With the success of the direct-to-video release of Tremors 2: Aftershocks a sequel was bound to happen – it just took a while – and so five years later we get the return of a few more original cast members, along with the franchise’s flagship star Michael Gross, in an entry that brings us back to Perfection.
In this third installment in the Tremors series, we find Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) returning to the town of Perfection, after becoming Argentina’s answer to Patton on their war on Shriekers, only to find that the population has now dwindled to five. The town’s residents have kept things ticking along well enough with the mildly lucrative Graboid tourism business despite no sign of Graboids in the past twelve years. Chang’s Market has become a tourist trap operated by his niece Jodi (Susan Chuang), and along with her, we have Desert Jack Sawyer (Shawn Christian) a scam artist running a “Graboid Safari” where he and his partner Buford (Billy Rieck) create mock Graboid attacks tours for visiting tourists – selling them overpriced beverages while “stranded” on a rock – but also hanging around are returning cast members Miguel (Tony Genaro), Nancy (Charlotte Stewart), and Nancy’s daughter Mindy (Ariana Richards), who provide little continuity from the first film, but that’s about it. Finally, we have Melvin (Robert Jayne), now grown up and has become a real estate tycoon and who wants to buy up and develop the land, which leads to the question “Who in the fuck would want to live out there in the middle of nowhere?”
Inexplicably, after a decade’s absence, Graboids do make an appearance and they eat poor Buford during one of Jack’s tours, which gets Burt up and raring to go on his Graboid killing life’s mission, but this is stopped by the arrival of government agents Charlie Rusk (John Pappas) and Frank Statler (Tom Everett) and a paleontologist, Dr. Andrew Merliss (Barry Livingston) who claim that the Graboids are an endangered species and are to be protected not killed. Now, I’m not saying the United States Government wouldn’t put the lives of man-eating monsters over that of its human residents but this plot development seems to exist solely to prevent Burt from easily destroying the Graboids and ending the movie at the 30-minute mark.
The fun and charm of the first two movies is rather missing here, relying heavily on the goofy charisma of Michael Gross, but his character of Burt Gummer is elevated to even greater cartoonesque stature by having him swallowed whole by a Graboid and then rescued, completely unharmed. This leads to a key issue I had with this entry, which is the fact that the filmmakers forgot that this was supposed to be a horror movie, albeit one with comedic elements but still a horror movie, and at no point in this film did they manage to build any sense of tension or suspense. Our cast of characters seemingly has no problem avoiding the Graboids, Shriekers or even the new Ass-Blasters as these monsters become deaf or blind whenever that plot requires them to be. Hell, the new life-cycle of the Graboids turns out to be vulnerable to over-eating, seriously, that’s a thing in this movie.
As for the appearance of the Ass-Blaster, this third phase of the Graboid life-cycle that moults from a Shrieker and turns into an explosive fart-propelled winged creature, they look about as dumb as they sound and the CGI employed to create them is just as laughably bad and the effects people over at HimAnI Productions should be ashamed of themselves. But not only do we get crappy digital monsters but the filmmakers also re-used Graboid footage from the original Tremors along with puppeted tentacles that wouldn’t convince a five-year-old, it’s just sad. Tremors 3: Back to Perfection is the longest movie in the franchise at 104 minutes – and we feel every minute of it – but what we don’t really get is much in the way of good monster action. Where the first film survived on a great cast and a clever script, hiding the creature much as Steven Spielberg hid the shark in Jaws, this movie fails on all counts and when we do see the monsters they are quite disappointing. The cast didn’t seem all that engaged, though Michael Gross does give it the old college try, and when we do see the monsters we don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Having the franchise bring back several familiar characters and actors from the original, having them regroup back in Perfection, was not a bad idea – though we really do miss Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Reba McEntire – but it sorely lacks the charisma and chemistry found in the first film and this pretty much sinks this movie from the outset. With poor pacing and a plot that meanders around aimlessly around – there’s a love interest attempt between Jodi and Jack that is way too forced and the subplot of Melvin’s real estate plan goes nowhere unless you check out the short-lived television series – but worst of all, it’s just not all that fun. I really wanted to enjoy this movie yet despite Michael Gross’s every effort to breathe life into a dead script we are left with a rather dull movie and a disappointing chapter in the Tremors franchise.
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)
Movie Rank - 4.5/10
This rather unfortunate misstep in the Tremors movie franchise is hamstrung by bad visual effects and a complete misunderstanding of what made the previous entries worth watching. Michael Gross is about the only noteworthy thing about this chapter and is why he became the goodwill ambassador to the whole franchise.