APRIL 20, 2009
Back when I re-watched the original Tremors in December of 2007, I picked up the "Franchise Collection" on DVD, which contained all four films in the series (the TV show was not included). I had only seen Tremors 2: Aftershocks, when it first came out on VHS, and I didn't remember a goddamn thing about it then, So I certainly don't remember anything now, a year and a half later, when I finally got around to opening the damn DVD package.
Tremors 2 was, if memory serves, one of the first DTV sequels to a theatrical movie from a big studio (the DTV Darkman sequels may have came first, I can't quite remember), which is the only reason that I bothered to watch it back in 1996. Back then, it was a novelty, and possibly even a sign of quality. Surely, Universal wouldn't farm out one of their properties for some cheap cashin! Nor would two main cast members return (this would also be the first of many DTV sequels to Kevin Bacon films in which he did not appear, see also Hollow Man 2 and Stir Of Echoes 2)! So was my reasoning back then. Nowadays, fuck, not only do these type of things get cranked out every month, it's more of a coincidence than anything else if they have any real connection to the original films of their respective franchises.
So needless to say, it's a step above what an audience today might expect from a DTV sequel. Sure, it doesn't even come close to the original, but the production value is decent, the laughs more or less work as intended, and even though Fred Ward and Michael Gross are the only returning characters, it still feels like a traditional sequel - there have been theatrically released sequels that didn't retain the original's spirit as well as this one does, and that is worth lauding.
But there are two problems that are tough to ignore. One is that the film was clearly designed with Jurassic Park (and its CGI marvels) in mind. The giant graboids that caused so much trouble in the first film are dealt with far too easily and quickly, so the film can get on with its real "stars" - the above ground, walking, raptor-esque mini graboids. Not only are they less interesting, but the limited effects capabilities keep them from really doing much. Late in the film, they presumably stage an all out attack on Burt's truck, but we only see the aftermath.
On that note, the other problem is the noticeable lack of monster fodder. There's only I think two or three kills in the entire movie. And that would be fine if there were a lot of folks to put into danger, but other than those deceased (one of whom is simply the opening scene victim, a monster movie staple), the only other folks are our heroes: Ward, Gross, the love interest for Ward, and the comic relief/Bacon replacement. In short, four people who you know will survive. One of the things I love about the original is that there was a low body count, but a high number of possible victims. It made all of those scenes more suspenseful, because there was a chance that those people could die. Here, not so much; the film definitely could have benefited from more human characters - whether their characters would have died or not would be up to the director and writers, but at least it would have given the movie some options.
Here's what I would have done, if I was the writer or director and absolutely had to have the mini-graboids I'd have Earl and the new guy chasing just one or MAYBE two of the old-school graboids for the first 45 minutes, running into problems and such. This would lull the audience into a false sense of "This is just a remake of the original". Then, just before they are about to kill the graboid around the halfway mark, BAM! The little ones are born, surprising the audience in the process. As it is, you know that something "different" is coming, because they are killing the giant ones with such ease, barely ten minutes into the film.
Luckily, as I mentioned, the humor is retained. There are a number of great sight gags (love Burt's mounted graboid head), and the love interest is a nice touch for Earl, since he didn't get to indulge in such things in the original (I admit to going "awww" at the cute little moment where they sneak a glance at each other's asses). And Christopher Gartin is a reasonable enough replacement for Kevin Bacon; some of his slapstick-y moments I can do without, but it's nice to see that he isn't playing a clone of Bacon's character - it gives him and Ward a different repertoire than the one between Ward and Bacon, which would have been disastrous.
The effects are also good. Maybe all of the Sci-Fi originals I've endured has lowered the bar for what I expect, but both the big graboids (mostly practical) and the smaller ones (mostly CGI) look pretty good, save for the occasional poor compositing work. We never see one of the big ones in whole this time (most of them are represented solely by their exploding guts spewing from a newly-made hole in the ground (i.e. from dynamite).
The DVD, not really surprisingly, has nothing beyond the trailer. It's also a severely dry looking transfer - the colors are muted and thus rather bland. Maybe it's a stylistic decision made by the director and/or DP, but I don't think that is the case here. But for approximately two dollars, you can own it and see for yourself.
What say you?