It’s been eleven years since the fourth entry in the Tremors series, however where that was a prequel to the previous three films, Bloodlines returns to the modern day and acts as a direct sequel to Tremors 3. Whomever is responsible for all this jumping around the timeline deserves to be eaten by a Graboid.
Michael Gross is the only returning actor, having appeared in all of the films to date as well as the shortlived Tremors TV series. His character, gun nut Burt Gummer, provides a modicum of consistency to a series that is generally content to do something slightly different with each passing film.
In this instance the big change is to take Gummer out of his comfort zone in the deserts of North America and, er… place him into the deserts of South Africa. But there is more to it than that. The Graboids in South Africa are something entirely different, and all Gummer has in his usually well-stocked armoury are a few old guns provided by his South African representative.
Except they’re not all that different. They’re almost little more than a combination of all the various Graboid traits from the previous films, albeit with a list of slightly amended abilities to reflect the fact these Graboids aren’t indigenous to the United States.
The real meat to all of this are revelations about Gummer’s life and that he may or may not have offspring out there in the world. The personal aspect acts as a nice counterpoint to the Graboid action and somehow finds a good balance between action elements and character drama. That Bloodlines subtitle works in more ways than one, you see.
Gross is always an entertaining presence, and he seems to enjoy every moment when playing Gummer. Without him there wouldn’t be much to differentiate Bloodlines from any other straight to DVD production. There might be five films in this series now, but knowing that they are spread out over 25 years softens the blow somewhat. His buddying up with Jamie Kennedy carries much of the film, the pair thrown together by circumstance and Kennedy taking on the mantle of P cameraman on Gummer’s slightly scary gun nut television show.
There is decent direction throughout, and the buildup to the big Graboid reveal is nicely handled. It is, sadly, not that great at building up tension, and in some instances is happy to borrow iconic scenes from the likes of Jurassic Park rather than do something that stands out. The final third seems intent on riffing on popular quotes and sequences from other movies, which is amusing in one sense but detracts from the strength of the characters in another. If they have to quote or paraphrase from other, better films, then it just highlights the fact that perhaps these characters aren’t all that impressive.
With that said, the advances in special effects mean the Graboids and their variants all look very good indeed, all things considered. This might almost be a given, but imagine how bad it could have been if they had only received half the budget. Scary thought.