How the Sequels Respect the Original

In addition to featuring the obvious link – big earthy monsters terrorizing rural communities – the sequels at least try to recapture the cantankerous banter between the first film’s leads. (“Try” being the operative word.) The films manage some laughs between them (albeit fewer combined between them than in the first movie). They also aim for a constant stream of new creature creations – the addition of Shriekers, Ass-Blasters, and other variations means there’s often some new beastie on the horizon.

Most of the sequels are surprisingly passable fare, but there’s little that stands out to really recommend them. In the interest of positivity, though, and in recognition that they’re not all as bad as DTV sequels tend to be, there are a couple things worth highlighting. The first film’s use of practical creature design (along with optical FX) is continued through Aftershocks, which sees the majority of its effects work exist in the practical world. Just as noteworthy, Bloodlines and A Cold Day in Hell both bring blood into the Tremors world for the first time in any substantial way. They’re still primarily focused on comedy, but each of these last two feature fairly harrowing attacks that almost rival the intensity of poor Walter’s demise in the floor boards of his shop in the first film.

How the Sequels Shit on the Original

Typically, this is the section where I get to go off on the DTV sequel(s) in question with gleeful abandon, but this time I’m stuck less with abominations and more with cookie-cutter mediocrity. The biggest complaint to lobby against the sequels is in the area of effects. A lack of star power can easily be forgiven when there’s something fun worth watching, but starting with Back to Perfection, the films become overrun with generic CG effects. Close-ups sometimes revert back to practical creations, but far too much of the onscreen creature action is CG. And we’re not talking Jurassic Park-level, ILM-quality magic here folks. The CG creatures lack a tangible presence which in turn leaves them feeling more like cartoons than threats.

The Legend Begins deserves some more specific scorn, though, as it feels like a minimal effort made on half a whim. I imagine it was born on the simple premise of “what if Bert Gummer’s great grandfather didn’t like guns?!” Hilarity ensues. Unfortunately, while NRA-member Gummer earns minimal laughs as a spoof, he’s an empty vessel without that parodiable shell. Very little thought went into the story too, and the budget followed suit. The town of Rejection makes Perfection look like a bustling metropolis, and the handful of buildings are literally front walls only – everything beyond each building’s street-facing facade is a tent. A tent! So where’d the money go? It certainly wasn’t to the effects department or set dresser. It definitely wasn’t to the casting – unless Billy Drago was in far higher demand 14 years ago than any of us suspected.

Conclusion

Look, do I recommend watching all five (so far) of the DTV Tremors sequels? I do not. On the flip side, though, the only one I’d actively advise you skip is The Legend Begins. It’s so dull and so very cheap. The others are harmless creature features offering a handful of laughs, some minor thrills, and more than a few gut-filled showers. None come close to the charm of the original, but if you’re craving a fix that only Michael Gross can supply, you should look into the psychology of that… and then look no further than this unlikeliest of horror franchises.

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