The original: Tremors is a film, and a franchise that has always resonated with me. Since my first viewing it quickly became an obsession, and as such I’ve seen the original a lot. The film is one of the most memorable monster movies from the 1990’s, and the effects hold up to this day. The cast is magnificent, and it works from start to finish. They play around with many of the popular tropes of monster movies, and it never gives you an outright explanation as to where the monsters originated from. It is well worth digging up if you haven’t seen it before, and the pack with the first four movies is relatively cheap.
The Sequel: This is not the first time I’ve seen this film, nor the second, in fact in high-school for some asinine reason I watched this film a lot. There is no real good reason for this, as the film even at its best is only an “okay” movie. This is one of those movies always brought along for road trips, and in all honesty the effects hold up a lot better if you see it on a small screen. I can vividly recall my grandfather laughing at the Bicycle gag early in the film.
The plot is as such, the mining town of Rejection (who the hell names a town that?) is essentially shut down after a mining incident drives away the prospectors. The mines owner Hiram Gummer comes into town to try to convince the remaining townspeople to reopen to mine. Unbeknownst to Hiram the culprit of the mining incident were baby Graboids called Dirt Devils in this film, and his expedition gets a lot of men killed when the monsters attack. Hiram and a miner named Juan escape back to town, and call in a hired gunman to take out the small creatures. Unfortunately by the time he arrives in town the babies have become full grown Graboids, the Graboids end up eating the gunman, leaving Hiram and the Townspeople to attempt to stop their rampage, and reopen the town.
What the film lacks in effects, it makes up for with a good cast. Everyone works together very well, and are all clear descendants of characters from the first movie. Michael Gross who plays the descendant of Burt Gummer gets to show off a completely different set of acting chops. Hiram Gummer is a refined, high society character, who in direct contrast to Burt is terrible with firearms. The performance is on the opposite spectrum from his work in the rest of the series, and for the majority of the film he is very unlikable. From the second he gets off of his carriage, he begins acting like a jerk. By the end of the film that character has been redeemed in the eyes of the viewer, in what is a surprisingly well done arc. The supporting cast are all relatively unknowns, and do their parts well. In particular Brent Roam, Ming Lo, Lydia Look, and Sam Ly are fantastic. The biggest name of the entire film is Billy Drago who plays the gunman they hire to take out the Graboids. His character is a slimy black hat who is willing to do anything for money. He makes his entrance during a thunder storm, and has a fantastic fake out moment when someone passes him an apple. The scene is constructed to make you think he is planning to shoot the apple out of the sky, instead he catches the apple, and takes a bite.
The film is directed, and written by S. S. Wilson, who previously directed the second Tremors film. If he’d been given a bigger budget this would most likely be a more well regarded film, but he does make the best out of what he has to work with. Wilson is the writer for the entire franchise, asides from the most recent entries Tremors 5, and 6. It appears he has done no other work in the industry since this film, which is unfortunate as he did write some fun scripts.
The biggest issue with the film, is the clearly limited special effects budget. They do not have a full Graboid puppet to work with, as you either see the full body of the creature, or you see the tongues, but never both in the same shot. In one sequence they use CG for the tongues rather than a puppet, and it looks horrendous. Asides from the cheaper effects, they do manage to make some interesting action sequences. At about the midpoint of the film our main cast is trapped inside of a mulling station with thick wooden floorboards that the creatures can’t break through. Instead of breaking through the floor the Graboids begin taking apart the floor plank by plank, leaving our heroes with less, and less ground to work with. There is another sequence in which they are fleeing from a Graboid in a stage coach, and you see a puppet fly under a bridge, and back into the ground beyond it. This effect works well, and there are sequences in the finale that match its quality. My favourite of the deaths being the use of a punt gun to blow through one of the creatures.
Unfortunately there are quite a few plot holes if you know the series history, like why the hell the townspeople never mentioned this to their ancestors? You’d have thought that Hiram would at least mention it to his future children who would one day inherit the mine, on that note it’s never mentioned in any of the previous films that the Gummer family are actually the proprietors of the town. They change the name from Rejection, to Perfection at the end of the film, but why would anyone ever call their town Rejection in the first place? There is a sequence in which Tecopa avoids death by having a Native American statue get eaten in his stead. At the end of the movie he asks for a proper statue that resembles him. This would be a nice callback if there had been a statue in any of the prior films, but there are no statues. Did Hiram just not give Tecopa a statue? What a jerk.
Verdict: Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, is not a terrible film, but it isn’t anything spectacular either. If you’re a big fan of the series, you should enjoy the further exploits of Michael Gross, and enjoy the sly tie-ins to the other movies. Unfortunately this is muddled by lackluster effects, that are a step down from the first 2 films, and about on par with the 3rd. If you want more Tremors, the fourth one is worth giving at least one watch, but if you don’t care about the franchise there is not a compelling reason for you to seek it out.