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Featured Post - Mystery Movie Marathon

I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, March 30, 2018

Tremors IV: The Legend Begins (2004)

The thing that I love about the Tremors franchise is how they keep switching things up so that the movies always seem fresh and interesting. In the previous sequels they did this by adding different monsters to the Graboid’s lifecycle. But after establishing that loop from Egg to Graboid to Shreiker to Ass Blaster back to Egg I wasn’t sure what they would do next. Well they decided on a prequel!

There is a silver mine and a nearby down called Rejection where the miners live and spend their money. The movie opens with the mine shutting down after the men working it get killed by some mysterious creatures. Of course, we know that these are Graboids and that some poop is about to hit the fan. Into town comes the owner of the mine, a “dandy” from Philadelphia named Hiram Gummer. We get to meet an ancestor of Burt in this one! There are also some other familiar names like the Chang family that runs the local store.

The twist with Hiram is that he doesn’t own a gun or even know how to fire one. After his first encounter with the creatures he decides to hire a professional gunfighter, which is how we meet Billy Drago’s character Black Hand Kelly. Might I just take a moment here to say that Drago is awesome, and it was cool to see him in a Tremor’s flick. Thanks. Some people die and some live before the town of Rejection has a final showdown with the Graboids and obviously changes its name to Perfection. See same town as the first Tremors…

I like this movie. I don’t love it as much as I have the first three, but as the fourth sequel in the series it isn’t too bad. I guess my biggest issue is that in their effort to do something different they sort of missed the point as to what makes these movies fun to watch. This is clearly Michael Gross’ vehicle now and making him Hiram instead of Burt hurts the story. I like Burt Gummer as a character and seeing him blow stuff up is one of the reasons that I continue to watch and re-watch the series. While he does a wonderful job creating the character of Hiram it just isn’t the same. Heck the flick really didn’t get entertaining until the end when Gross starts to play Hiram more like Burt. Let me just say the punt gun/cannon in the big finale is crazy fun.

It isn't Tremors unless a Gummer has a giant gun!
The special effects work is quite good for a low budget monster movie. We get a lot of rubber critter on screen and the actors get to do battle with them. The CGI is limited and executed very well. The baby Graboids flying out of the ground are a neat trick and a nice addition to the series. There isn’t much gore, but I did love the throwback to a gag from the first movie. The head under a hat appears again with a twist to surprise the audience. I loved it. And of course, we get the required "gut toss" where the actors have latex monster bits and goo thrown at them. Here it is much more satisfying in quantity than it was in Tremors 3.

Of the movies so far, this is the weakest of them. That doesn’t mean it isn’t good as I consider Tremors 4 to still be superior to most of the creature features of the last twenty years. It just has a lot to live up to being that it’s a Tremors movie. Still worth a viewing if for no other reason than to be a franchise completest. Thankfully part 5 gets us back to Burt Gummer.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Tremors III: Back to Perfection (2001)

Here we are with another entry in the Tremors franchise. This one is important because it establishes everyone’s favorite survivalist Burt Gummer as the reoccurring character that ties the next three and likely the yet to be seen fourth entry of the series together. So, let me ask you a very important question. Are you ready for some more Graboid/Shrieker action? I know that I am!

All Hail Burt Gummer!
The action gets started with Burt finishing off a batch of Shriekers in Argentina before heading back to Perfection for some R and R. For those not familiar with the series (shame on you!) Perfection is the town where the first movie took place and where Burt lives. In the eleven years since the Graboids first turned up it had become a minor tourist attraction. But since no more of the monsters have shown up everyone is feeling pretty safe. Guess who decides to return? Lucky for everyone Burt is prepared for them this time… or at least he thought he was.

Sure enough there is yet another mutation that no one has seen yet. This time because of some government interference the Graboids are allowed to become Shriekers, that then mutate into Ass Blasters! Damn critters can fly now. They really shouldn’t have given the monsters time to browse the countryside for lunch. Now Burt and the survivors, including some familiar faces from the first movie, have to figure out how to deal with this new menace, while still running from the one Graboid that doesn’t mutate. Things get complicated.

I’ll admit that Tremors 3 isn’t as good as the first couple, but I still love it. The plot continues to switch things up with the third mutation of the creatures. Not only that but they take the time to establish the lifecycle of the critters which I thought was a nice touch. See Graboids eat up things and then give birth to the Shriekers which are even more aggressive and hungry. The Shriekers multiply and eventually metamorphose into the Ass Blasters. They fly all over the place and eventually lay the eggs that become the Graboids. Someone took the time to explain the creatures in Tremors. How cool is that?

The Ass Blasters are a welcome addition to Tremors.
Speaking of cool this one also establishes Burt Gummer as the focus of the franchise. I love the character and Michael Gross nails it again. Everyone always mentions Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak as the prototypical unexpected action hero, but how about we give Gross as Burt some love? For someone that was best known as playing the hippy dad on Family Ties he is awesome as the survivalist gut nut going to war with the monsters. Honestly after part one he is the whole reason that anyone watches this franchise and, in my case, watches it over and over again. Burt Gummer Rules!

The CGI is much better here, but they still use actual latex in the close shots. This is still one of the highlights of the series for me. Way too many monster movies have a great story that is ruined by lousy effects work. That isn’t the case with Tremors 3. Again they use actual on set rubber creatures when possible and that makes me very happy. Even the CGI they use for the Ass Blasters flying around is decent and not at all distracting. I was a bit disappointed in the lack of volume in the flying guts. We got much more in part I and II, but I suppose not everything can be perfect. When the worst that I can say about your movie is that I didn’t get enough rubber monster guts tossed on the cast that means you made a good movie!

If you are a fan of the franchise I think you will also dig the reoccurring characters from the original. Heck even a couple of dead characters get a call back in the sequel, Nester’s moonshine saves the day! I recommend Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer