If you would have told me 25 years ago that Family Ties star Michael Gross would become the heart and soul of one the best modern monster movie franchises, I don’t think I would have believed it. But here we are, in 2015, and Gross’ beloved character from the original Tremors (and a few sequels as well) is back and this time he’s battling Graboids and Assblasters in South Africa for Tremors 5: Bloodlines.
The sequel picks up with Burt Gummer (Gross) as the star of a survivalist show who has become well-known as a monster hunter but hasn’t really cashed in on all his accomplishments. Burt takes on a new cameraman by the name of Travis Welker (Jamie Kennedy) right around the same time he’s contacted by a representative from the Wildlife Authority of South Africa who seeks out Gummer’s help after a Graboid attack leaves a villager dead. The duo head to an area known as the “Cradle of Humankind” where they discover that the locals have much bigger problems on their hands as the subterranean monsters—or their kindred beasties known as the Assblasters—are a bit more to handle than the North American Graboids, forcing both Burt and Travis to get creative in order to fend off these monstrous creatures.
I’ll completely cop to the fact that when it comes to the Tremors franchise, I am a bit biased because I freaking love this series. I’ll just admit that now. Some folks see these films as nothing more than silly entertainment, but I have always enjoyed the series that in reality, was responsible for kicking off Universal’s return to its monster movie mentality in the 1990s after Tremors became a surprise box office success and continued to find new fans once it was released on VHS. All I needed to hear as a kid was that it involved giant monsters and Kevin Bacon and ever since, I’ve been onboard with all subsequent Tremors movies even if the original’s star moved on to other projects.
Very rarely in modern genre films do you see a story that’s clever, fun, and endearing that can also pack a few thrills in there as well but for me, that’s why the Tremors series has always stood out—these films are like love letters to the B-movies of the 1950s and ’60s and very rarely do you ever see a franchise like it that pays so much attention to continuity and details throughout the entire series while still keeping its heart intact as well. The Tremors films have also made Gross into an action hero of sorts, which is pretty badass when you think about it. This latest, Bloodlines, puts Burt Gummer and all his tricks of the trade front and center once again.
As a whole, Tremors 5: Bloodlines is definitely a worthy sequel and gives the long dormant series a much-needed jolt, especially with the addition of Kennedy into the mix here. His style of comedy has always been a bit off-kilter and plays nicely against Gross’ more straightforward delivery, allowing both actors to really have some fun with the material. Setting Tremors 5 in South Africa also makes the sequel feel much larger than a few of its immediate predecessors and the natural landscapes and wildlife add a ton of production value as well (there’s a scene featuring Gross and a lion that’s comedy gold).
Most of the monsters in Bloodlines are CGI, which is kind of a shame considering the practical effects from the original Tremors add so much charm and made it such a standout of its era. We do live in different times though, where creating and manipulating creatures via computer is the more cost-effective and time-efficient way to do things, and even though I’m a huge supporter of practical effects through and through, the monsters in Tremors 5 look pretty great despite the fact that they’re computer-based monstrosities. There’s also some clunky dialogue in Tremors 5, delivered by some of the supporting players, but for the most part, the more gentle moments in the film feel fully in line with the tone established in earlier Tremors films and it’s hard not to cheer for Gummer as he once again must battle against his now longstanding foes, the Graboids.
It can be a hard line to walk when making a sequel like Tremors 5, where you not only have to make a film that meets the expectations of fans but also is accessible enough for new audiences, and for the most part Bloodlines gets the job done. The story feels big and adds some new twists to the Graboid mythology, allows Gross another opportunity to shine and opens things up for new adventures in this world, which is something I’m totally game for after this installment.
Movie Score: 3.5/5