Tremors II: Aftershocks Blu-ray Review

Written by Robert Gold

Blu-ray released by Arrow Video

Directed by S.S. Wilson
Written by Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson and Ron Underwood
1996, 99 minutes, Rated PG-13
Released on November 27th, 2023

Starring:
Fred Ward as Earl Bassett
Christopher Gartin as Grady Hoover
Helen Shaver as Kate “White” Reilly
Michael Gross as Burt Gummer
Marcelo Tubert as Señor Carlos Ortega
Marco Hernandez as Julio

Review:

Following their encounter with the subterranean Graboids, Val and Earl became minor celebrities. Val went off and got married (presumably to Rhonda) and Earl stayed behind and unwisely invested his limited money in an ostrich ranch. Neither got rich, but Earl seems closer to hard times than his now absent partner. Earl’s life changes with the arrival of Señor Carlos Ortega and his driver Grady. Ortega’s Mexican oil field is under attack by Graboids and he wants to pay Earl $50,000 for every creature he kills. Earl reluctantly agrees and Grady insists they partner up. In Mexico, they meet beautiful seismologist Kate Reilly and her assistant Julio. The monster hunt starts off strong, but our heroes quickly find themselves outnumbered. Earl calls in his old survivalist buddy Burt Gummer, who is all too eager to get back into battle and comes heavily armed. The guys are in for a surprise, however, as the creatures metamorphose into something even more terrifying.

Tremors (1990) was a love letter to 1950s monster movies and over time proved to be a success for the studio. Talk of a sequel came in 1993, with plans of reuniting the cast and crew for a bigger adventure to be directed by original writer S.S. Wilson and shot in Australia. Kevin Bacon’s schedule didn’t permit him to return and co-star Reba McEntire was on tour. Without Bacon, the studio aimed lower and dropped the proposed budget from $17 million to $4 million and relocated the shoot to California. Actors Fred Ward and Michael Gross remained attached, but writers Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson and Ron Underwood had some work to do.

Tremors II: Aftershocks is an inspired sequel that retains the thrills, humor and humanity of the original while expanding the mythos of the monsters. Graboids 2.0 (aka Shriekers) are a fun variation that are every bit as menacing and even more lethal, but the less spoiled here the better. Maddock, Wilson and Underwood deliver a fresh take on the familiar premise, injecting just the right balance of chills and laughs to satisfy casual viewers and die-hard fans alike. This script set the template for the direction the franchise would take in future installments, introducing legacy characters into new locations with ever-changing monsters. Some applaud the pattern, ranking this as the best sequel, while others say it set the series on a road to ruin.

Fred Ward (The Right Stuff), reprising the role of Earl Bassett and stepping into leading man, handles the challenge effortlessly. His gruff demeanor adds to his cowboy ways while his comic timing is essential to the humanity of the character. Christopher Gartin (Firstborn) steps into the role of dimwitted partner Grady Hoover (aka “the new guy”). Gartin delivers as the comic sidekick and makes the role more than just a stand in for Kevin Bacon’s Val. The most welcome addition is Michael Gross (TV’s Family Ties) returning as Burt Gummer, stealing every scene he is in and coming up with the best dialogue. Rounding out the core cast is Helen Shaver (The Believers, The Craft) as Kate Reilly, a scientist who can handle herself in a fight against monsters while possibly becoming a love interest for Earl.

Jurassic Park (1993) ushered in the rise of CGI and Tremors II opted to use a blend of digital and practical effects. Legendary animator Phil Tippett (Star Wars) designed the digital Shriekers that are capable of more movement than the standard practical puppets supplied by returning effects artists Alec Gillis (Leviathan) and Tom Woodruff Jr. (Pumpkinhead). The mix is generally seamless with an occasional CGI shot that doesn’t stand up, given time and budget restrictions. The puppets look fantastic and the mechanical effects allowing the Graboids to move and pull people underground are always impressive.

Tremors II didn’t receive the traditional test screenings, as there wasn’t money in the budget for reshoots. The studio shelved the finished film for two years before deciding to release it direct to video in 1996. The picture received a limited theatrical run the same day it was released on VHS. The franchise continues to survive with five additional sequels, as of this writing. Michael Gross became the linchpin, appearing in all seven films and the limited television series. Fred Ward never returned to the franchise but enjoyed a healthy career until his death in 2022. Kevin Bacon returned for a proposed Tremors series in 2018, but somehow the pilot was shelved without airing and the series cancelled without explanation. I am firmly in the camp that Tremors II is the best sequel and can easily recommend adding this title to your library.

Video and Audio:

The original camera negative has undergone a 4k restoration, yielding stunning results. Presented in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, picture quality is noticeably improved over the previous Universal Blu-ray with improved clarity and small object detail. Colors pop like never before, and black levels are bottomless.

There are two audio options, the original DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo mix and an expanded DTS-HD MA 4.0 surround mix. Both tracks sound great, with the latter edging ahead by including the rear speakers. Dialogue levels are clean and understandable, and music and sound effects are solid without becoming intrusive.

Optional English subtitles are included for anyone in need.

Special Features:

Director S.S. Wilson and producer Nancy Roberts share their thoughts on the filmmaking process in their audio commentary. Recorded separately and edited together, the discussion is informative and filled with interesting production stories.

Author Jonathan Melville (Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors) fills his audio commentary with deep-cut trivia and behind-the-scenes tales that are definitely worth hearing. We get bio information on the cast and crew, stories from the set and detailed accounting from early script drafts.

Physical effects coordinator Peter Chesney shares his memories of the shoot in Graboids Go Boom (20 minutes). He reveals how many of the gags were accomplished through a series of deeply interesting stories.

In Critical Need-to-Know Information (7 minutes), stop-motion animation legend Phil Tippett explains how CGI was incorporated to elevate and enhance the Shriekers’ performance.

The vintage EPK The Making of Tremors 2 (9 minutes) presents a clip heavy series of interviews with members of the cast and crew.

A collection of rare Outtakes (8 minutes) features behind-the-scenes shots of the special effects, as well as the expected flubbed lines and other goofy moments.

Trailers for Tremors and Tremors II: Aftershocks are included.

A photo gallery (100 images) containing production stills, behind-the-scenes shots, video artwork, creature designs and storyboards is also included.

Grades:

Movie: Cover
Cover
Video:
Audio:
Features:
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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Robert Gold
Staff Reviewer
Robert's favorite genres include horror (foreign and domestic), Asian cinema and pornography (foreign and domestic). His ability to seek out and enjoy shot on video (SOV) horror movies is unmatched. His love of films with a budget under $100,000 is unapologetic.
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