Tuesday, March 11, 2014

MR:Quickies Tremors series

The textbook definition of B-movie monster genre.

Spawned following the relatively impressive success of the 1990 theatrical release of the original Tremors, the Termors franchise is a fan favorite amongst B-movie and monster film fans in general.

Despite a slight downgrade as Tremors went from the Kevin Bacon-flick to several direct-to-video sequels, it still retained what was important at the core of the first film.

The original was rooted in the B-movie genre as a homage to American monster films of old (such as The Blob or Critters to name a couple). But it was considered nonetheless somewhat of blockbuster for Universal Pictures.

The lower budget follow-ups were clearly smaller flicks with lots of cheap CGi where the original tried using practical effects. Yet they were able to retain some credibility in the series thanks to a decent photography - set in beautiful Western American scenery - and some returning faces from the original film (Family Ties Michael Gross to be precise, the de facto face of the series filling the void left by Bacon).

Let it be said: Tremors is a pretty darn fun mindless series! One anyone can enjoy, as long as you love seeing people run from giant worms in the desert! And what's not to love about that premise?!

Movie title: Tremors 
Directed by Ron Underwood
Release date 1990
Genre Adventure/American monster movie

Directed by Mighty Joe Young and Pluto Nash director long before his career "jumped the shark", the original Tremors is a 1990 "American monster" conceived as both a tribute to old monster flicks from the 70s and a straight up big budget attempt at the genre.

The film was written by Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson and Underwood himself in the style of these old movies all three were big fan of.

The first movie stars Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire among others.

Our story takes place in the very small town of Perfection, Nevada. Population: 14.

Tremors begins with a pair of handyman, the all-around town workers Valentine McKee (Bacon) and Earl Basset (Fred Ward). They do countless little jobs around town. But they planned to finally leave town for the big city...

... the same day giant worm/monster/creatures decide to wake up deep beneath Perfection!

We meet several other fun slightly 2-dimensional "frontier" characters such as the store owner or Burt (Michael Gross) the local gun-nut who literally as the weaponry of a small army inside his own home.

There's also a grad-student who McKee falls for, she was following some seismology readings indicating some trouble coming up.

The worms start attacking anything alive in town, following on sound and vibrations on the ground, forcing our heroes to jump from large rocks to the roofs of the nearby buildings.

The roads get cut off out of the valley...

Will these people be able to band together to fight off creatures and stay alive?

Tremors also features a pretty great epic score composed by .Ernest Troost.

Overall: A perfect adventure/horror monster film!

Not only was Tremors a great concept but even if it follows a pretty simple and basic idea the result is here, it works great on screen!

There's a lot of funny scenes, great tension and an epic sense of "adventure" throughout the picture.

It also has the chance to have a pretty fun Kevin Bacon at the top of his game.

The movie also gave us a memorable defining role in the form of Michael Gross as Burt Gummer. The "ammo-wasting scene" itself is hilarious and worthy of the one from Predator in my eyes!

The film was produced on a pretty decent budget for its time and for the genre. It was an unexpected huge success crowning Tremors with its cult status, leaving marks through pop cultures for ages.

The "graboids" as they would be later known (from a quote in this first film) had a great design and were fun monsters. They need no explanations. In fact, they even play with it in the film as the protagonists try to imagine if they are alien? Or old prehistoric monsters? Who cares! (I'm glad no sequel tried to ever give us a proper answer)

Desapite a PG-12 rating, the film contained some horror movie-style deaths and several memorable scenes as our heroes try finding ways to kill off the graboids.

A great direction and action scenes. A pretty epic monster film.

Damn near perfect.

From the awesome Jaw parody cover to the monsters design.

No wonder it spanwed several follows-up (as the original Jaws did as well). Even if those were less memorable experiences, you can't deny the sheer genius in the original concept that started it all.

I give this one a: 3 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Tremors 2: Aftershocks 
Directed by S. S. Wilson
Release date 1996
Genre Action/horror/adventure/monster movie

A couple years have passed since the attack of the Graboids in Perfection, Nevada.

Val and Earl went on to become famous across the country since then. The entire USA are interested in this Graboid-phenomenon.

Valentine moved away with the seismologist from the first film. And Earl is now living alone in a trailer.

Our story begins as a fan is looking after Earl.

Turns out in Mexico an Oil company is having some troubles with what might appear as another invasion. Earl reluctantly accepts and goes down there to help get rid of the monsters. But there's too many creatures to handle by himself. And there's only one man that can help...

Enters Burt Gummer!

Our survivalist nut is back in due form! With his help they are able to fight off this new infestation.

Suddenly, one of the large Graboids spawns two smaller bipedal creatures!!

This new form is called a "Shrieker". Soon there's an infestation of these all-new creatures!

From the original flick only half of its main stars returned - Fred Ward. Ward is still great in the role of Earl, grumpier than ever. He gets paired with a new geologist his own age. It was nice to give him a romantic sub-plot as Bacom was the one given a chance to have a "happy ending" in the last film.

There are some fun moments in this sequel, despite most sequels usually lacking originality.

But it's Michael Gross who really steals the show this time around. Taking over the franchise as the main hero scene after scene.

Overall: Without Bacon around, it's a much simpler flick than the epic the original was.

But once Burt/Michael Gross appears on screen, it gets better. Almost overshadowing Earl as the hero in the film.

Tremors 2 has some great fun twists. The film has a decent enough plot with some nice character moments. Several jokes with Burt's over-prepared-ness. Using guns to blast away blindly at the creatures, destroying their own jeep.

Our writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson are still behind the series. Writing some clever dialogues. And Wilson taking over directing duties.

The main problem with this film is without Ron Underwood's directing it looks and feel like a small budget popcorn flick. The film was made on a much smaller modest budget, and no Kevin Bacon!

Tremors 2 was originally planned on a much bigger budget... finally Universal only greenlighted the film if they skipped theatrical release!

The new creatures are deaf and blind and can only see heat signatures. It's a weird off-putting change but it shakes things up. And I liked how the characters noticed that only later, they were "so smart because they're so stupid".  But Shriekers aren't that great design-wise, they don't look that great compared to the main "Gravoids" on screen.

There's a great idea that is never truly explored or used later as one of the graboids swallows a radio playing music.

Perhaps this film's other problem is that killing graboids this time is a bit too easy too.

The beginning is weakest part, with exploding graboids so easily... But it gets better once Burt appears.

And while the puppet shriekers looked great, the CGi ones look awful in comparison. Low quality CGi can really make or destroy film... 

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Tremors 3: Back to Perfection 
Directed by Brent Maddock
Release date 2001
Genre B-movie/monster film

This second sequel was also a direct-to-video release but this time entirely produced as such.

Burt Gummer is back from fending off a wave of Shriekers down in South America.

After going around America to help fight Graboids, he's finally back in the town of Perfection, Neveada.

A lot has changed since the original film. Chang's niece Jodi has taken over his general store. And there is also some other bigger changes much to Burt's surprise. An entrepreneur has been turning the little town into a tourist attraction. Offering tourists a "Graboid tour" and lots of Graboid merchandising. He's also been buying off land in Perfection.

When suddenly a new batch of Graboids awaken underground!

Only this time, Burt's prepared to face the creatures!

But some people arrive in Perfection, and Gravoids are now declared an "Endangered Species". Of course theses idiots from the government get all killed.

The real problem is that Burt lost too much time dealing with them and these Graboids are now already giving birth to Shriekers! And soon they enter an all new form in their life cycle, the winged "Assblaster" as they get named name...!

Overall: While in the surface Tremors 3 makes a lot more sense, with a better more entertaining story which actually kind of works, it also is the lowest-budget entry in the series so far.

Very cheap looking with ridiculous CGi and awkward effects.

At least the film following Burt now full-time makes for a much better and fun product. Turns out turning him into the main character post-Earl and Valentine was a great move.

The film has some great funny corny moments. While comedic, the film don't forgets it's still part-horror and sees characters finally afraid again of the Graboids.

This time it was writer Brent Maddock who took over directing duties. I'm glad both writer stuck with the franchise over the years.

Since it was released almost a decade after the original, the return to Perfection also feels great and appropriate. They were able to also get back all surviving actors from the original Tremors. Even Jurassic Park Ariana Richards is back from Tremors 1!

It also was an original idea to have people acknowledge the monsters outside town, given an attention to Grabois nation-wide. There's some great little details from a Graboid videogame in the store to some Graboid Dark Horse comics in the background (if only..).

Despite Burt having made his home completely impenetrable to both Graboids and Shriekers, the new stage of Graboids are obviously able to make it through... Ah!

Graboids aren't forgotten this time, their presence featured on screen in the form of this new foe in town, "El Blanco". A sterile albino Graboid!

My only complaint is the terrible CGi, used for the first time here with the Graboid-creature as well... 

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score!

Movie title: Tremors 4: The Legend Begins 
Directed by S. S. Wilson
Release date 2004
Genre Old West/B-Movie/monster film

This final straight-to-video sequel is the fourth and last film to date, and also works as prequel to the entire series.

This time it's the year 1889. The story is set in the silver mine town of Rejection, Nevada, which will someday become Perfection.

The silver mine was helping turn this little town into a big important city... when one day 17 miners disappear! They have to shut the mine down. Everybody left, only a couple faces stayed behind such as a family of Chinese immigrants that run the local general store.

The new mine owner Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross!) arrive in town to take over the situation. And as you were expecting this see a sort of badass ancestor to Burt it turns out... he's a spoiled city man, and unlike his later descendant has a fear of weapons.

When the "sand dragons" start to attack back, he hires a mercenary to help clean the situation and take those monsters out.

Will Hiram become the badass his family is destined to be?

Overall: Tremors 4 originally first aired on the Sci-Fi Channel. And it kind of shows. But it also kind of not-suck.

This film marked a return to practical effects. The film features few to no CGi effect and his back to good old fashioned puppetry. Which is incredibly much better.

It truly help this new installment stand above the previous two episodes. And it was much easier to do so since as it acts as a prequel it actually doesn't have no Shriekers nor Assblasters back. The only "new creature" is in the form of a baby Graboid. That's right, closing the loop, we finally get the entire crazy non-sensical lifecycle of these creatures that way.

It's great how the series was able to stay in the hands of its original creators throughout its run.

Following the usual horror film clichés, having the adventures in part 2 and 3 take place abroad and back to its roots, this time instead of going to space (thank god we avoided that!) Tremors went back in time for a cast of news character yet still somehow connected to the original film.

There are some funny allusions, like how Hiram never used a gun before, and this time Michael Gross' character is the only one not to have a gun in town.

Christopher Lloyd also have a fun little role in the film (giving this Tremors 4 even more of a Back to the Future 3 feel).

It's a film for fans mostly.

S.S. Wilson also came back as director for the second time. This time is outing being much better.

While it's yet another cheap sequel to the original, it's actually much better than what anyone could have hoped for.

It makes up for Tremors 2 & 3 problems (the cheap effects) while not looking as epic nor cinematic as the original.

But all in all, it's a good film~ 

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score!

And that's it for the Tremors franchise!

A TV series was produced for the SciFi Channel. Tremors: The Series. But it only ran for about 13 episodes (and not aired correct order). It offered a continuation of the El Blanco storyline, following Tremors 3.

A much earlier attempt at a television show was actually produced during the release of Tremors 2 by Univesal, but never went anywhere. Its premise would have seen Val and Earl return to Tremors, seeking random creatures as they went after UFOs and other random scifi creatures, with a very loose connection to the films... Good thing they scrapped that!

A Tremors: The Game was also scheduled for 2002, it would have been a survival horror taking place in the desert, developed by Rock Solid Studios for the Xbox, Gamecube, PS2 & PC. It would have featured an "open world" environment with Graboids and Shriekers confirmed to appear, while acknowledging the films and the TV series. The gameplay would have seen the player avoiding the ground and making sounds, you would also have to hide body heat signatures from the creatures.

The closest we ever got to a Tremors comic book series was the inside joke/fake covers produced by Dark Horse for Tremors 3. That would have been neat...

Finally a fifth movie, tentatively titled Tremors 5: The Thunder from Down Under was almost going to enter production in the later 2000s. Here's the poster. It would have seen the return of both Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon as Earl and Val respectively, along Michael Gross' Burt Gummer. There's no clear information if this would have also been another straight-to-DVD release or not. The script was entirely written by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock and completed. This time the story would have taken place in Australia where our heroes would have possibly hunted some more Graboids. But in 2010, after no words on it whatsoever and without any news to confirm its existence, the project was officially put to rest. Too bad...

I still think it's a very fun concept and a great franchise full of potential!

Hopefully the Tremors series will come back someday, either in a new form as the Graboids themselves or through a continuation...


That's all for this time's Quickies!

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