Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015)

“You promised me adequate weaponry. What do you think we’re hunting, Rocky the flying squirrel?”

Justin’s rating: Considering how hard the country freaked over “murder hornets,” you’d think that graboids would send everyone into a never-ending tizzy.

Justin’s review: Even as the Tremors series seemed to be hitting a strong streak with the 2003 series and the 2004 movie, it all abruptly ended… for over a decade. The franchise seemed tapped out and everyone moved on. But as we all well know, there’s no IP that’s immune from being resurrected, and I guess that Michael Gross’ constant enthusiasm for being part of any proposed Tremors project helped with bringing the series back for a fifth entry.

In many ways, Tremors 5: Bloodlines started a whole new era for the franchise. Writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock were absent from this installment (a first), and Michael Gross — who had been the face of Tremors since the third installment — was now pushing the upper limits of his 60s. The soft reboot ended up being divisive among fans, but hey, it was more Tremors 24 years after the first movie. That’s a pretty astounding accomplishment in and of itself.

When plus-sized graboids start popping up in Africa, the call goes out for the only monster hunter who could properly take on this new threat. Burt Gummer (Gross) is coasting on his previous success and starring in his own survivalist TV show, but it’s clear that he’s become a little rusty from hunting big game. Emboldened by the challenge, Gummer heads to the Dark Continent with his new cameraman Travis (Jamie Kennedy), who also turns out to be his secret lovechild.

Because that’s what we all hope will happen to all of us some day: We’ll find out that we had a kid from past trysts who grew up to be a somewhat swollen Jamie Kennedy. Honestly, I stopped tracking Kennedy after the Scream movies, especially when he helped to foist Son of the Mask on all of us. Do people deserve second chances? I believe so, yes — but I’ll make an exception for anyone who worked on Son of the Mask.

And boy, it really doesn’t help that Travis quickly goes to the top of the chart of “People Who Deserve To Be Eaten By Graboids.” He’s a raging tool that’s swaggering ego and horrible facial hair, and he shoves himself right into Gummer’s business — and the film’s plot — without anyone’s express permission.

Bloodlines wasn’t terribly well-received, but I have to say that it is still above average for what you’d expect from a long-dormant franchise like this. There’s some pep to the movie and a genuine attempt to make the monsters fierce and scary again, and the move to Africa for a setting is a refreshing change of scenery. And even though he’s collecting that sweet senior discount at participating restaurants, Michael Gross is a welcome sight here. He’s the thread that’s keeping this series together, and he’s still the hyper-competent survivalist we all know and love.

That said, there are a few flaws that stick out at me, especially after having watched the previous four movies in quick succession. First, it does kind of come off looking like any other CGI-heavy SyFy movie from the mid-2010s. Tremors was born in an era of puppetry, and that has a physicality to it that CGI simply can’t replicate. Second, the whole movie is about 30 minutes too long, and boy does it feel like it at times.

And third, Bloodlines really falters — for the first time in this franchise — at giving us a likable ensemble of characters who pull together to face a threat. I dare you to name any of these characters after you finish watching it or who they are other than their one mild quirk or talent. Instead, we get Michael Gross covering himself in urine, multiple times, because that’s what you can do to lead actors who have no other viable prospects.

It’s fine. It’s adequate. It has a few colorful shots of running giraffes and elephants. But Bloodlines doesn’t replicate the snarky cult creature feature formula of the previous movies, and that’s a bit of a bummer.

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