Twitter Plot Summary: It’s 1889 and it’s up to Hiram Gummer to find out why men are being killed in a mine near Rejection, Nevada. Hint: it’s giant worms.
Director: S.S. Wilson
Key Cast: Michael Gross, Billy Drago, August Schellenberg, Ming Lo, Lydia Look, Sara Botsford.
Five Point Summary:
1. It’s Tremors, Jim, but not as we know it.
2. Ahh so it’s the same town as Tremors but with a different name. Right.
3. Billy Drago – probably the best thing he’s done. And that’s not saying much.
4. The only way we’ll survive is by working together!
5. That punt gun is sweet.
Boldly going where few direct-to-DVD sequels go, Tremors 4 takes the story back in time, Back to the Future Part 3-style, to the old West and the small proto-town of Rejection. In essence this is the same story we’ve seen played out over the previous three films – a small group of people band together to fight off the Graboids, or “Dirt Dragons” as they’re known here. Some people die, most people live, yadda yadda yadda. What’s key to the success of these films is that both the dialogue and the performances zing, much more than they have any right to, but that’s always been the appeal of this movie series. They acknowledge the fact they’re here for a laugh and maybe in places a bit of a scare (but not much of one, mind), but no more than that. High art this is not. The fun factor likely goes some way to explaining why Michael Gross keeps coming back for more – he even did that short-lived TV series set in the Tremors universe (yes, it’s called Tremors: The Series. Original).
The major twist to the formula this time round is Michael Gross doesn’t play Burt Gummer (obviously, given that this is a prequel), but Hiram Gummer, however many Great-Grandfathers back it actually is. The other key point to note is that Hiram Gummer is not obsessed with weaponry and is in fact quite a prudish East Coast resident who barely, even rarely, gets his hands dirty. He arrives in town to investigate the closure of the mine, where a number of men have been killed in mysterious circumstances underground. Events then unfold, as they do, and he has to take up arms to protect both himself and the people around him.
I was disappointed that there wasn’t more explanation as to why the creatures didn’t reappear for the 100 years or so that pass between this film and the original. All we get are three inventive ways to kill a giant worm using 19th century technology, and that seems to be the only way they could put a 4th film together. That and maybe they didn’t want to step on the toes of the TV series which was in production around the same time. It’s a 19th century rehash of the three previous films, but from a “back to basics” perspective. There’s a nice nod to the heritage of the “modern day” town of Rejection, with the 1889 version home to Chinese immigrants, Native Americans and a host of others who sent their wagons west, all trying to establish/re-establish themselves in the new world. Naturally, tensions rise as a result. It’s not a story without conflict, right? I’m sure scriptwriters misunderstand this all the time. Conflict doesn’t just mean people fighting, guy!
This somewhat major plot point aside, the film entertains and goes some way to explain why Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer is a gun nut in the modern day, and why he must always have a plan for every situation. As part four in a movie series, it has just enough going for it to make it entertaining viewing, and well worth a go if you’ve seen any of the previous entries in the series. For everyone else, obviously watch Tremors first and then see how you feel about the sequels. The first one works fine on its own, just bear in mind that Kevin Bacon doesn’t show up in any of the sequels.
Favourite scene: Hiram Gummer gets a taste for guns and sets his ancestors up for decades of gun-related obsession.
Quote: “I haven’t been on a horse since I… since my 6th birthday party. No, actually, that – that was a camel.”
Silly Moment: The punt gun. It’s the answer to “how do you kill a Graboid/Dirt Dragon in 1889.