The one thing that made Tremors 2 worth seeing was the continued expansion of the graboid mythos. The graboids being these giant underground worm creatures that served as the monsters of the first film and the vessels from which the real monsters of the second film emerged. We didn’t know that they would spawn what are now referred to as “shriekers” before the last film, and that new information ushered in a much-needed change in direction and tone. Another evolution takes place in Tremors 3, but it unfortunately doesn’t help anything.
Our lead this time is the only character who has been in all three films, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross). He begins the film hunting shriekers in Argentina, because the shriekers are apparently not much of a threat anymore. Much like how the graboids were treated as a joke last time around, that’s the position the shriekers occupy here. He returns to Perfection, Nevada, the locale of the first Tremors only to discover that it’s now home to a fake “graboid safari” run by Jack (Shawn Christian), which hopes to take money from tourists.
There are some returning actors and characters not from the last film, but from the first one, in this Tremors 3. I was happy to see a return of Tony Genaro, and Ariana Richards is now grown up. That’s kind of fun. The main newcomer outside of Shawn Christian is Susan Chuang as Jodi, the new owner of the local convenience store. She, Burt, and Jack are going to be the main three, and they’re going to have to kill the new evolution of these creatures.
What exactly is that new evolution? Well, let’s just say they can fly and shoot fire. That’s pretty awesome, except for the fact that this is a low-budget, direct-to-video movie, and therefore they’re not going to be rendered with any sort of good CGI. The first Tremors holds up because it was all practical effects. The second one mostly was, although it did have some (bad) CGI. In this one, most of the monster stuff is computer generated, and it hurts any potential we had at suspending our disbelief or being scared of what’s been shown on-screen.
These are all cheesy B-movies, after all, but at least the first two, at times, had some scenes in which they worked as horror films. This one simply does not. The monsters are “cooler,” I suppose, but they’re not frightening. Even when they kill off secondary characters, you never get a sense of terror from them. And once their weakness is revealed, the film loses any chance it had at generating suspense. It becomes a foregone conclusion how it will end.
I will say this, though: there’s some fun when it comes to the government workers, who are actually trying to protect the graboids, deeming them an endangered species. And Melvin (Robert Jayne) returns in a role I won’t spoil, but has a tremendously funny payoff. Sadly, these high points are rare, and most of the movie involves running around, trying to avoid being killed, and sometimes cracking wise. It’s the worst in the Tremors series thus far, and this isn’t exactly a series known for being “good.”
At least Michael Gross continues to have a lot of fun playing Burt Gummer. I’m sure the role as a paranoid gun nut is enjoyable, and he’s the de facto “star” of the franchise at this point, too, which is always nice, but even when the rest of the movie is lackluster and not really worth watching, at least he’s having a good time. Shawn Christian and Susan Chaung are mostly forgettable in sidekick roles, Ariana Richards and Tony Genaro don’t get to do a lot, and Robert Jayne gets one good scene, but it’s not because of him.
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection offers a few short bursts of enjoyment, mostly from the return to the locale of the first film, some characters from the original returning, and some jokes involving the government, but for the most part it feels like more of a slog than it should. The continued evolution of the graboids produces the “coolest” creature to-date, but the CGI rendering them isn’t good and that ruins a lot of the enjoyment they might give us. It’s not as funny as you’d hope, the action feels very been-there-done-that, and I was left feeling bored more often than one would hope. Unless you’re a diehard Tremors fan, this isn’t a movie to see.