leaves just as the hurricane is hitting. While Rose is out in the storm, she sees these weird lights falling to the ground, and then gets rescued by Russell. The next day, Mariel is missing, and Sheriff Underlay weirdly blames Jesse, practically telling the teenager that he killed his mother. They form a search party, and find Mariel lying naked and unconscious in the swamp. Sheriff Underlay resuscitates Mariel, who doesn't seem to recognize her own son. Layabout Dave takes Rose back out into the swamp to try to find what she saw during the hurricane, and he discovers some human remains or something equally mysterious and disturbing, gets freaked out, and leaves. Dave returns later to grab the remains, and shows them to Russell to try to prove that aliens have landed or risen or whatever. He somehow convinces Russell to go back to the swamps with him in the middle of the night, leaving his pregnant wife home alone. They spot some weird light, and Dave goes to investigate, but he gets sucked into the water. Russell dives in after him, and manages to rescue him, but has injuries on his legs. A priest is found under the same mysterious circumstances Mariel was, and Russell notices that Underlay, Mariel, and the priest are all acting weird in the same way. In the end, it is revealed that Underlay and Mariel have been taken over, I guess, although it's all very ambiguous.
An airplane flies through a bad storm. It occurred to me that it seemed like bad CGI, but then I realized that I've never actually seen an external view of an airplane flying through a bad storm, so maybe this is EXACTLY what it looks like. A caption informs us that this is a C-130 Weather Plane (what?), and is part of the Hurricane Surveillance Unit (who?) and it's currently 180 miles southeast of Miami (where?). I'm not sure why that information couldn't have been conveyed via dialogue, but whatever. Anyway, the plane reports that it's closing in on the hurricane eye wall, and the pilot suddenly puts the plane into a dive. He tells his crew to hold on while they head into the hurricane. Suddenly, everything quiets down, and you can actually see sunlight. The pilot reports that they are in the eye of the hurricane (listen to yourself turn -- sorry, obligatory R.E.M. reference), and the plane drops an instrument to measure some weather data. The various crew members report their findings. All the instruments start going nuts, and one crew member says that she sees something under the water. The co-pilot reports thousands of lights on the radar, and as the camera pans down to the ocean, a giant entity seems to rise up out of the water, and then sparks fly out. We switch to a view from space, and the lights are even visible from there! From space! It's huge! Just making sure you caught that there were a lot of lights and that they were visible from space. Where the aliens live.
Now we're down on the ground, in Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida, which is thirty-five miles southwest of Miami. Everglades National Park: Where All Creepy Things Happen. I think that's on the signs at the entrance. A park ranger drives his truck slowly through the park, as the news blares from his radio that people are taking cover in preparation for the hurricane. The sky in the distance is dark and threatening.
The ranger arrives at an outpost or station or something and finds his partner trying to convince a woman and her young son to head to a shelter. The kid doesn't want to go, because he's waiting for his father, so the park ranger plucks a tiny turtle out of a nearby tank and tells the kid that the turtle needs a ride to the shelter and the kid can provide it. So the kid totally throws his dad over for the turtle and I guess we're supposed to gather that the ranger is an All-Around Good Guy who loves children and small animals, including amphibians. And he speaks Spanish! And he wears his official ranger shirt untucked, indicating that he's no stickler for the rules. That's a whole lot of character development in one scene that I think I totally missed on first viewing because watching it now, I don't remember it at all. The ranger heads back into his station, where he watches lovingly as a reporter reads news on the television.