Tag Archives: Universal Home Entertainment

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

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).



Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996, S.S. Wilson)

I remember when Tremors II first came out. I believe it was on the heels of a special edition laserdisc of the first film, but it might have been at the same time. Universal made a lot of direct-to-video sequels in the 1990s, but Tremors II was a little different. First, it was an actual sequel–writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock return from the first film, as do Fred Ward and Michael Gross. Second, it was at least an attempt at a real movie–instead of shooting Tremors II for television, it was shot for a theatrical aspect ratio (I guess that special edition laserdisc sold well, because the only widescreen advocates in 1996 were laserdisc buyers). Unfortunately, it still looks like it was shot for television and it still feels like a hackneyed direct-to-video sequel.

Not all of it is bad. Wilson and Maddock make their characters appealing–the stuff with Fred Ward and Helen Shaver is fantastic–and there’s still a lot of humor… but it’s not a real movie. No one’s really afraid of the monsters. Shaver loses a friend–watches the sequel’s new monsters eat off a leg–and is flirting with Ward twenty minutes later. There are some funny lines and funny details, but it’s NutraSweet overall. Ward stumbles a lot as some of his dialogue is terrible and, as his new sidekick, Christopher Gartin manages to be both agreeable and annoying. Gartin’s performance is agreeable, his character’s writing is annoying. But the big problem is that lack of fear. It’s a monster comedy, not a monster movie with comedy.

As for Michael Gross… he’s pretty bad for most of the movie. He’s got a few moments here and there, but his performance is an exaggerated repeat. He does what he did before, just amps it up a little bit; makes it cheesy.

Given the effects–done on the cheap–are excellent, the main problem falls on Wilson, who directed this one. He’s got no idea how to do establishing shots during scenes. The whole movie feels cheap because of the lack of these shots (regardless of its actual, frugal budget). He directs comedy scenes like “Mr. Ed” used to do. The inexperience is startling. With everything else trying (and maybe not succeeding) at making Tremors II more than a video cash-in, the director (slash co-writer) isn’t cutting it. He’s making it feel cheap. Worst is when he tries to mimic the Underwood crane style from the first film.

Tremors II is better than it should be–that Ward and Shaver romance standing out–but it’s a surprise, for the first film anyway. This one shows off how important having a good director can be.



Directed by S.S. Wilson; written by Brent Maddock and Wilson, based on characters created by Maddock, Wilson and Ron Underwood; director of photography, Virgil L. Harper; edited by Bob Ducsay; music by Jay Ferguson; production designer, Ivo Cristante; produced by Christopher DeFaria and Nancy Roberts; released by MCA Home Entertainment.

Starring Fred Ward (Earl Bassett), Christopher Gartin (Grady Hoover), Helen Shaver (Kate Reilly), Michael Gross (Burt Gummer), Marcelo Tubert (Señor Ortega) and Marco Hernandez (Julio).