Written by: Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson
Directed by: S.S. Wilson
Produced by: Nancy Roberts & Christopher deFaria
Reviewed by: J.T. Jeans
This review contains MINOR SPOILERS for the film Tremors 2: Aftershocks.
The 1990 creature-feature Tremors is probably my favorite movie of all time. If you poke around in the Unsung Treasures section, you can find my (ruddy long!) review for the film. It's probably the longest review I've ever written, and it tends to ramble and bramble, but these things happen when you love something so deeply.
I promise that my review for Tremors 2: Aftershocks will be quite a bit more succinct. For you see, love the original as I might, I have to admit that Tremors 2 doesn't quite measure up to the greatness of its predecessor.
Six years have passed since the Graboid incursion in Perfection, Nevada. Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) still lives in Perfection, eking out a meager living raising ostriches. His erstwhile partner, Valentine McKee, has moved away to raise a family with his wife (although it's never stated explicitly, it is reasonable to assume Val married graduate student Rhonda LeBeck). Due to circumstances that are not elaborated on in great detail, Earl received very little publicity -- and even less money -- from the mass media interest in all things Graboids. As a result, Mr. Bassett has grown rather bitter.
When cocksure young taxi driver Grady Hoover (Christopher Gartin) turns up on Earl's doorstep and offers him his big second chance -- hunting Graboids in Mexico, with each exterminated worm netting a cool $50k -- he hesitantly agrees. Unfortunately, Earl isn't quite prepared for what they find waiting for them south of the boarder, and so he calls in survivalist Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) to help sort the situation out.
Tremors 2 is a direct to video sequel with less than half the budget of the original. Despite this, the film manages to be pretty good. The screenplay was written by S.S. Wilson & Brent Maddock, and is nearly as good as the original. It has the same sense of fun without losing the horror, and includes a twist to the formula that is actually rather effective.
While the humor and horror are pretty well balanced, the Graboids are less of a threat in the first act due to Earl's knowledge of how to lure them out and exterminate them. You never feel as though he's in any real danger of getting slurped.
The finale of the film is quite explosive, but it doesn't have the same kind of oomph as the original, in part due to the fact that there aren't really any good chase sequences. The cast spends the majority of the third act skulking around and trying to hide rather than running for their lives.
The film's direction suffers a bit in the hands of S.S. Wilson, but it's by no means a botch job. I do wish that Ron Underwood would have returned to the director's chair, but alas it was not to be. Considering that this was Wilson's directorial debut, it could have been a whole lot worse.
The creature effects are still pretty good. The Graboids look better than ever in this film, although their tentacles seem to vanish from the equation. You only ever see the things lulling around rather than threatening the cast, and I don't think they're ever shown coming out of the ground on their own.
The liberal use of CGI in the third act doesn't really distract too much from the over-all experience. It's actually surprising how good it turned out when you consider that the film was made in 1996 on a budget of $4 million. The CGI here works much better than the CGI used in later installments and in the TV series.
Jay Ferguson composed the film's score (and would later go on to compose the score for Tremors 4). The music here isn't nearly as memorable as the music written by Ernest Troost and Robert Folk for the original, but it does the job well enough. I think it's a shame that they didn't try to get Folk back; the motifs he wrote for the original film are pretty unforgettable.
On the subject of carnage, there's actually a bit more of the wet stuff here than in the original film. I'm actually surprised the film managed to secure a PG-13. There's nothing that's intensely hardcore, but it's still the kind of stuff that would probably get a theatrical film slammed with an R in today's market.
As with the previous film, there's practically zero skin, so if you're looking for nudity you're probably better off looking elsewhere.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks is one of those rare sequels that almost live up to the potential of the original. The balance of humor and horror is about as even as it was in the original, but the lack of Valentine McKee detracts from the Earl Bassett character. The banter between Grady and Earl just isn't as good as the banter between Earl and Val.
On the plus side, this film acts as the stepping stone that leads Burt Gummer to becoming the focus of the series, and that's no bad thing. Michael Gross is pretty much the spark of life that has kept the franchise going post-Tremors 2, but more on that in a later review.
If you're a fan of the series or are planning on purchasing the Attack Pack Collection, you'll be getting Tremors 2 in any case. But if you're leery of picking up all four films at once or are new to the franchise and are only interested in seeing Tremors 2 -- Buy It!
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