In which direction does one take a Tremors sequel? That’s the question that the filmmakers had to think of before making Tremors 2: Aftershocks, a sequel to what was a pretty fun throwback to ’50s monster movies. We’ve now seen the heroes deal with the wormlike creatures named “graboids”; what are they going to do this time around? Are there even more graboids? What threat do they pose to a town that’s prepared for them?
It turns out that Tremors 2 isn’t even set in the town of Perfection. It also only contains a couple of characters from the last film. Our lead is Earl (Fred Ward), who now lives in isolation. He’s approached by a Mexican businessman whose oil drilling is being affected by a graboid infestation. Earl is offered $50,000 for each graboid he kills. He’s joined by a younger sidekick, because the sidekick thing worked so well last time, in Grady (Christopher Gartin), who is definitely ready to hunt him some graboids. The two actually do that for a fairly significant chunk of the film, also eventually bringing along Burt (Michael Gross), the one from the last film who had a whole bunch of guns. He was ready.
There’s an inherent joy to watching Early and Grady blow up a bunch of giant worms. The graboids are no longer much of a threat, since Earl knows how to avoid them, and as such the first half of Tremors 2 takes on a very light tone. The hunter becomes the hunted and all that. We know the graboids are smart, though, so after enough hunting has been done, an evolution takes place. The graboids become new creatures, with new strengths and weaknesses, and Tremors 2 becomes more of a traditional horror/monster movie.
It’s certainly a new direction to take, and it’s not one about which I’m terribly upset. The graboids become something of a joke and while doing a whole movie in which that’s the case might have worked, it was wearing thin for me only midway through. Changing things up by introducing a new “form” gives us something new, something scarier, and something which give the plot a much needed boost in intensity and action.
Does Tremors 2 get anywhere near as good as the original? Not really. It’s not as funny, it’s not as smart, and the new monsters aren’t as cool as the graboids were in the first film. Is it still fun? In spurts, sure. It gets really dull before the big “change,” the characters aren’t all that interesting, and some of the monster kills aren’t the best. But it’s still mostly enjoyable. It’s certainly not the worst sequel, or even the worst direct-to-video sequel to emerge.
However, it does need to be said that if you’re not someone who likes cheesy monster movies, Tremors 2 is not going to be something you’ll enjoy. It’s still relatively silly — even when it gets to the “scary” part — and it’s not a “good” movie in any traditional sense. There is a certain type of person who enjoys these types of movies, and the quality almost doesn’t matter. Does the CGI of the second creatures look awful? Yes. But for people who enjoy these movies, that’s part of the charm.
The last Tremors movie had a lot of characters, and most of them didn’t really matter or draw our attention to them. I couldn’t even remember the names of anyone who wasn’t our two leads. The cast has been reduced this time around. It’s fun to see Fred Ward and Michael Gross doing this dance a second time. Christopher Gartin overacts from start to finish, which might be a benefit given the nature of what these movies are. Helen Shaver is here just to be a generic love interest.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks does about one good thing, but that single decision is enough to make it watchable. It gives us the evolution to our beloved graboids, which gives us a mid-game change in both action and tone that helps freshen things up. We go from a funny movie to a scarier one. It’s still not a particularly “good” movie, but those who enjoy silly B-movies won’t care about that, anyway. It accomplishes what it sets out to do, which is to be a cheesy monster movie that also further explores the graboid mythos. If you liked Tremors, you’ll likely want to watch Tremors 2.