Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)

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I watched “Tremors” a few months ago but didn’t review it, because it might be the perfect B-movie and I’d only spoil it with my words. Seriously, not a weak moment – every performance perfectly judged, funny, inventive special effects, pretty exciting at times…”Tremors” is an all-time great, no doubt about it. It was so good that it inspired four sequels, and I feel a bit more confident about reviewing them.

 

Director Ron Underwood (who also made “City Slickers”, and…”Pluto Nash”) doesn’t return, and instead directing duties are handled by part 1’s writer, S. S. Wilson. Wilson’s written at least one decent movie – “Short Circuit”; one I liked but no-one else did – “Wild Wild West”; and lots of rubbish – “Ghost Dad”, for one, starring rapist Bill Cosby. This and part 4 represent the entirety of his directing career, and he hasn’t really done anything since the turn of the millennium, so let’s see how good it was.

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“Not very”, is the simple answer. The Graboids from part 1 are back, but in Mexico this time, and they’ve forced an oil field to shut down by killing a bunch of the miners. Although a person might reasonably think “they must have done all sorts of tests on those creatures, and the Army will have figured out a way to blow them up”, the people behind this movie didn’t, so the owners of the oil field call on…Earl Bassett! Yes, Fred Ward was happy to come back for the sequel, but Kevin Bacon was not, possibly because it was straight-to-video and Kevin was getting paid better for starring in the Oscar-nominated “Sleepers” at the time.

 

Joining Earl is Grady Hoover, who’s the Bacon replacement (Facon?) and whose sole qualification is he’s the first guy the Mexicans met when they went to Earl’s town to find him. He’s played by Chris Gartin, who sort of looks like four different actors, depending on his facial expression and the way he’s stood. Despite Grady being so stupid he doesn’t even know what rock, paper, scissors is, they start off well, developing a solid system for killing the creatures which earns them a fortune ($50,000 a graboid), until they sort of start fighting back, so they decide to bring in reinforcements in the shape of the guy who stole part 1 with his brilliant performance, Michael Gross as Bert Gummer.

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It’s around this point when I turned against the movie, really. It’s a small thing, but…anyway, he drives up with a huge truck full of guns and explosives, and there’s an ADRed line about how the Mexican army gave them all to him, obviously as someone in the editing bay went “how did he get all these deadly weapons over the border?” But then he starts talking about a new rifle he’s got, which clearly wasn’t a gift, and it’s a whole mess. Pay attention to the details, people.

 

This is as nothing compared to the second half of the movie, though. Sequels, the good ones anyway, have to have some sort of escalated threat, whether in numbers, size or circumstances (for instance: the monsters are moving towards a big city! Or humanity is dying out and can’t fight them as well any more! You know the sort of thing I mean), but it’s important that they try and stick to some part of the formula that made the previous movie successful enough to warrant a sequel. “Tremors 2”, on the other hand, decides to just recreate the climax of part 1, with them in a small location trying to move round on top of buildings, but with slightly different creatures. Yes, the graboids  (who grab no-one in the course of the movie, because that effect was clearly too expensive to recreate) are actually larva for creatures we’ll come to know in part 3 as “shriekers” – sort of graboid-looking things that run round on two legs.

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The graboids have been around since pre-Cambrian times, apparently, when the only other creatures were single-celled (this is from the movie, not some weird theory I have), yet these two-legged things have never showed up anywhere, ever, until 1996 in Mexico? No explanation is given, although the original movie was supposed to be set in Australia (with Kevin Bacon returning) until the budget was cut by 75%. I could see them having evolved differently there, even though the movie sort of explicitly says they haven’t evolved in hundreds of millions of years, but…ah, I don’t know.

 

It commits the worst B-movie crime, of being boring. There’s not a second of this movie where you’re not thinking about how you’d rather be watching the first one, but for the last twenty minutes, it’s pretty difficult to keep your attention on the screen. It’s exactly what “Tremors” would have been with a poor director and no Kevin Bacon in it, which is sort of alright but completely forgettable.

 

Rating: thumbs down

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Cameron’s Closet (1988)

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This is another of our 80s video shop “classics”. Chances are, if you remember this movie at all, it’s probably on the horror shelves of your local video shop – and, if you’re like me, you looked at it, went “this sounds rubbish. Who cares about a closet?” and put it back in favour of something with zombies and gore in it. But, we’ve decided the best way to drive traffic to the site is to review stuff like this, almost impossible to get hold of and guaranteed remembered fondly by no-one; so here we all are. “Cameron’s Closet” was a “Monday Night Movie Club” selection, where a group of my friends gather at my place every week and we take it in turns to pick a movie to watch. I picked “Night Life” last week, so we’ve got a pretty poor recent batting average; this is fellow ISCFC reviewer @kilran’s, so if you want someone to blame, he’s your man.

 

Cameron is a kid, and he has a closet (to help non-American readers, they have extremely large closets as a matter of course). He has a monster of some sort living in it, all large, very ugly, glowing eyes; but his Dad seems not to believe in its existence. One day, trying to track down the noises he’s been hearing from Cameron’s room, he tries to go up into the attic while, for some reason, using a machete to open the attic hatch. Just give it a push mate! Anyway, he falls off the ladder and the conveniently placed machete slices his head clean off. The Dad, by the way, will be familiar to John Waters fans – it’s Tab Hunter, from “Polyester” (oh, and he was the biggest movie star in the world for a few years in the late 50s).

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Anyway, fast forward an unspecified amount of time, and Cameron’s got a stepdad – Gary Hudson, one of the great “That Guy” actors. He’s hostile in the classic evil stepdad way to Cameron, and – spoiler! – doesn’t last very long. The real battle is Sam the cop (Cotter Smith) and Nora the psychiatrist (Mel Harris, “Thirtysomething”) against the monster in the closet. They, naturally, don’t believe him at first, but luckily the beast isn’t too subtle.

 

With the best will in the world, it’s just not very interesting. We discover that Tab Hunter was a scientist, and his experiments on Cameron’s mind caused him to summon the creature forth – it feels like it was written first as either a straight horror or a psychological thriller, but was hastily rewritten into a sort of mish-mash of the two when the producers were all “hey, this movie was pretty successful at the box office last week” (I have a relatively low opinion of producers). And if the movies have taught us one thing, it’s that you don’t upset children with psychic powers.

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The cast is solid, all soap opera types (I spotted a few people from the “Dallas” / “Dynasty” stable). Smith and Harris, who were married in real life at the time, don’t have an ounce of on-screen chemistry, even though Harris is great. The one interesting name attached to this movie is Carlo Rambaldi, who created E.T. He’d clearly burned out on that, because by the time it came to create the closet-monster, he just decided on a mass of painted rubber with sharp teeth and glowing eyes.

 

Because we sort of know the mystery from the very beginning, we’re just twiddling our thumbs waiting for the denouement (a psychic lazer-fight between Cameron and the thing from the recesses of his psyche). If you’re still paying 100% attention by that point, you’re a better person than I.

 

There’s one scene where someone Cameron hates is thrown through a window, flies a good 100 feet through the air and crashes through the hood of a car, dead. Now, how are we supposed to read this scene? You’d really be stretching to call it the monster’s fault, but of course this being a studio movie, the kid is perfect and innocent. It just appears that no-one bothered to consider that some of this stuff might be Cameron’s doing. Ah, I don’t know, I feel like I’m giving this entire thing way too much thought.

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An interesting name attached to this movie is Carlo Rambaldi, who created E.T. He’d clearly burned out on that, because by the time it came to create the closet-monster, he just decided on a mass of painted rubber with sharp teeth and glowing eyes. Here’s a photo, because I don’t care about spoiling a near 30 year old horror movie that’s barely available and barely competent. The rest of the makeup is fine, I suppose, but it’s all very meh.

 

Pretty short review, eh? When I can write nearly 2000 words about the glory of Neil Breen’s “I Am Here….Now” but barely scrape 800 with this, it’s not that the robo-zombie-gorilla-space-Jesus movie is that much better, it’s just much more interesting. That was the insane mumblings of one man, this is a committee-created slice of barely passable entertainment that I’m positive not a single person would shed a tear for if its existence was forever deleted from the universe.

 

Rating: thumbs down