Tremors 3: Back To Perfection (2001)

This might be the ugliest video cover I've ever seen

This might be the ugliest video cover I’ve ever seen

It appears “Tremors 2” has a lot more fans than I previously thought, as feedback for my review has been “that was a bit harsh” – I’m moderately surprised to even get feedback, honestly, but it happens when you review films that other people have actually seen. I feel fairly confident that many fewer of you’ll have watched anything from the “Tremors universe” past part 2, though, so we can continue.


This does give us an opportunity to talk about the straight-to-video sequel. It look like Disney and Universal led the way, with sequels to “Aladdin” and “The Land Before Time” being released that way in 1994, but now everyone’s into it, and all the major movie studios have departments that exist solely to exploit their most popular movies, although now they’ll be on Netflix or DVD rather than “video” (I’m too lazy to change the name, though). These tend to follow a certain business plan, which roughly speaking is:


“How much money can we cut from the budget of these movies before people stop paying to watch them?”


From part 1, user of many inventive special effects, and one that still looks great today; to part 2, which used whatever they had lying around left over from part 1, but still looked sort of okay; to part 3, which is mostly CGI and crappy-looking models, the budgets fall and fall and fall. The other thing about straight-to-video sequels is that they obviously can’t afford to pay the stars of the original, so part 2 had Fred Ward and a sort of vague Kevin Bacon-alike, and now with part 3 we’re down to Michael Gross, who worked in the first movie because he had a tiny part as the wacky survivalist guy who was there because he had lots of guns and was enthusiastic about getting the chance to use them. But as the lead?


Let’s recap. It’s 11 years since part 1, and Burt Gummer (Gross) has lent his Graboid-killing abilities to the government of Argentina. This immediately robs the film of any tension or scares, as he’s seen destroying hundreds of the “Shriekers” with a couple of huge aircraft guns mounted to the back of a truck. There’s also the small question of why no-one else appears able to just point a gun in one direction and shoot a lot, as Gummer’s skill doesn’t seem any greater than that. Anyway.


But this is just preamble, as he’s soon back in Perfection, the tiny, remote town which was the site of the first movie. He’s had his compound completely remodelled with a concrete barrier (which goes all the way underneath his house), but other than that the town has barely changed, with the population being down to 5. The kid from part 1 is now a sleazy property developer in his mid 20s, who wants to buy the entire valley up and build houses, and there’s a new guy called Jack (Shawn Christian), who runs very low-rent Graboid tours of the local area. Oh, and Chang’s convenience store has been taken over by his niece Jodi (Susan Chuang). There’s a nice cameo near the beginning, where Mary Gross, aka Michael’s sister, aka off the terrible years of “Saturday Night Live”, pops up and calls him “Mr Goober”, but sadly she’s not in it more as I quite like her. Pretty much everyone who wasn’t Kevin Bacon or Fred Ward and was still alive at the end of part 1 pops up in part 3, but you could be forgiven for not remembering as some of them were pretty minor.


I know no-one likes an armchair quarterback, but think about it for a minute. Imagine the town had turned into a Roswell-style tourist trap after the events of part 1 (where the two stars were pretty big celebrities for a while), and now, 11 years later, there’s no Graboid sightings and all the businesses are closed up, with the area being a complete ghost town. The rest of the film could run the same, even, and the “evil property developer” subplot would make a lot more sense – why’s he so fixated on building in that extremely inhospitable valley with no phone service and nowhere near anywhere? But those things would have cost money, I guess.


So now we’re treated to yet another evolution of the Graboid, the Ass Blaster. Think they were running out of ideas? These creatures fart fire, which propels them into the air, where they can glide. Having a sequel to a movie called “Tremors” with a monster which flies through the air is about the same as making “Revenge of the Dragon” which reveals halfway through the dragon is a mere evolutionary stage to an angry dog. These creatures, much like their parents, the Shriekers, only sense heat, unlike the Graboids, which only sense vibration. Why not?


Oh, another thing. There’s a rack of comics in the shop at the beginning, the fictionalised tales of what happened in parts 1 and 2. Only no-one told the guy they hired to draw the covers of the comics how to spell “Shrieker” – proof:


So, the acting’s sort of alright, but it’s just not that funny. It thinks just having weird creatures in it, and people shouting at each other occasionally, is good enough and it really isn’t. They’re being sold as funny monster movies but by this point, they’re just not trying hard enough at that side of things. There’s also an extremely unconvincing and irrelevant central “romance”, which feels like an extremely hasty last-minute addition and doesn’t really make sense in the world of the movie. Perhaps it’s the fault of writer John Whelpley, who also worked heavily on the abysmal “Earth: Final Conflict”. Or perhaps it’s the fault of Brent Maddock, with this being his only directorial credit (he wrote the first movie, as well as “Short Circuit”)?


A small aside: throughout the three movies, Michael Gross is sporting an “Atlanta Hawks” hat. The Hawks are an NBA team, and Atlanta is all the way on the other side of the country from Nevada (where this and part 1 are set, I think). It’s a nice touch that he’s both a fan of basketball (him being a bit of a redneck) and a team from so far away. Or perhaps it’s just Michael Gross’s own hat and they let him wear it.


An unfunny comedy, and a monster movie where they’re all cheap CGI. Separately they’re awful, but put them together and give it just enough talent to make it bearable, and you’ve got “Tremors 3”. To be immediately forgotten.


Rating: thumbs down


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