In 1990 a little monster film called Tremors came and went with barely a ripple at the box office, even good reviews couldn’t spur audiences to visit the town of Perfection, but with the advent of home video this overlooked gem garnered a second shot at life, and like Frankenstein’s monster it rose from the grave to lumber across the landscape with sequel after sequel.
Taking place years after the original film we find Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) has squandered his fame and fortune on a failed ostrich farm – someone should have told him that having two male ostriches does not bode well for breeding prospects – but when he is approached by Carlos Ortega (Marcelo Tubert), an oil executive whose Mexican oil fields have become a feeding ground for Graboids, he finds himself facing a tough dilemma as the offer of $100,000 dollars for every Graboid killed is hard to turn down.
Needless to say, Earl takes the job and soon he and his new partner Grady Hoover (Chris Gartin) are heading south of the border to hunt monsters – this new partner is due to Kevin Bacon deciding to star in Apollo 13 rather than a sequel to a film that bombed – and we also learn that the Mexican military has offered to provide them with whatever they need to hunt down and kill the Graboids, but this begs the question, “Why exactly would the Mexican government be okay with a pair of norteamericanos running around their country blowing shit up?” We get a brief explanation for why the Mexican military isn’t handling this problem, some bullshit about the sounds of many people running around would cause the Graboids to scatter, but none of it makes even the remotest sense if two seconds of thought is given. At most, you’d have had Earl Bassett being brought in as a consultant to aid the military, much as Ripley was brought along with the Colonial Marines in James Cameron’s Aliens.
Our two would-be-monster-hunters meet up with Kate Reilly (Helen Shaver), the oil company’s geologist and head of their “support team” and she also reveals to them that a recent fossil uncovered proves that the Graboids are Precambrian creatures and not a recent evolutionary development, which upsets Earl as he was still betting on them being from outer space. But before they head out Ortega tells them that the company will pay them double if they are able to catch one of the creatures alive, but why, does this particular oil company have a special interest in Graboids? Do they think these creatures could be useful in looking for new oil deposits? Sadly, this plot point is never resolved or addressed again. Earl, being a sensible soul, has no interest in even trying to catch these very dangerous creatures alive and thus he and Grady proceed to systematically kill dozens of Graboids by using remote-controlled cars rigged with explosives. Unfortunately, as effective as this tactic seems to be they are still overwhelmed with the sheer number of Graboids in the vicinity and they are forced to enlist the help of Burt Gummer (Michael Gross), who is available because his wife left him to tour the country under the name Reba McEntire.
Now with two teams blowing up Graboids, it looks like easy money for our heroes, that is until Earl and Grady encounter what appears to be a sick non-aggressive Graboid, finding it moaning sickly and sticking half out of the ground, and in the morning they discover its bloody carcass looking as if it had been violently ripped open from the inside. Turns out it had given “birth” to some strange bipedal Graboid-like creatures and soon these little terrors, which are later labelled Shriekers, are chasing our heroes back to the oil refinery and supposed sanctuary. Things get even dicier when it’s revealed that the Shriekers reproduce asexually – but not hermaphrodites as Kate incorrectly identifies them as – and can replicate at an incredible rate after eating enough food.
It’s at this point it should be noted that the writers of this film have no understanding of biology or evolution, in the original film they were wise to leave the nature of the Graboids mostly a mystery but in this film not only do they falsely label them hermaphrodites but if Shriekers were part of the Graboid lifecycle where were they in the previous film? Even stranger is the fact that these bipedal offspring don’t hunt via sound like their parents but instead they rely on special infrared receptors on their heads to “see” their prey. This is tantamount to a creature giving birth to an entirely different species.
• Why would the Mexican government seek out Earl Bassett and not Burt Gummer? You’d think a gun-toting Graboid killer would be top of the list, not a washed-up ostrich farmer.
• Kate dates a Graboid fossil to be from the Precambrian era but as there was no life on land at that time I’m not sure what they were eating.
• Grady seems overly excited about the prospect of the $100,000 dollars for the capture of a live Graboid when they’ve already killed literally dozens of them for $50,000 a pop.
• The Graboids in the original films were smart and adapted quickly to their prey’s tactics, the dynamite as bait only worked once, but the Mexican Graboids fall for the RC cars/explosive bait time and time again.
• The Shriekers use their tentacle-like tongues to distinguish what is edible by licking what they find, so how were they able to tell that Burt’s foil-wrapped MREs were food?
• Why exactly does an oil refinery have a warehouse full of cartons of candy? Is that how the oil company pays their Mexican labourers?
• The Shriekers show their intelligence by forming a “human pyramid” to reach Earl and company who are hiding on the roof of a nearby shack. Bring it on, baby!
As ridiculous as pretty much every element of this movie is there’s a lot to enjoy from a viewing of Tremors 2: Aftershocks as once again we have the ever affable Fred Ward returning as Earl Bassett and Michael Gross completely embracing a character that will define him for decades to come. We also have the delightful Helen Shaver to give the film a little love interest and though she’s mostly around to spout utter scientific nonsense she does her best to make it sound sincere. The only real letdown in the cast is Chris Gartin as Grady, who is so annoying that it’s hard to believe that Burt Gummer wouldn’t have fed him to a Graboid at the first opportunity. As for the creatures themselves, well they’re simply fantastic, Amalgamated Dynamics once again does a brilliant job with truly amazing puppets, made more challenging as the Shriekers are above ground as opposed to the Graboids in the previous film being underground 90% of the time.
In addition to the Shriekers designed by Amalgamated Dynamics, the film sports some nicely computer-generated beasties from Phil Tippet, who learned a lot from his tenure in Jurassic Park, and the blend of live-action puppetry and CGI effects worked amazingly well and coupled with a great cast of actors – excluding Chris Gartin, of course – this film turned out way better than it had any right to be and was so well received that though it was a direct-to-video release the studio did consider theatrical distribution, unfortunately, it was decided a theatrical release would be too expensive and thus Tremors 2: Aftershocks will have to settle with being one of the better direct-to-video sequels ever made.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)
Movie Rank - 6/10
Though this sequel misses the humour that made the original film work so well, and the science on display was laughably ludicrous, this entry was still a lot of fun and well worth checking out.