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Notes From the Underground, Part II: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins and Tremors 5: Bloodlines

Sunday, May 29th, 2016 | Posted by William I. Lengeman III

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Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)
Directed by Brent Maddock

Burt Gummer: Is your head up your ass for the warmth?

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the movie Tremors to almost anyone. I think there’s plenty to like in it, even for the casual viewer, unless they have a strong aversion to horror/monster movies. Tremors 2: Aftershocks was a decent sequel but I’d recommend it only to more serious horror fans and Tremors cultists. Which is even more true for Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

As the title suggests, the action moves from the remote corner of Mexico featured in the second movie to the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, the setting for Tremors. The town sign now lists a population of five, down from the 14 of the first movie.

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About a decade has passed since the events of Tremors and another major star has dropped out of the series. That would be Fred Ward, who headed the cast in the second movie, in the absence of Kevin Bacon. Ward is gone and it’s up to Michael Gross, as survivalist Burt Gummer, to lead, repeating the role he played in the first two movies.

A few minor characters return from the first movie and there are some new ones — some federal agents who don’t fare so well, the niece of the original grocery store owner, and an enterprising young square-jawed chap who’s running a cheesy tour company that plays off of the popularity of the Graboids, the wormlike creatures at the heart of these movies.

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Once again, the plot is isn’t much to write home about. Graboids menace humans, humans fight back, Graboids undergo another major transformation, as in the first sequel. It all could have been done better, to be honest. The pacing is erratic, the writing not as good, the humor doesn’t score as often as it did in previous movies and many of the effects are now CGI — a step down from the physical effects that worked so well before.

At this point, one might have considered ending the Tremors franchise. But it was not to be. Its cult appeal was sufficient to merit a few more installments and a TV series.

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Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2003)
Directed by S.S. Wilson

The inevitable prequel? When you’ve produced two sequels to a movie you have to start casting around for a new take on the franchise. That would be Tremors 4. The events here take place about a century before those of the first movie.

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The town of Perfection, Nevada is known as Rejection and is at the tail end of a mining boom. Things start to go awry at the mine and it’s about this time that mine owner Hiram Gummer turns up. In the form of Michael Gross, who played Hiram’s survivalist descendant — Burt Gummer — in all of the other Tremors movies.

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Hiram presents a marked contrast to Burt in that he doesn’t know one end of a gun from the other. He’s a bit of a dandy who’s never ridden a horse and who travels with a bicycle and he really doesn’t fit in here in the Old West.

Which isn’t a half bad gimmick, actually. Gummer’s character leads the pack here, in spite of his lack of leadership qualities, and there are the usual assortment of supporting characters one expects to find in a Tremors movie.

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The plot? Well, what would you expect? It’s people vs. giant burrowing worms. The first half of this installment seemed to drag a bit and I was struggling to get through it. But the second half picked up considerably and by the time it was all said and done I found myself liking it quite well.

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Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)
Directed by Don Michael Paul

And so it goes. In 2003, in addition to Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, the Tremors TV series ran for a rather paltry 13 episodes. After that the world was forced to endure more than a decade of Tremorlessness, which was eventually relieved by the release of Tremors 5: Bloodlines.

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On hand, as he was in all five of the Tremors movies, was Michael Gross, this time reverting to his tried and true portrayal of survivalist and gun fancier, Burt Gummer. No other cast members from Tremors of yore are on hand this time around and Burt has a new sidekick in the form of Jamie Kennedy, a videographer and motorcycle stunt rider. Also not on hand this time around was the creative team that had a hand in the previous movies. Which might help to explain why this installment looks more like a standard issue action movie — with Graboids, of course.

This time around Gummer and his new sidekick are called to Africa, thanks to Gummer’s experience with handling the aforementioned Graboids. Things play out about like you’d expect. I’d rank this one as mildly diverting and that’s about the size of it.

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Thus ends the Tremors film festival, although I’ll probably seek out the TV series at some point, just for the hell of it.

I suppose I should rank the installments so here goes:

  • There’s no question that Tremors stands head and shoulders above all of the others.
  • Tremors 2 is next on the list and then I’d skip to Tremors 4, which managed to retain a lot of the lighthearted spirit of the first two movies and which wasn’t bad for a prequel.
  • Tremors 5 was watchable but nothing special and Tremors 3 was the weakest of the bunch.

William I. Lengeman III’s last review for us was Notes from the Underground: Tremors & Tremors 2: Aftershocks. He holds forth at www.wileng3.com.

1 Comment »

  1. I wholeheartedly agree with the assessment you’ve given to each of these movies (though I haven’t seen 5).

    Interesting tidbit: I recently saw on YouTube an interview with Kevin Bacon. He said that doing Tremors was a low point in his career and he was embarrassed by it for years. But given the ensuing popularity that the movie has enjoyed, he said that he would gladly do a Tremors sequel now *if* the right script were to come along.

    Comment by James McGlothlin - May 29, 2016 7:24 pm


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