Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)

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So, we come to the end of another surprisingly durable franchise (first movie was from 1990, so it’s done pretty well to avoid a reboot). Michael Gross makes it through all five, but nothing else does, not even the “classic” Graboids. After a classic part 1, it’s been a bit sad to sit through the largely dull parts 2-4, with part 3 being the absolute pits, but can part 5 turn it round? It’s a welcome return to the ISCFC for Don Michael Paul, aka “The Director With Three First Names”, who we covered on “Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”, and who also acted in “Robot Wars”.

 

Burt Gummer is now a reality TV star, where he hunts Graboids and whatever else wanders across his path, teaching his viewers how to make a clay oven and cook rattlesnake out in the wild. While he never struck me as a particularly hands-on sort of guy to this point (he had lots of Army rations in his bunker in part 1, implying he wasn’t that bothered about fending for himself), it’s a decent bit of character development. His cameraman gets a better job and quits, but not before finding him a replacement…Jamie Kennedy, whose introduction is doing some “extreme” biking, like was popular 20 years ago.

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Jamie Kennedy is one of those people I dislike for no particular reason. Since he was given the cool speech in “Scream”, he’s been given an almost endless series of chances – numerous starring vehicle TV shows, stand up TV specials, award hosting gigs, and “the funny guy” in tons of movies. He’s never once shown any appreciable charisma or talent, yet here he is, in 2015, still top billed in movies. Okay, not very good movies. But, if you don’t believe me, and think I’m being harsh on poor Mr Kennedy…an early starring role, “Son Of The Mask”, got him a Razzie nomination for worst actor. He hosted Activision’s E3 event in 2007 and was mocked for performing drunk and having no knowledge of Activision’s stuff. He lied about going back to the “Scream” franchise. His New Year’s Eve 2012 show is still mocked now as maybe the worst TV show ever made. There are plenty of others. Yet he’s famous and I’m an office drone who writes these for my own amusement.

 

So, a South African guy from their Ministry of the Environment, or whatever it is, finds Burt and asks for his help in putting down an outbreak of Ass-Blasters, who’ve popped up there; Burt’s payment will be the South Africans paying for the production of his TV show for the next three years. At the same time, a pair of local archaeologists discover a creature which is a bit like a Graboid, only longer, leaner and more intelligent (I guess).

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The first thing to notice is the acting is better and the script is stronger than anything since…well, I think it’s probably the best of the sequels, but I know a lot of people like them. The South African muscle, played by Brandon Auret, is a lot of fun, as is Gross’s brother from another mother, Ian Roberts as the lunatic helicopter pilot Den. Best of all, though, is local vet Nandi, the mother of a young kid that Jamie Kennedy befriends. She’s played by Pearl Thusi, and without wanting to be too sleazy, she’s a very beautiful woman, but more importantly she’s a decent actress. Those of you (us) wanting more can see her on season 2 of “Quantico” or the South African version of “Lip Sync Battle”.

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So, it’s pretty much a remake of part 2, but done better. One of the original Perfection crew goes to another country to help them sort things out, and takes a wacky friend along for the ride. Pondering why no-one bothered to learn how to fight the Graboids in the intervening 25 years, or why so few people in South Africa are aware of what must be the biggest news of the century, or why they forgot they’d already captured one at the end of part 3, are questions sadly unanswered. The Graboids, Shriekers and Ass-Blasters are a different evolutionary chain to the ones Burt’s used to, which basically means they’re taking advantage of the far superior CGI to make something which looks decent and terrifying – the difference from the terrible use of computers in part 3 is like night and day. It’s really cool to see it filmed in South Africa too, giving it a different and interesting look to what we got in the first four.

 

ISCFC FAVOURITE THING – the wooden guard tower! And you know it gets destroyed by a super-Graboid!

 

There’s a moderately interesting story behind this – the original writers, directors and producers kept trying to get their Australia-based Tremors script made with Universal, but it was stuck in development hell for a decade, until finally an exec came along who liked it, but didn’t want the original creative team to have much input at all. Perhaps they’d seen parts 2-4? So, that whole group of people walked away, and we ended up with…well, an actually decent film for once. I imagine they were a bit upset when they saw it and were like “oh, I can see why they kicked us off it now”.

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If you can put up with Jamie Kennedy, who’s the least annoying he’s ever been here, then there’s a heck of a lot to like. Rips along, lots of good characters, good effects, funny occasionally, and I sort o hope they carry on with the series.

 

Rating: thumbs up

 

 

 

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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?”

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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