Where to go in a franchise after three films can be a tricky thing, actually, coming up with three entries isn’t all that easy in the first place, so with three movies under their belt the producers decided to go the prequel route, yet this wouldn’t be your typical prequel but one that would be set a century before the original film took place. Think Back to the Future III but with Graboids.
It’s the year 1889 and the newly founded town of Rejection, Nevada, has run into a spot of trouble when the local silver mine, which was the town’s sole economic support, is closed due to the strange deaths of seventeen miners. No one knows what caused these deaths – obviously Graboids of some kind but we have to treat this like a mystery for some reason – and thus the owner of the mine, East Coast dandy Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross) arrives in the town to put things to right. The sad thing here is that Tremors 4: The Legend Begins is basically a one-joke movie, which is that Hiram Gummer is inexperienced with the ways of the West and is not fond of firearms, and with him being the great-grandfather of Burt Gummer, a right-wing, conspiracy spouting gun-loving survivalist this is supposed to be some kind of hilarious counterpoint. It’s not.
This installment introduces a new element of the Graboid life cycle, a small trout-like creature that can spring out of the ground like a Jack Rabbit, and this continues the franchise’s complete lack of continuity or concern for how biology and evolution works. These baby Graboids quickly grow to become the creatures seen in the first movie but with an even more limited budget to bring them to life. In the original Tremors the filmmakers saved money by dragging a large object under the dirt, thus perfectly simulating a Graboid burrowing under the ground, but this time out we are stuck watching bad CGI dirt trails instead of using the simple practical effects used back in 1989. Was this laziness or more a case of the series’ continued overreliance on CGI? The movie gives us one a brief sense of hope when Hiram places an ad for a gunfighter and the notorious Black Hand Kelly (Billy Drago) arrives to help with their “Dirt Dragon” problem, unfortunately, the late great Billy Drago is poorly utilized here and is quickly gobbled up by a fully-grown Graboid. Aside from Michael Gross trying his best with the “Dandy” version of Burt Gummer it was Billy Drago who breathed life into what is a fairly lifeless endeavour and that he was dispatched so casually is a true crime.
• For a boomtown Rejection is really damn small, it doesn’t even have a saloon which is pretty ridiculous for the time period.
• Hiram arrives in Rejection not knowing the mine was closed, but if that is the case why is he here there at all? An ill-timed inspection perhaps? We also see that the town has a telegraph so there’s no reason why that information wouldn’t have been sent out to him.
• This crappy little town has a steam engine that wouldn’t be invented for another 23 years.
• Seeking the safety of rocks makes no sense when the baby Graboids can launch themselves out of the ground like tiny missiles.
• Billy Drago played a great villain in the western series The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and that show’s tone and sense of humour was clearly what the filmmakers here were trying to replicate, sadly, failed at almost every turn here.
• Hiram Gummer returns to Rejection with an assortment of useless firearms and the extremely cartoonish and surprising somewhat historically accurate Punt Gun – though not designed for an individual to fire from his shoulder but from a mounted position – but why Hiram didn’t even think of bringing along few boxes of dynamite as well?
The real crime being perpetrated here is that not only is this a rather nonsensical entry in the franchise but it also commits the cardinal sin of being quite boring. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins takes forever to get going, wasting tons of time introducing a variety of characters that could only generously be called one-dimensional, and when the monsters finally attack the filmmakers fail to create even a modicum of suspense. There is no sense of danger surrounding these particular creatures as our “heroes” should be dead multiple times over but then they are saved by lazy screenwriters who can’t be bothered to keep track of what a Graboid can and cannot do. I could almost forgive the unconvincing effects and hokey acting, there can be a lot of charm in that, but Tremors 4: The Legend Begins is a complete miscarriage of a concept that pretty much failed from its inception.
Note: The existence of the Graboids not being known after the events of this film is explained away by Hiram stating “That if word ever got out no one would ever settle here” which is a load of codswallop because even in 1889 you’d have both naturalist and monster hunters clamouring all over the place trying to make a name for themselves.
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)
Movie Rank - 4/10
Setting a Tremors movie in the Old West was certainly an interesting idea but the execution was weak and aside from Michael Gross and Billy Drago the cast of characters were all fairly forgettable and the film dragged and sputtered right up until the end.