Film Review: Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996)

Also known as: Tremors 2 (informal title), Tremors 2: Aftershocks (video box title)
Release Date: April 9th, 1996
Directed by: S. S. Wilson
Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson
Music by: Jay Ferguson
Cast: Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Christopher Gartin, Helen Shaver, Marcelo Tubert

Universal Pictures, Stampede Entertainment, MCA, 97 Minutes

Review:

“I am completely out of ammo. That’s never happened to me before.” – Burt Gummer

I was surprised as I watched this. The first half of the film I enjoyed more than the original Tremors. But things did go downhill about midway through, making this a weaker film overall.

That being said, this was still a worthwhile sequel and while it is missing Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward and Michael Gross just get more time to shine and frankly, their characters are better and more developed than Bacon’s was.

The first half of the film sees our Graboid hunting heroes go down to southern Mexico to fight a new infestation. They kick ass, have this whole killing Graboids game down but then things change. This is where the film takes a bad turn.

You see, the Graboids evolve over their life cycle. So we have a new threat in this movie. But it’s that threat that’s the problem, as the Graboids have now become Shriekers.

The problem I have with Shriekers is that they are smaller creatures that live above ground and are damn easy to kill with something as simple as a regular shotgun blast. I guess the threat is that there are a lot more of these than the Graboids but the fear factor in this film drops significantly.

You no longer have to worry about the Graboids pulling you through the Earth, chomping you and drowning you in dirt. Gone is the tension of wondering whether or not each footstep will be the death of a character. There’s no more tiptoeing around and having to develop a strategy to survive. Now it’s just run and gun like a round in Call of Duty.

But Fred Ward and Michael Gross still make the movie worth watching. I’m not saying that it isn’t fun, it certainly is. It just lacks the immense danger that the first film had, once these creatures evolve.

This is still mindless escapism and it’s not a bad way to spend an hour and a half. And even if it lowered the ante, in some ways it is better than the first movie.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.

Film Review: Tremors (1990)

Also known as: Land Sharks, Beneath Perfection, Dead Silence (working titles)
Release Date: January 19th, 1990
Directed by: Ron Underwood
Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson, Ron Underwood
Music by: Ernest Troost, Robert Folk (uncredited)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bibi Besch

Stampede Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!” – Burt Gummer

I know that Tremors somehow spawned a franchise that a lot of people seem to like. However, I’ve never been a big fan of it. In fact, I’ve only seen this film, the original, in its entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of others but never cared enough to watch them all the way through, even if Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer is damn entertaining.

So I’d say that this one is the best but I don’t really know. But I’d assume so, as it’s the only one to get a proper theatrical release and wasn’t just made for video, DVD or the SyFy Channel.

Also, this one has the best cast with Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Victor Wong, Reba McEntire and Bibi Besch all alongside Gross. Plus, Gross wasn’t the star of the series yet. He wouldn’t really become the centerpiece till the third film after Fred Ward dropped out following part two.

This movie is enjoyable. I mean, I love giant killer animal movies and even if these maneating sandworms aren’t the size of kaiju or the Shai Hulud from Dune, they’re cool creatures that, at the time, offered up a pretty cool and original threat for horror audiences.

There is just something terribly frightening about being swallowed alive through the ground you’re walking on. The victims in this film get sucked under in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to how the killer shark from Jaws pulled his victims underwater, chomp by chomp.

Overall, this is a well cast movie that allows its stars to ham it up. I was kind of sad to see Victor Wong go so early though, as I was hoping he’d have a bigger presence and get to kick some ass. But we get some solid Fred Ward material, which is always a plus for me as he’s been underutilized and underappreciated his entire career. Sure, that’s my opinion but it’s probably fact too.

For a 1990 film, the special effects are good, practical ones that exist in the real world. This isn’t chock full of CGI, which seemed to become the norm as the series rolled on into the future. This one was lucky enough to come out a few years before Jurassic Park changed the game with digital monster effects. But everything onscreen looks great. I also loved the first person point-of-view of the sandworms chasing their victims, even if it didn’t make sense because they hunted underground and blindly chomped at vibrations.

Tremors is a dumb but fun movie. It may have gotten flushed down the memory hole if it weren’t for all the sequels but it’s definitely mindless and entertaining enough to provide 96 minutes of amusing and lively escapism.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.

Film Review: Cool as Ice (1991)

Release Date: October 18th, 1991
Directed by: David Kellogg
Written by: David Stenn
Music by: Stanley Clarke
Cast: Vanilla Ice, Kristin Minter, Michael Gross, Deezer D, Naomi Campbell

Universal Pictures, 91 Minutes

Review:

“Yeah, whackhead tried to play baseball with my homeboy’s bike!” – Johnny

I remember seeing the trailer for this thing when I was a middle school aged kid sitting in a theater waiting for something better to start. Granted, I don’t remember what that film was but it certainly wasn’t Cool as Ice.

I remember people telling me how shitty this film was. I never had the urge to see it and I was never a fan of Vanilla Ice. I was listening to N.W.A., Ice Cube, Public Enemy and a lot of thrash metal at the time.

Because of my influences, I thought Vanilla Ice was just some cream puff wannabe. Besides, how could he possibly top his performance of “Go, Ninja! Go, Ninja! Go!” in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

Then I noticed that there was a RiffTrax version of the movie streaming for free for Amazon Prime members. I thought, “What the hell, why not? It’s only an hour and a half and I can listen to those guys riff anything.”

I’m glad that I watched the movie. Is it bad? Oh, yes. It is straight 90s cheese of the worst kind and looking at this thing in 2017 re-familiarizes me with the worst things pop culture had to offer at the time. I’m not knocking Vanilla Ice per se, I am knocking the film in its style, its tone, its dialogue, its acting and its plot.

The story sees a wannabe bad ass with a heart of shit roll into a small town with his homies on their obnoxiously 90s motorcycles. One of the bikes breaks down and Vanilla Ice is stuck in Boringsville, U.S.A. He falls for some preppy brainy white chick and steals her personal notebook because he’s obviously a creep. However, it turns the girl on but not as much as Ice forcing her to dance and then pressing her to the floor as he gyrates on top of her in front of the whole town. Her boyfriend gets angry. Ice and the boyfriend have some fight and creeper Vanilla breaks the guys nose but he’s a douche too so my only concern is that the girl has really shitty taste in fellas. Michael Gross from Family Ties plays the girl’s dad and he’s not a super bad ass like he is in Tremors. In the end, I guess Vanilla Ice is okay though, as he saves the girl’s weirdo little brother from the crooked cops that kidnapped him.

The majority of the film is just there to show how cool Vanilla Ice is. His coolness is quite dated however and one has to question, how was he cool in the first place? I guess by the time that this film came out, it was already too late for Ice, as it was a financial and critical failure. It didn’t even cover a quarter of its small budget during its theatrical run. The director has also since disowned the movie.

Some good came out if it however, as the director of photography Janusz Kamiński would go on to be the cinematographer on Schindler’s ListSaving Private Ryan and Minority Report. And honestly, Cool as Ice had some good visual elements.

Unfortunately, a big bulk of the film was made up of pointless musical montages of Ice riding his motorcycle through the desert or posing like a lazy model on a couch that looked like it was stolen from the Max on Saved by the Bell.

Cool as Ice, however, is strangely entertaining. Obviously not in the way that was intended but there is a quaint cuteness to it. For a film deeply submerged in its own flaws, somehow a bit of heart does come through. Just a bit, though.

Also, the music isn’t horrible. Ice’s songs aren’t very good but the rest of the soundtrack is made up of new jack swing tunes that fit the movie’s era. I’ve always liked new jack swing, so I was cool with the overall use of music in the picture.

I don’t hate Cool as Ice, as many before me do. It’s a bad and strange film but it is a great time capsule for an era that I’m glad to see is several decades behind us now. Not that today’s pop culture is any better, though. Eh… maybe Vanilla Ice wasn’t so bad.