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Review – Tremors 5: Bloodlines

I have been away from the Tremors “franchise” for so long that I had not even realised it was now a franchise. Like everybody else, I adore the original film, and could quite happily spend a whole day watching Earl and Val battling the Graboids again and again.

I can vaguely remember renting and watching a second film (Aftershocks) that saw Earl return, but until I was asked if I would like to check out part 5 and talk to the stars, I didn’t know there had been a part 3 – let alone a part 4.

Michael Gross has remained a part of the cast throughout and, since Fred Ward stopped returning in part 3, has become the series’ star, with his loveable paranoid survivalist character, Burt Gummer, taking lead.

Part 3, Back to Perfection, saw the action, and Burt, remain in the small Nevada town from the first film, once again beset by hideous underground creatures who can sense where you are through vibrations in the ground. Then part 4 (The Legend Begins) saw Gross playing his own ancestor in a Western where Perfection’s founders first battle the Graboids – here called “Dirt Dragons”.

After a lengthy eleven year break, and a short-lived television show, Burt is back and hunting Graboids once again in the present day for part 5: Bloodlines. This time around though, he has a new co-star along for the ride, and a new country to rid of subterranean monsters.

Jamie Kennedy (Scream) is Travis Welker, a happy-go-lucky “xtreme” dude who takes over as Burt’s new cameraman. In this universe, Burt is famous for his continued duels with the Graboids and has a reality television show that documents his further adventures that is sort of like Bear Grylls with killer monsters and lots of guns. Travis wants to push the format, and Burt’s profile, so when the pair are asked to travel to South Africa to handle an infestation of Graboids, Travis convinces Burt to take part, and negotiates the pair a better deal.

What Burt and Travis find in South Africa are monsters very similar to the traditional, North American variety of Graboids, but with extra teeth and a few surprises up their worm sleeves. A secondary breed of Graboids, Ass Blasters, also return – apparently introduced in a previous instalment. The Ass Blasters are bipedal mini Graboids that can jump long distance thanks to projecting fire from their rears – hence the name.

The new culture and environment shakes things up nicely, and even though we are already familiar with the Graboids, the new setting and new abilities keep us, Burt and Travis on all our toes. The action is well done, and of high production value for a straight-to-video title, and our fightin’ and a fussin’ lead characters, and the actors behind them, give their everything to making the whole endeavour as lively and fun as possible.

The briefly-sketched side characters sap away a lot of the film’s energy and focus whenever we switch to them and their situation, which is frustrating; and the extremely complex and unlikely life cycle that has been imposed on the Graboids to increase the amount of different creatures is too much. Stripping things back and keeping it simple would have been of more benefit, and helped part 5 get back to the basics and straightforward cool of the original all the more.

The fact that no subsequent sequel has matched the lightning in a bottle captured by Ron Underwood in 1990 with the first Tremors film is further testament – if any is required – to its quality. But Bloodlines manages to catch a lot of the kind of spirit and energy the original generated. For fans of the first film, this is a good point to pop back in to Tremors Town. There are plenty of little welcome nods to Tremors 1, and Burt being partnered with Travis creates a pleasingly presented dynamic that makes the leads not a million miles away from the straight and serious Earl, and the young, dumb and full of fun Val.

With leads now set up that mirror the relationship of the ones that made the original work, Bloodlines may well be the start of a successful reboot of the Tremors franchise. A mid-credits sequence promises further adventures, and, with all new folklore-based monsters in the mix too, part 6 holds a lot of promise.


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