So what is it about the Tremors films that is so appealing? Perhaps there is no one more inclined to answer this question than I, considering Tremors is one of my top guilty pleasure films. And no matter how many groans I get from our undead friends, I wear blurt the graboid name proudly. The original just happened to be a perfect combination of acting chops, well-executed special effects, and balanced self-awareness that niched into the pinnacle of humor and horror at the highest efficienty of the available budget. In one word, the production was lucky. They were lucky they got Kevin Bacon, who was in a random slump in his career and nearly had a mental breakdown while on his way to the set. They were lucky the rest of the cast, outside of Reba McEntire, was a bunch of no-names that meshed well in an awkard concoction of onscreen chemistry. They were lucky the experimental effects shots worked quite seamlessly and developed a tangible feel to the monsters. The film was in the right place, at the right time, and happened to fall into the right harmony. This is why Tremors will not be forgotten and why it has spawned, now, 4 sequels.
But, as much as I would love to give praise to one of the most successful direct-to-dvd franchises in America, Tremors loses steam exponentially with each proceeding film. The first sequel, Aftershocks, wasn't bad. It carried with it a lot of the same wit, light-heartedness, and effects work that made the first film so great. Even the CGI, by low-budget scifi standards, was surprisingly decent. But, without the star-power of Bacon and a script that embraced perhaps a bit too much of the campiness, it became a film I enjoy more for its fond childhood memories for which I am able to reminisce than its actual quality as a film or sequel.
Sadly, everything takes a sharp decline from there. The third film's CGI and effects somehow took a nosedive from the previous two entries and the ever-evolving graboid lost its luster as the makers continued to push away from the creation that was so interesting in the first film, and mildly so in the second when they tried the metamorphosis trick once already. The fourth film was practically garbage, with few redeeming qualities, and even that might be too generous a statement. This would be why heading into the fifth installment I had low expectations. The trailer set the bar even lower.
Yet, I found this film to be the best since Aftershocks. That isn't by any means giving it a standing ovation, as this film is full of flaws on its own. But it is worth noting it returned some of the wit at close to the same level as the Aftershocks sequel, and was able to redeem the quality in CGI work from that film as well. But much of the writing missed its mark. It had so many satirical jokes that it almost felt like a Scary Movie at times and less like a horror/comedy stuffed to the rafters with its self-producing campiness. The monster was better than its been since maybe even the original, but its execution was too CGI-heavy, as is usually the case with today's low-budget scifi/horror films. The acting and writing was refreshing, if basing that solely on the fourth installment, which was abysmal on both fronts.
Camp just isn't a sustainable fuel for producing a quality franchise, but it works just fine for puttering along a direct-to-video sequel that knows it's nothing more than an entertainment piece for kids willing to see anything with a monster and diehard cult followers. And while I would have argued years ago that this franchise needs to be put down quietly and respectfully like a 17-year old mastiff with a heart of gold that bit just one too many neighborhood children, this film gave me hope that it may be on a slight incline and may have earned my trust to sit through one more sequel, should it ever come along.