TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS (1996)
Earl Bassett, now a washed-up ex-celebrity, is hired by a Mexican oil company to eradicate a Graboid epidemic...
When Tremors (1990) burrowed its way into cinemas, nobody predicted it would become a cult classic. Directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers) and co-written by S.S Wilson (Batteries Not Included) and Brent Maddock (Short Circuit), Tremors was a delightful pastiche of 1950s creature features that delivered horror and humour in equal measure. Unfortunately it wasn’t a hit during its theatrical run, earning approximately $16.7M against a modest $11M budget. However, repeated video rentals and television broadcasts helped Tremors gain a substantial cult following over the years.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks had been in various stages of production since 1993, when Universal Studios initially expressed interest in the screenplay. The studio had originally planned to shoot the sequel on an estimated budget of $17M, with the intention of having both Kevin Bacon (Footloose) and Reba McEntire (Spies in Disguise) reprise their roles. However, Bacon was preoccupied with filming Apollo 13 (1995), and McEntire declined the offer due to her demanding tour schedule. Unfortunately, Universal then decided to shelve the project due to the high distribution and promotional costs associated with a theatrical release. But after the creative team volunteered to take significant pay cuts to keep the cameras rolling, Universal’s home video division promptly agreed to produce a sequel. Despite its budget being drastically reduced to $4M, Wilson took the helm as director with Maddock returning as co-writer. It was their dedication that led to Aftershocks becoming what is now widely regarded as one of the best sequels ever released straight-to-video.
Set several years after the Perfection incident, Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) is struggling to keep his ostrich farm afloat when an army of ‘Graboids’ threaten the Petromaya oil refinery in Mexico, with the desperate owner seeking Earl’s expertise to eliminate the creatures. Earl initially hesitates but is swayed by Carlos Ortega’s (Marcelo Tubert) offer of $50,000 per kill. Having squandered his newfound fame and fortune, Earl reluctantly embarks on a mission to Mexico with his enthusiastic fan Grady Hoover (Chris Gartin).
Initially, the pair effortlessly hunts and destroys the subterranean predators. However, their success is short-lived as the sheer number of Graboids quickly overwhelms them. Realizing the need for more firepower, they enlist the help of Burt Gummer (Michael Gross). However, they soon discover that the Graboids are evolving, making their fight more complicated and dangerous.
While lacking Kevin Bacon’s captivating Valentine McKee, the late Fred Ward exudes effortless charm as the recklessly inventive handyman Earl Basset. Despite his growing cynicism and pessimism, Ward infuses his character with a subtle charm and roguish humour. His impeccable comedic timing, coupled with his relentless energy and enthusiasm, makes him an absolute delight to watch. Unfortunately, Christopher Gartin (Black Swan) faces a daunting task in portraying the second half of this reluctantly heroic duo. However, the newcomer effectively balances his partner’s curmudgeonly demeanour with his own fanboy enthusiasm as eccentric young taxi driver Grady Hoover. Though the amiable and often hilarious chemistry of the original is somewhat muted, Gartin delivers an admirable performance as the film’s comic relief.
Furthermore, fans of the original will delight in Michael Gross’s (Family Ties) reprisal of his role as gun enthusiast and survivalist Burt Gummer. With his well-honed sitcom timing and clearly relished levels of mania, the actor delivers a hilarious blend of theatricality and absurdity. Equipped with more overwhelming firepower than the entire Mexican government, the character serves as a perfect parody of doomsday preppers and weekend warriors. While Aftershocks is undoubtedly Ward’s domain, Gross’s memorable performance arguably steals the spotlight and saw him ultimately inherit the franchise.
The main reason Aftershocks is a thoroughly pleasant sequel is S.S Wilson’s deft direction. Reunited with his screenwriting collaborator Brent Maddock, Wilson effortlessly blends comedy and horror, punctuated by effective moments of tension and excitement. While he doesn’t quite match Underwood’s incredible accomplishment six years earlier, Wilson successfully recaptures the original’s atmosphere and provides much-needed tonal continuity. Aftershocks offers various comedic moments, including Earl’s frequent game of rock-paper-scissors and some reassuring character humour (an exhausted Burt exclaiming “I feel I was denied critical, need-to-know information”). Unfortunately, there aren’t many memorable action sequences. Nevertheless, Aftershocks will strike a nostalgic chord for longtime fans. Wilson skillfully capitalizes on the affection and familiarity his audience has for the original while maintaining a balance between genuine nostalgia and his admiration for 1950s creature features.
Many sequels are criticised for being derivative of their predecessors, and Aftershocks comes dangerously close to becoming a cheap imitation of the original. Throughout the first act, Earl and Grady methodically dispatch dozens of Graboids using remote-controlled cars rigged with explosives. However, Wilson and Maddock’s screenplay extends the franchise’s lifespan by altering the Graboids’ biological makeup and transforming them into ‘Shriekers’. These new monsters pose a vastly different threat than their subterranean counterparts and generate some thrilling moments. They locate their prey using body temperature and swiftly overwhelm the protagonists by swarming above ground. While they are less intimidating than the subterranean behemoths, the focus on evolution keeps the formula somewhat fresh and compels the survivors to adapt quickly and devise ingenious strategies to defeat them.
Despite being released years after Steven Spielberg captured the world’s attention with Jurassic Park (1993), Amalgamated Dynamics’ practical effects are remarkably impressive considering the budget constraints. Wilson judiciously preserves Tom Woodruff (Predator) and Alec Gillis’ (Aliens) original designs, seamlessly blending sophisticated animatronics and fully articulated puppetry with limited amounts of CGI. Upon the Graboids’ eventual unveiling, each snake protruding from their mouths moves independently and conveys an insatiable hunger. Conversely, their evolved mutations are equally impressive, retaining their distinctive beaks and prehensile tongues. Phil Tippet (RoboCop) ingeniously crafts a unique monster that resembles the same species. While the hermaphroditic creatures are rendered with dated effects, their design remains captivating and showcases some surprising abilities.
Though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the original, Tremors 2: Aftershocks is a commendable addition to the franchise. S.S Wilson successfully captures the spirit of its predecessor while expanding upon the mythology of the monsters and endearing its characters. Drawing inspiration from the 1950s B Movies he holds in high esteem, Wilson maintains the balance of quirky comedy and playfully irreverent horror that made the original a cult classic.
USA | 1996 | 100 MINUTES | 1:85:1 | COLOUR | ENGLISH • SPANISH
Tremors 2: Aftershocks has been given a wonderful 4K restoration courtesy of Arrow Video to follow the original earlier this year. Showcasing a wonderful 2160p Ultra HD transfer, the image was sourced from the original 35mm camera negatives and approved by co-writer-director S.S Wilson. Presented in its native 1:85:1 aspect ratio, the beautifully rich image showcases a tremendous amount of detail. Individual textures remain sharp and the dust ingrained clothing remains discernible. Flesh tones appear natural and facial complexions appear visible, revealing the finest blemishes across Earl’s face.
Arrow has managed to revive the print by injecting almost every frame with vibrant colour. The Dolby Vision effectively intensifies the palette and accurately reproduces the primary colours. The sky retains its stunning blue hue, and the gruesome entrails of the Graboids receive a noticeable boost in detail. The film grain has been rendered well, and there are no noticeable fluctuations in noise throughout. There are, however, some stability issues to report, with damage marks and debris having been removed to the best of their ability. Aftershocks undoubtedly benefits from a remarkably clean and bright transfer, and the final result should easily please fans of the franchise.
The 4K Ultra HD release of Tremors 2 includes two audio tracks with optional English subtitles. Arrow Video offers a DTS-HD 2.0 lossless stereo track and an immersive DTS-HD 4.0 surround option. While the DTS-HD 2.0 track prioritises dialogue, it delivers a surprising amount of dynamism in the midrange. In contrast, the DTS-HD 4.0 mix expertly expands the soundstage and maintains a crisp audio presentation throughout. Dialogue remains effectively discernible and is primarily dispersed across the front channels to allow the surround channels to enhance the sound field. The side and rear channels effectively deliver ambient sound effects. Subtle atmospheric elements and various creature sounds are distinguished and balanced effectively.
director: S.S Wilson.
writers: S.S Wilson & Brent Maddock.
starring: Fred Ward, Christopher Gartin, Michael Gross & Helen Shaver.