Looking Back At TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Martin Rayburn feels the earth move. Again.
It would be very easy to dismiss Tremors 2: Aftershocks as a poor imitation of the much loved original 1990 film. After all, it is missing Kevin Bacon and some of the character chemistry that worked so well, and does have a relatively slow start that makes you feel as if it's headed for disaster - and not in a good way - but I found it enjoyable, often funny and quite thrilling. It works as both a respectable continuation of the first film, mirroring the fun of the original but without being a blatant rehash. In short, it is watchable and, crucially for the sake of this article, rewatchable.

As mentioned, Tremors 2: Aftershocks starts slow, with a rather downbeat and depressed-looking Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), who, unlike his partner Valentine Mckee (the missing Kevin Bacon), remained in Perfection, Nevada and squandered his money on a failing ostrich ranch. Through the intervention of a squint-and-it-could-be-Kevin-Bacon-look-a-like named Grady Hoover (Christopher Gartin), Bassett agrees to hunt some giant worms, now known as Graboids, who are causing havoc around a Mexican oil refinery. The pair then meet-up with Kate Reilly (Helen Shaver), a scientist who is studying Graboid activity in the area, and eventually they enlist the help of gun fanatic Burt Gummer (played as wonderfully as ever by Michael Gross). With all the key-players in place, Aftershocks plays its trump card - evolution. The Graboids have evolved into creatures that are equally deadly both below and above ground.
Tremors found an audience when it went to home video, becoming a word of mouth cult classic after a lackluster box-office return, so it pretty much makes sense that Tremors 2: Aftershocks was produced with the intention of being a direct-to-video release as it's audience was never going to be in cinema seats. Because it was going home straightaway, the budget was a the third of the size of the original film. Despite this, Aftershocks has the same theatrical release look as its predecessor, meaning that even though it was cheaply produced, Aftershocks doesn't look like overly cheap. Almost all of the effects are well-done and accomplished, if slightly cartoon-like at times (when judged by 1996 standards then I feel this is quite acceptable). Credit has to go to first-time director S.S. Wilson who handles the reins for this movie surprisingly well, and while he doesn't match the incredible job Ron Underwood did six years previously, he captures much of the feel of the original without making it appear as a direct rip-off.

The evolved mutations of the Graboids, eventually terms Shriekers, are a very interesting direction and quite surprising on first viewing. The creature design in itself is obviously not an improvement over the huge giant worms we are used to but this new design works in a, perhaps, more exciting way. Aftershocks does take a little too long to introduce these evolved species, which all contributes to that slower start. Yes there are some good set-pieces before the Shriekers strike, but the real thrills begin once they are in full flow, with the final half-hour being especially exciting. And in this final act it helps that, just like the first film, Aftershocks doesn't take itself too seriously.
Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson's script supplies plenty of on-brand humour, one of the aspects this series of films is well known for. As with the original, Fred Ward turns in a solid and entertaining performance, and can deliver the humour especially well. It was probably the best decision of them all to bring back Michael Gross, of all the supporting characters from the first film he perhaps had the biggest impression and, again, plays his role tragically well, adding to that knowing humour vibe throughout. I suspect the hope was for Kevin Bacon to return too, and whatever was planned for Val McKee ended-up morphing into some of the script for Grady Hoover. Christopher Gartin isn't at all bad, and has some nice one-liners, but as the main supporting character he feels underdeveloped, with the script often relegating him to doing nothing but whining. As for Helen Shaver, she's okay and has some good chemistry with Ward. This could've used a little more development to rival the Val/Rhonda dynamic of the original, so again the character is a little undeveloped. Maddock & Wilson's screenplay does make one fatal error, in my humble opinion, they offer an explanation for the origins of the Shriekers. There's a reason why none was offered for the Graboids in the original film as nothing could really make sense and any explanation would just be laughable - and not in a good way. Plus, did we really need one? I don't think so.

All this being said, where does that leave Tremors 2: Aftershocks? It's an enjoyable sequel, not quite on-par with the original, containing some delightful returning characters and less-successful new additions. The film has more-than-adequate special effects, in the large part, some interesting twists on the original story concept and a healthy dose of on-brand humour. It's slow to get going, and at times feels as if it's just going through the motions, but thankfully the last 35 minutes or so are jam-packed with action and thrills. Meaning the lasting impression of Aftershocks is one of an enjoyable worm-busting return to the Tremors franchise that remains watchable and rewatchable twenty five years later.

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