The people behind the Tremors movies certainly wrote themselves into a corner with Tremors 3, didn’t they? The most fun that this series had going for it was seeing the continued evolution of the graboids, who became mini dinosaur-type things in the second film and then got wings and the ability to shoot fire in the third. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to convey to us that it was a three-stage cycle; there was no more evolution. Why, then, make a fourth movie?
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins takes us back approximately 100 years and functions as a prequel. Well, if we’re not going to further explore the graboids, at least that’s one thing to do. We’re going to watch a graboid invasion that took place in the 1800s in the town of Rejection — which would later become the Perfection we already know — and follow around the great-grandfather of Burt Gummer, Hiram (still played by Michael Gross), who is completely different from the character who’s become the star of the franchise. That’s an interesting development.
Hiram is the owner of a mine that comes under attack from creatures we know as graboids, but the local townspeople refer to as “dirt dragons.” So, Hiram comes to town in an attempt to re-open the mine after all the workers either left or were killed, but eventually winds up having to do a lot of the grunt work himself. He, being a man of great means, is unaccustomed to anything taking place in the “Wild West,” not the least of which being the graboids. He doesn’t even know how to shoot guns! His great-grandson would be disappointed.
So, we get to see Michael Gross act completely different from what his character was in the previous three films — at least, for a while; we eventually see him transition into something more like we’d expect — we make the graboids seem like a genuine threat again, since there’s no prior knowledge of them on the part of the characters, and we get a true “Western” for the first time in the series. The other films had elements of Westerns, but not anything close to what this one has.
For the audience, though, this just isn’t enough of a change to make Tremors 4 worth seeing. It rehashes several elements from the earlier films, and the only real difference comes in the form of our lead. That’s fun at the beginning, as it allows Michael Gross to do something different, but it’s not enough around which to base an entire film. There’s only so much that such a character change can do, and it’s funny for about 30 minutes. Then we still have to deal with the rest of the film.
At least CGI isn’t too much of a hindrance this time around. In Tremors 3, the flying creatures were almost all done with computers, and since these are low-budget B-movies, the CGI wasn’t good. This one sees graboids return to the main villain roles, which means that puppets and animatronics can be used to create them a lot of the time. That’s how the first Tremors did it, almost a decade and a half earlier, and it’s by far the best of the series. It’s not even a competition. The other three movies suck in comparison.
Michael Gross has been the standout of at least three of the Tremors movies now, and this one is only somewhat watchable thanks to his involvement. The complete 180 flip that he does with the Gummer character is hilarious up to a point, simply because it’s so different from what we’re expecting. Our expectations are subverted and that’s where good comedy comes from. It’s not enough to carry the movie, and the character can only be taken so far, but it works for a while and is the only thing worth seeing in Tremors 4.
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins is for the people who stuck around through one good movie and two mediocre-at-best sequels. It does one good thing, which sees Michael Gross return not as Burt, but as Burt’s great-grandfather, who is completely different from Burt. That’s funny up to a point. But the movie is dull, feels like a repeat of better scenes and elements we’ve already seen, and does nothing for the graboid mythos. It’s a dull prequel that I didn’t enjoy.