Review: Tremors: Shrieker Island
The Tremors series celebrates its 30th anniversary with the usual splatterings of gore and dynamite bangs, but we’re far from seventh heaven
Written by Martin Parsons
This month sees the release of the seventh film in the Tremors series. The little B that could also spawned a TV series in 2003, and a pilot for a second crack at the telly whip was sadly shelved in 2018. The film’s sequels initially kept themselves fresh by adding inventive new stages to the life-cycle of the Graboids, the monstrous worms from the original. Tremors 2: Aftershocks brought in the heat-seeking overground Shriekers, while Tremors 3: Back to Perfection added a final phase in the winged Ass Blasters (Tremors 4: The Legend Begins gave us little baby Graboids too, but those weren’t so great). This invention has been sorely lacking in the more recent films.
Whilst the fifth film, Tremors: Bloodline, at least had a bit of a kick with its African location and amped-up action quotient, the sixth, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, was riddled with infantile humour and contained only the weakest glimmers of the goofy charm that has kept the fans coming back. Shrieker Island is certainly an improvement over its predecessor, but it is not without its own fairly sizeable flaws. After 6’s unexpectedly effective South-Africa-for-Canada shooting, this time the series moves into the sweltering Thai jungle. Though this makes for a nice visual change from the deserts and tundras of the previous films, there is little new to be found in the approach to the monsters.
As the title suggests, this one brings back the Shriekers but sadly, despite their front-and-centre advertising, they get little to do. Their skeletal redesign is nice to look at, but as soon as they start moving they look almost exactly like the redesigned Ass Blasters from 5 and 6, competent but overly familiar CGI that is a world away from their original incarnation as gorgeous Tom Woodruff Jr and Alec Gillis animatronic beasties. There is also a ludicrous plot twist that the last film set up and then laughed off as being very silly (in its most enjoyable moment). That it is used here without subversion just underlines the lack of innovation.
This is, however, a much better film for Burt Gummer. The only actor to appear in every film, TV’s ultimate dad Michael Gross never gives less than his all to the role of the curmudgeonly doomsday prepper, but the last film in particular sold him very short. Here he suffers none of the indignity that film foisted on him, and seems to be having more fun than we have seen him have in a while. The film also scores a win in its eclectic casting, bringing together Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite), Caroline Langrishe (The Flipside of Dominick Hyde) and Richard Brake (Three From Hell). It doesn’t quite compare to the majesty of the casting which paired Gross with beloved country singer Reba McEntire in the original, but it does offer some fun moments. Orange is the New Black’s Jackie Cruz is a great addition as well, a Gummer fan who rapidly earns his respect.
The 30-year milestone almost goes by unmentioned, though a strong visual reference to the finale of the original film would have been more pleasurable had it not been spelled out in the dialogue. Events do build to an unexpectedly emotional climax but the emotion is not earned, managing to hit home only because of the weight of history behind it. But what of the future? This series has (improbably, gloriously) lasted for 30 years, and it certainly deserves one last hurrah to end things with a bit more class. Before the inevitable remake...
Available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD 16th November 2020.
Director: Don Michael Paul
Screenwriters: Brian Brightly, Don Michael Paul
Cast: Michael Gross, Jon Heder, Caroline Langrishe
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 103 minutes