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Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018)


Plot

Graboid hunter Burt Gummer heads north to the Canadian Arctic where he has received a call about a reported Graboid attack at a research station. Gummer thinks it is impossible for Graboids to operate in frozen weather but arrives to find that the station is under attack by prehistoric Graboids that have been thawed out by the effects of global warming. Whilst there, Gummer becomes ill and discovers that he has become infected from parasites from a Graboid that swallowed him years earlier. The only means of saving his life is to obtain antibodies from a live Graboid. Unfortunately, no one has ever captured one alive.

 

The sixth Tremors film, yes sixth film, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, sees the return of the Graboids (oh I hate that name and always have) in a direct follow-on from Tremors: Bloodlines. I’m not entirely sure how we’ve gotten to this point. All of the big-named actors left the series early on and the original creators and masterminds behind the monsters have all since bailed, leaving poor old Michael Gross as the sole flag flyer from the first film back in 1990. There’s no way that anyone involved back there would have thought that thirty years later, we’d still be Graboid hunting. It’s insane to think that this series, with a fairly limited scope and premise, still has any legs, given that they pretty much exhausted all of the possibilities for the monsters. Well - there was one they hadn’t and that was to unleash them in snow.



That’s pretty much about the only difference between this one and the previous film, with the premise not only having worn thin but completely snapped in the process. And even the novelty of setting in the Arctic is a dud when you realise that they have no intention of using snowy landscapes but have the bulk of the film set on a rocky plain with snowy mountains in the background. It’s the desert all over again, just in the Arctic! The strange thing is that Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell is not a difficult watch. Despite rolling out the stock Tremors tropes, the film manages to be entertaining for almost its entire length. You know exactly what is going to happen and the film delivers exactly what you expect. No more, no less.


Count down the minutes in the film before the characters become trapped on buildings or miscellaneous objects above the ground so as not to attract the attention of the Graboids through the vibrations on the surface. If you’re even watching the sixth entry in a franchise, you’ve already seen some, if not all, of the others and so you’ll be right at ease with the usual set pieces here. There’s no real spark or creativity involved, juts the same scenes of them trying to lure the Graboids by making noise or getting them to swallow something explosive.


Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell does have a script which relies a lot on call backs to the original. I’m not sure whether that is to help those of us old enough and still with the series to jog our diminishing memories from age. Or whether it’s just an attempt to tie the film in with continuity in some hope of adding a bit of credibility here. Either way, a few of the fan service call-backs are nice touches (some slightly amended lines of dialogue) but some seem forced (having Val and Rhonda’s daughter be one of the scientists for a start). The only real fresh idea is that of the Graboids infecting Burt with a parasite when he was swallowed alive earlier in the series and which is slowly killing him. It’s actually not a bad twist, and a decent link to something audiences had probably forgotten about but all it really does is keep Burt out of action for a bit before its resolved and put on the back burner for the finale.



Michael Gross, now pushing seventy, still has the energy and enthusiasm he had thirty years ago but his character is a walking cliché and has outstayed his welcome. That’s no offence to Gross, who clearly enjoys playing the role and is arguably the best thing about the film. It’s just that there’s nowhere left for Gummer to go as a character and as a result, the last two films see him repeat the same schtick. Bigger guns, more ammo and even heavier firepower is pretty much all he can do. Jamie Kennedy came in for a lot of criticism for his role in the previous film, but I didn’t mind him and he’s back here as Gummer’s son. The dynamic between Gross and Kennedy is decent and the two play off each other well. It’s hardly the quality banter between Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon but it's still better than most of the subsequent pairings in the franchise.

 

Final Verdict

Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell ticks all of the necessary B-movie straight-to-video boxes and is passable entertainment but leaves me hanging with one question: just why does this exist? This film presents no obvious reason why the franchise should continue as it offers nothing new in the slightest. Kevin Bacon tried to get a new TV series off the ground, so he’s clearly interested in returning to the franchise. The only way you’re going to bring some real life back into this series is by giving it the big screen treatment once again with Bacon back as the star. Make it happen, instead of the rumoured ‘underwater Graboids’ nonsense I’ve read about.



 

Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell


Director(s): Don Michael Paul


Writer(s): John Whelpley, Brent Maddock (based on characters created by), S.S. Wilson (based on characters created by)


Actor(s): Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Tanya van Graan, Stephanie Schildknecht, Jamie-Lee Money, Jay Anstey, Jenna Upton


Duration: 98 mins