Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001)

Author: J.T. Jeans
Submitted by: J.T. Jeans   Date : 2008-03-09 12:25

Written by: Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson
Directed by: Brent Maddock
Produced by: S.S. Wilson & Nacy Roberts

Reviewed by: J.T. Jeans

This review contains MODERATE SPOILERS for the film Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.

So by now you probably realize that I'm the resident OTH Tremors fan. The original film is practically my favorite movie ever, and I consider the second to be a mostly worthy follow-up. Given my love for this franchise on the whole, it's very hard for me to admit that Tremors 3: Back to Perfection is a bit of a blemish on the face of an otherwise attractive franchise.

The film was released direct to DVD in 2001, which was a pretty crazy time for a lot of people. The country was in turmoil in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, and the possibility of war between the United States and the Middle East lingered heavily on the horizon.

I mentioned in my review of Tremors that I've always considered the film to be something of a comfort blanket -- I often watch it when I need a temporary escape from every day stress -- so the release of Tremors 3 was a fortuitous surprise. It gave me something to help take my mind off just how wrong things seemed to be going in the world around me. So it's probably no surprise that, at the time, I was completely enamored by the film.

Unfortunately, time hasn't been very kind to it.

The story begins with everyone's favorite paramilitary paranoid, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross), engaging a small army of Shriekers in Argentina with a .50 caliber anti-aircraft gun. After a job well done, he returns to Perfection, Nevada, where we're introduced to new faces as well as reacquainted with old ones.

It's not long after Burt returns to town that all hell breaks loose, and it quickly becomes apparent that subterranean monsters with a penchant for human flesh have once again targeted Perfection Valley.

Tremors 3: Back to Perfection is the second sequel in a franchise that revolves around gigantic earth burrowing, man-eating super worms. With a simple premise like that, it's hard to imagine the franchise putting a foot wrong, especially since the film was written by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, the same dynamic duo who were responsible for the previous films.

For a while it was hard for me to pin down exactly what it is that makes Tremors 3 so much weaker than the other films in the franchise. After watching it a couple of times in a row and giving it a good think, I came to the conclusion that there are a series of small things that add up to become one big hindrance. I'm going to break these things down one at a time:

The Cast -- Michael Gross is not the only familiar face in this film, although he's probably the most well known. Among the returning cast members are Ariana Richards, Robert Jayne, Charlotte Stewart and Tony Genaro. New additions include Susan Chuang and Shawn Christian.

I'm not entirely sure what happened here, but aside from Gross, it doesn't feel like most of the actors are giving it 100%. There are some pretty mediocre performances here, and in one case a central character's death is undermined by the unconvincing reactions of the characters closest to him.

The Special Effects -- There are very few creature effects in this film that aren't digitally generated. Now usually I'm willing to let some slightly dodgy CGI slide on the grounds that I'm not a CGI-phobe. However, given how well the CGI works in Tremors 2, which was released five years prior to Tremors 3, it's jarring that the CGI is worse now. It's also irritating that the great white Graboid -- called El Blanco -- was rendered entirely with CGI.

The Music -- The film's score was written by Kevin Kiner, who is responsible for the music in Star Trek: Enterprise, as well as the scores for Leprechaun and Carnosaur 3. The film's score is probably one of its weakest aspects. The electronic and techno motifs stand in stark contrast to the kind of music that was composed by Ernest Troost, Robert Folk and Jay Ferguson for the previous films, and there's very little that is memorable. Apart from feeling out of place, it's a very uninspired bit of composition over all.

The Concept -- I'm not entirely sure why Maddock and Wilson decided to return the series to Perfection, but I think it was a bad idea. It's not a stretch to think that dormant Graboid eggs have started hatching at various locations around the world, but to have two Graboid outbreaks affect the same location twice in ten years feels off somehow. I would have preferred if the film had revolved around Burt hunting Graboids elsewhere in the world. The humor in the script is okay, but I donít think it works as well as the humor in the first and second film.

In terms of carnage, thereís practically none. There are a couple of good gags concerning the creatures -- particularly one that involves Michael Gross getting slurped by a Graboid -- but the gore is so tame that this is the only film in the series to get a PG rating.

As with the previous films, there's no nudity to be found, so if you like a little tantalization in your horror, you won't be getting it here (really, with giant man eating worms on the loose, who has time to get their kit off?)

In the end, I think Tremors 3: Back to Perfection is a film suffering from a lot of little problems that add up fast. Michael Gross is as good here as he was in the previous films, but the new supporting characters arenít as interesting as the characters in the previous films, and the returning characters have lost a lot of luster. The tonal emphasis has been moved away from horror and more towards action adventure, and the digital effects are actually less effective here than in Tremors 2.

Unless you're planning on picking up the Attack Pack Collection, or you're just a die-hard fan who must have all of the films in individual packaging -- Rent It!

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