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Welcome to another installment of 31 Days of Halloween! This is our chance to set the mood for the spookiest and scariest month of the year as we focus our attention on horror and Halloween fun. For the month of October we’ll be sharing various pieces of underappreciated scary books, comics, movies, and television to help keep you terrified and entertained all the way up to Halloween.
Right up top, I must confess that I missed the last two Tremors sequels when they were released. While I enjoyed the first few entries of the franchise (and even got a kick out of the short-lived TV series), the newer ones just didn’t grab me (no pun intended). However, something about the goofy creature feature vibe from Tremors: Shrieker Island‘s trailer really got my attention, so I decided to give this one a look.
I’m happy to report that I was genuinely surprised by Tremors: Shrieker Island.
That’s not to say that Tremors: Shrieker Island is perfect; far from it. There are some oddities here and there that seem to spring from budgetary limitations. The geography of this group of islands is baffling. Sometimes it seems like they’re hours away from one another by boat, and some scenes depict characters making the trip over for a quick chat. Likewise, the origins of these new Shriekers aren’t entirely clear. There are several throwaway lines regarding genetic engineering, but the how behind all of this is left almost infuriatingly vague at times.
Still, we’re not really here for a biology lesson; we’re here to see Burt Gummer and friends take on some Shriekers and… the titular monsters are pretty scarce for a while. It’s obvious that the bulk of the effects budget went towards a battle in a clearing at about the halfway mark, as well as the fiery finale. What remains are a bunch of quickly-cut chase sequences that don’t do much in the way of building tension.
Tremors: Shrieker Island is at its best when it focuses on balls to the wall action, even if the CGI can occasionally be a little dodgy. There are a lot of day-for-night shots and more than a few times when an explosion or some other death happens off-screen, seemingly a casualty of the budget.
While the first two-thirds of the film feel like more of the same in terms of what fans expect from a goofy Tremors sequel, the last act of the movie is something else entirely. I won’t spoil the direction this thing goes in, but it surprised me to learn how much of this movie is about the legacy of its lead character. The final action sequence in the cave is a lot of fun, showcasing both Gross and Heder’s comedic chops while still allowing both of them to be suitably badass.
Tremors: Shrieker Island is full of cheeky nods to earlier entries in the franchise, with a highlight being a PSA on the history of the Graboids and their life cycle.
The acting is a bit of a mixed bag, mostly from a few of the characters who are clearly there to be Graboid fodder (speaking of which, there are a TON of extras toward the beginning of Tremors: Shrieker Island who seemingly leave the island offscreen). However, the leads do an admirable job of grounding the silliness of the story.
Richard Brake is clearly having a blast as the madman in charge of a hunting expedition to kill these new Graboids. He plays the character completely deadpan through the early scenes, which makes his mounting madness feel a little less sudden than it probably does in the script. Caroline Langrishe has to deal with the majority of Tremors: Shrieker Island exposition, but her warmth and stoic attitude manage to break through and show us the kind of life Burt might have had if he had just put down his weapons long ago. Jon Heder is saddled with some pretty awkward dialogue, but he makes the most out of coming across as a capable survivalist and an “everyman” sort of foil to Burt Gummer, who is literally referred to as a “superhero” in this movie.
And honestly? He totally is. As always, Michael Gross absolutely steals the show as good ol’ reliable Burt. He perfectly rides the line between camp and sincerity, and his performance is easily the brightest spot in this movie. At 73 years young, Gross plays Burt as tired, crotchety, and still able to spit a one-liner and dual-wield machetes like no one else.
Ultimately, Tremors: Shrieker Island is hit-or-miss for much of its runtime, but it’s worth a watch for just how game the cast is to play with the material. There are a few genuinely fun action sequences (although the movie does run a touch too long at 102 minutes), and the final act is a must-see for longtime fans of the series.
Do we need more gothic horror movies?
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