All prequels are rubbish. Okay, I’ll give you “The Godfather 2”, maybe “X-Men: First Class”, and “Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes”, but one of them was made by Coppola at the height of his powers and the other two were more new-franchise starters than they were prequels. The point stands, though, that they’re all rubbish, because they answer questions nobody really asked. Does anyone really care why Hannibal Lecter was turned into the thing he was? Well, “Hannibal Rising” thinks you do, even if it doesn’t actually answer anything. Think Boba Fett was cool because he was a silent force of nature? Not any more you don’t, thanks to the “Star Wars” prequels! And so on, and so forth. A good half of them seem purely to exist because the coolest character dies at the end of (FILM), so to make more movies with that popular character they have to be prequels – this accounts for the weird timeline of the “Fast And The Furious” movies, for instance.
Our “Tremors” prequel takes place in 1889, 100 years before the first movie. The small town of Rejection, Nevada, is enjoying the fruits of the nearby silver mine, and things are going well for everyone, until something mysterious starts killing people down in the depths. The transient working population sods off, and all we’re left with is a rough approximation of the people we’d see in part 1 – Asian store owners and their young son; Hispanic wannabe farmer; attractive hotel owning lady; an old barfly; and a few assorted bits of cannon fodder on the periphery. As the mine stops producing and most of the miners are dead, into town comes the mine’s owner, Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross, playing his own great-grandfather, who’s really stopped trying by this point).
What you’ll notice throughout is how hard they try to make you remember “Tremors”. There’s lots of little “oh, so that’s the origin of that thing I never cared about”, such as the flagpole outside the shop, the family who own the local farm, and moderately importantly, how the Gummer family became obsessed with guns. Oh, and Gummer teaches the kid of the shop-owners to always try and exploit dumb customers, which explains how his descendant is such a scumbag in 1990. I find it vaguely sad there’s so little mobility in peoples’ lives, but whatever.
The slight difference in the Graboids this time is they’re brand new, hatched from long-dormant eggs thanks to a warm water runoff from the mine, so they can propel themselves through the air. This isn’t quite as offensive to my filmgoing sensibilities as the “Ass Blasters” in part 3, and they’re only in it briefly before we’re back to the big ugly beasts we know and love (presumably, they grow quite quickly). The second half is remarkably similar to the second halfs of all the other movies – a small group of people, isolated from any help, taking on a large group of creatures. I keep trying to think of something new to write about this movie, but if the people who made it couldn’t think of anything fun or original, why should I?
The only other face you’ll recognise apart from Gross is Billy Drago, one of the great 80s / 90s villains (“The Untouchables”, “Vamp”, and previously covered by us in “Cyborg 2”). He’s the gunslinger who Gummer hires to help the town defeat the Graboids – sort of a one-man Seven Samurai – and he’s a lot of fun, playing a little against type from time to time. Then you have character actor Sara Botsford as the love interest for Gummer, another bit of pipe-laying for the future as she’s a feisty redhead just like Reba McIntyre, his wife in part 1; and she’s the person who brings guns into his life. One could assume that, given the Gummers survive all the way down to the present day and they look identical, that the two of them will have kids fairly soon, but Botsford was 53 at the time of filming and probably a little on the old side to be having kids, especially in the remote Old West.
I mean, it’s not terrible. There are a couple of inventive Graboid kills, and even a decent gag or two. But, the same criticism I levelled at part 3 could go for this, too – it’s billed as a comedy yet I’m not sure any of its creators understand how to make people laugh. Wacky over-the-top characters are all we get, and unless you find the idea of a prissy businessman in a tiny Old West town funny in itself, you’re probably going to have a rough time with this one. Luckily, there’s less CGI in it than there was in part 3, but there’s also less Graboids.
Writing duties on this one were given to Scott Buck, who will hopefully direct some search engine traffic this way, as he’s now the producer of “Iron Fist”, the Marvel superhero. He also did “Dexter”, so you can partly blame him for that cliff of quality the show fell off (this is his only movie writing credit). Directing is once again by SS Wilson, who directed this, part 2 and nothing else.
A disinterested shrug is about as much as I can manage for this one. They’ve managed to coast a long way on the accumulated goodwill of part 1.
Rating: thumbs in the middle