Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)

“Who are you, and why are you so dumb?”

Justin’s rating: Grab, shriek, and go

Justin’s review: For a movie series that, to date, boasts seven entries, it’s kind of strange to discover that the Tremors franchise is quite spread out over time. There was six years that separated the first and second movie, and the third didn’t show up for another five. In fact, between movies four and five, there was an astounding 11-year gap! It seems that, somehow, every so often people would remember that these movies were a whole lot of fun with a built-in cult following, and so they decided to make another one.

Considering that Tremors 2: Aftershocks only moseyed its way into a direct-to-video format over a half-decade after the original — and without the return of Kevin Bacon (the first movie’s most recognizable star) — you’d expect that this sequel would be one of those forgettable cash grabs. Yet it’s here in Aftershocks that fans discovered that there is something enduring to this series that made it worth all of those sporadic revivals: That horror/comedy mix, a desire to innovate on the monster concept, and a focus on entertainment rather than cheap scares.

Years after the first movie, Val is well out of the picture, but Earl (Fred Ward) is still slumming it in Perfection (I guess his big plan was “mating ornery ostriches”). When he’s offered $50,000 per kill to head down to Mexico and take on the graboids that have popped up at an oil field, Earl figures it’s his second chance at coming out rich — and he takes it. This time, he’s partnered up with a smart-mouthed taxi driver named Grady (Christopher Gartin), who is just annoying enough that you really don’t care whether or not he’s getting eaten. Probably more entertainment in it.

With firepower on loan from the Mexican army, former knowledge of the graboids, and the help of a new geologist (Helen Shaver), you’d expect the team would make short work of these oversized worms. And they do… at first. They use remote controlled cars stuffed with explosives to blast the monsters, which is a pretty ingenious idea. And once again, the movie production team deeply appreciates the creation of a fictional monster that they don’t have to show most of the time because it’s underground.

I won’t lie, I miss the effortless back-and-forth sniping of Val and Earl from the first movie, because while Grady does fine as a new companion, he’s no Val. I guess he kind of grew on me after a while, but mostly he just made me miss Kevin Bacon. Or a bacon sandwich. I’m hungry, is my point. At least gun nut Burt (Michael Gross) is called in to deal with the increasing threat, including smaller bipedal, heat-seeking critters that reproduce like crazy.

The crew dubs this new threat as “shriekers,” and I can attest that they’re really not as interesting as the graboids. They’re kind of a blend of the shrill velociraptors from Jurassic Park and the infrared-seeking Predator, coupled with the Gremlins’ propensity to reproduce like crazy. It’s the screenwriters trying something new, but I feel it’s far too soon to be dumping the interesting underground graboids for these CGI rejects.

Still, Aftershocks is completely watchable, trying its best, and laugh-out-loud funny. You’ve got not-always-bright guys doing dumb stuff, like riding a graboid-towed truck like a bronco, and the monsters are always eager to present a new challenge at every turn. Plus, Burt’s the kind of character that you genuinely want to see show up in a horror movie to rain down hell upon the bad guys. Tremors may have been cult classic that created a memorable monster, but it took Aftershocks to prove that this could be an actual series with continuity and development.

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