blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001, Brent Maddock)

Michael Gross gets slimed in TREMORS 3: BACK TO PERFECTION, directed by Brent Maddock for Universal Home Entertainment.

The first Tremors sequel probably used up all the goodwill the first movie created… and the presence of Fred Ward helped quite a bite. Ward was a lead in the first film–not to mention being a highly recognizable character actor. The third movie opens poorly, with Michael Gross doing something silly under the opening titles, and barely recovers enough to be watchable. I can’t bring myself to call it a film and movie gets annoying after a while, so I guess I’ll just say there are a number of major problems with the production.

Even though it’s from the same producers–one of the original writers even directs–the guy performing scripting duty is severely lacking. He can’t make the jokes work, even with Gross giving some decent deliveries throughout. And besides the dumb things about the script (the flying monsters, the guy making zen observations), there’s also the constant references to the earlier movies. It gets to the point a regular person couldn’t sit down and understand what’s going on, even after expository dialogue tries its best. There were references in the film I had to think about–and I just watched the original a few weeks ago.

The direction’s another defect. Maddock’s obviously composing for full frame television–the whole production was just a backdoor pilot for the Sci-Fi Channel–and the pseudo-widescreen presentation gets annoying all the time. He’s also just not a good director. He can’t do the humor (which is odd, given his screenwriting career). The script doesn’t help things, but Maddock’s responsible for a lot of the one liners falling flat.

The acting is all mediocre, sometimes better. Shawn Christian isn’t much of a sidekick, but Gross isn’t much of a lead, so it doesn’t matter. Susan Chuang’s probably more likable than she should be, given how dumb her character is written. The best performances come from the other first movie returnees–Charlotte Stewart and Tony Genaro. Ariana Richards has some terrible writing, but if she were in it more, the movie would probably be a lot better.

Another problem is how bad the effects get. The monsters are almost all cheap CG and, if they aren’t, there’s a visibly felt sock puppet in use. The music’s awful–I find it incredible Kevin Kiner’s ever worked again.

The movie runs long (there, I called it a movie again) and gets boring in stretches. I don’t think it ever actually gets interesting, but there’s always something moderately compelling about the genre. There’s also the car wreck aspect–watching Michael Gross run around pretending to be chased by cheap CG monsters… it’s mildly amusing.

With a decent rewrite, a little bit more money and an adequate director, it might have been fine. But there’s still the problem of Gross… he’s a TV guy, not a movie guy. Besides the first Tremors, I’ve never seen him in any other theatrical release. His presence as protagonist makes the whole thing immediately suspect.



Directed by Brent Maddock; screenplay by John Whelpley, based on a story by S.S. Wilson, Maddock and Nancy Roberts; director of photography, Virgil L. Harper; edited by Drake Silliman; music by Kevin Kiner; production designer, Ken Larson; produced by Roberts; released by Universal Home Entertainment.

Starring Michael Gross (Burt Gummer), Shawn Christian (Desert Jack Sawyer), Susan Chuang (Jodi Chang), Charlotte Stewart (Nancy Sterngood), Ariana Richards (Mindy Sterngood), Tony Genaro (Miguel), Tom Everett (Statler), Barry Livingston (Dr. Andrew Merliss), John Pappas (Agent Charlie Rusk), Robert Jayne (Melvin Plug) and Billy Rieck (Buford).


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