It’s been eleven years since the last Tremors DVD sequel hit the shelves, and one can only assume that the franchise has been exceedingly profitable for Universal Home Video. That’s the only logical explanation as to why we’re getting Tremors 5: Bloodlines at this late a date. Either we’re due for three more DVD sequels, or Universal had to produce a new sequel to retain the franchise rights (which is how remakes happen). Regardless of the reasons, we now have to accept Tremors 5 into the fold. And despite a laundry list of shortcomings and a bunch of questionable decisions, it’s not all that awful. Or perhaps it’s that it could have been a whole lot worse. Probably the second one.
Yes, Tremors fans, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) is back! After the original movie, two sequels, a prequel, and a full season of Tremors on TV, the gun-totin’ he-man is back and on the hunt for all-new graboid guts. But instead of continuing to scour the American deserts for the man-eating monsters, Burt and his new sidekick Travis (Jamie Kennedy) have been invited to track down graboids in… South Africa? Apparently so. From there it’s a pretty basic but sometimes colorful battle between Burt and various permutations of the old-school graboids. (I liked the snaky ones!) Meanwhile, over in a tiny African village, a mild subplot breaks out between a local doctor and a man who loves her. They also spend time running away from various graboid parts.
The fun stuff is sometimes undone by sloppy storytelling (the first monsters don’t appear until the 35-minute mark), misshapen comedy bits (Gross spends an overlong, painful-to-watch sequence trapped inside of a cage; the term “ass-blaster” is mined for laughs about five times too many), and grating sidekicks (Kennedy’s character is an abrasive, slang-screaming Poochy type who wears a leather jacket on the African plains) — but, to be fair, there is also some fun stuff to be found. If you can accept that the monsters are now, more or less, completely digital creations that is. A few of the supporting characters, such as the lovely doctor and a goofy pilot, add a nice bit of energy in between the action bits, and Michael Gross is as amusing as ever in the role he was born to play: Burt Gummer: Graboid Killer.
Anything called Tremors 5: Bloodlines can, of course, be taken as mindless, disposable genre fare, and while this latest chapter lacks the earnest charms of the first few low-budget follow-ups, and it takes a bit too long to warm up, it’s not half bad. The location switch may have been inspired by budgetary concerns, but it does manage to bring a welcome dash of new scenery to the series, and veteran b-moviemaker Don Michael Paul (Lake Placid 4, Sniper 5, etc.) does manage to keep things moving forward at a fairly brisk clip once the monsters (finally) make their presence known.
Tremors 5: Bloodlines is little more than a mixed bag of missteps and mild successes, but it does feature some fun work from Mr. Gross and a handful of legitimately nifty monster brawls before all is said and done. Where this new one ranks among Tremors (1990), Aftershocks (2002), Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors: The TV Series (2003), and/or The Legend Begins (2004) is up to the individual Tremors junkie. Personally I was hoping for something a bit more creative than “a wacky new sidekick and a trip to South Africa,” but hey, there’s always the next sequel.