Tremors 3: Back To Perfection (2001)

Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)

The Food Chain Just Grew Another Link.

After hunting Graboids and Shriekers in Argentina, Burt Gummer returns home to Perfection for a bit of rest and relaxation. It’s not long after his arrival that Perfection faces another serious subterranean monster problem. Gummer is confident that he has the knowledge to stop them but evolution runs its course again, mutating the monsters into a deadly and unpredictable third form.

 

Cue practically the same mayhem as the previous two films. There’s milking a cow but there’s milking the poor thing so hard that you rip it’s udders off and that’s what the Tremors series seems to have done. I was never sure that the original Tremors, one of my favourite films, had any story left to tell but the first sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks at least came up with a decent way to avoid repeating exactly the same formula, albeit more or less the same thing, with different types of monsters. Here we are with a second sequel, Tremors 3: Back To Perfection, which continues the downward spiral of quality of the series, quite significantly from the previous instalment, though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what this one is lacking.

That is not to say that this is a terrible film of any kind. There are some good ideas floating around Tremors 3: Back To Perfection, particularly the notion that Perfection has become something of a ‘tourist trap’ – a term used to describe a place which is specifically designed to attract tourists and get them to part with their cash – and the lengths that some of the locals will go to in order to maintain that illusion. Particularly effective and really nifty is the fake Graboid tour scam that Sawyer and his friend run, complete with fence posts that are wired to collapse as tourists pass and fire extinguishers hidden to look like Graboid blasts, giving people the illusion that they are under attack. Naturally, when the real things show up, there are the inevitable “is it real or isn’t it?” moments.

It’s through the likes of the above story line that Tremors 3: Back To Perfection switches it’s focus onto more of the comedic approach than the horror one. The original Tremors was chock full of gags and great lines but they came naturally in the script and through the rapport between the main characters. Beneath the surface there was still a true horror edge, featuring dismembered heads, people getting sucked into the ground and then swallowed whole. As the series has gone on (and budgets have reduced), these costly death scenes have been scaled back and the humour elements played up a lot more prominently. The orange and red splatter gunge courtesy of exploding Graboids and Shriekers is still there in abundance but the effects are largely comic. The humour feels forced and the jokes in the script are obvious, with punch lines continually being told rather than left ambiguous. It’s like the audience is being patronised because we’re not clever enough to understand some of the most rudimental jokes.

Kevin Bacon wisely jumped ship after the first one and even Fred Ward decided not to bother with this one so fan favourite Michael Gross, as survivalist gun-nut Burt Gummer, is promoted to lead character. Gross has a lot of fun in the role and his deadpan reactions to situation make him hilarious at times. He was a little bit over-the-top in the last film and has toned back down the character to similar levels of the original which is good. The major problem I have now is that the character is far too overexposed and the ‘less is more’ approach they had with him in the first two films has been abandoned. Gummer worked in small doses but his army schtick gets tiring rather quickly. Losing Ward was a big blow to the series and Gross’ character is just overpowering to helm a film – he’s fine as supporting character but he overstays his welcome in the limelight.

It’s also nice to see the remaining members of the original cast make a return here (those who were cheap enough to bring back!), even if they were more or less bit part players. I’m a great lover of continuity in sequels and seeing the likes of Miguel (Tony Genaro), Nancy (Charlotte Stewart), Mindy (Ariana Richards) and everyone’s favourite loser, Melvin (Robert Jayne), all come back gives the film much-needed connection to the original.

Sadly, Tremors 3: Back To Perfection short-changes it’s monsters by rendering them all in CGI. The original’s slimy animatronic models and oozing prosthetics still look fantastic today and the mix of CGI and make-up effects in the second film worked better than it should. But the CGI here looks TV-series quality, presumably because they were trying to get the short-lived Tremors TV series off the ground around the same time. In fact, they’ve lifted a lot of shots of the subterranean Graboids from the first two films which is obvious. The names Graboids and Shriekers are a bit daft to designate monsters but the reasoning behind them was sound and it made sense. Calling these new flying monsters ‘Ass Blasters’ is juvenile and a bit daft too. But it’s a sign of where the series was heading. More background to the monsters’ origins and overly complex explanations just detract further from the mythology and menace of the monsters from the original.

 

I’m sure if you liked the first two films, then you’ll find plenty of fun in Tremors 3: Back To Perfection. But the charm of the series has quickly faded, the set-ups and resolutions have become predictable and formulaic and the characters aren’t as appealing as in the previous films. It doesn’t hold a candle to the first two but it’s not half-bad as far as a straight-to-video films are concerned.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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