Originally planned as a theatrical project, Universal balked, cut the budget, and sent this sequel to video. That wasn’t a mistake – Tremors II is still an amusing, clever creature feature that while never living up to its predecessor, begins to assert the franchise’s kooky lore, and expands the monster threat in reasonable way.
Drawing Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) back into the Graboid-fight, Tremors II sets up a non-essential plot involving Mexico’s government paying handsomely for Graboid extermination to ensure an oil field project can continue. Whether that’s interpreted as a statement on big oil or a plot device that goes nowhere (it’s the latter, really), Tremors II exists to blow up worms… and not-worms too.
Without Kevin Bacon, Tremors II errors in trying to recapture Tremors magic through Fred Ward and Chris Gartin. It doesn’t work. When Tremors II fails, it does so of its doing, by mimicking Tremors, even substituting the romantic lead of Finn Carter. Helen Shaver, while fine in the lone actress part, is trapped in the same role as a scientist. What’s missing is the fun as Carter played a seismologist without a clue as to the menace (a great running gag), but Shaver is stuck spouting exposition for the audience.
Yes, its a lesser script. Yes, it’s not as fun. However, Tremors II is clever, working around its budget by suggesting action as Ward and Gartin dynamite the critters, saving the production money on an effects crew. That allows the final act to shine, with a new monster form changing the basic rules, continuing a steady stream of character interplay and action. There’s never a lull.
The series would continue, bringing back only Michael Gross as conspiracy theorist and gun enthusiast Burt Gummer, who in this first sequel makes a running gag out of his mistakes. Later, he’d become a sloppy Rambo, but here he’s a careless if successful hunter forced to adapt. The future sequels lost that charm as Gummer’s experience grew. Here, for every completed mission, he makes an egregious error, a comic balancing act that’s Tremors II at its most successful.
Much like Jaws 2, ignoring the original means seeing this sequel as a great thriller on its own terms, but in this case, one that can’t find the chemistry with a lesser cast in charge.
Sensational work by Arrow brings Tremors II to 4K flawlessly. Infinitely better than the previous Blu-ray, Tremors II looks natural, organic, and pure in all the right ways. Sharpness is impeccable, drawing out detail in droves. Exterior landscapes resolve the rocky terrain and plants, while in close, facial definition pops effortlessly.
A natural grain structure resolves cleanly without issue, thicker than the original film from what’s likely a lower-grade film stock. The only lapse comes from the lower resolution CG effects, which stand out against the pure sharpness everywhere else. Cruddy definition and aliasing mar those shots, thankfully brief, and any flaws are unavoidable.
Dense color from the Dolby Vision pass enlivens the previously dusty Blu-ray transfer. Flesh tones saturate, greenery erupts, and primaries carry an unmistakable glow.
Faultless contrast gives exterior cinematography life. Sunlight’s intensity hits a notable peak and doesn’t waver from that high point. Black levels sink low, digging in, and unwavering. The resulting depth gives Tremors II’s visuals lift and dimension.
Both a stereo and 4.0 DTS-HD mixes impress with their fidelity, age no issue or barrier. Default is 4.0, which produces a fun and wide soundstage that’s better than expected. Directionality gives attack scenes notable surround use. Even minus a true .1, bass makes a minor impact, the rumbling from Graboids caught by the subwoofer.
Director S.S. Wilson and co-producer Nancy Roberts join for the first commentary, with a second track from author Johnathan Melville. A fresh interview with effects designer Peter Chesney precedes another one with Phil Tippett. An older making of, outtakes, trailers, and stills finish off the on-disc bonuses.
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While Tremors II’s budget restrictions show, the end result is a template for how direct-to-video sequels should be done.
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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: