Blu-ray Review: Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell

It says something about the strength of having a dedicated fanbase when the 1990 cult-classic Tremors is still pumping out sequels 28 years later. Yes, that’s almost three decades of Graboid love that currently doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Now I personally love the original movie, as it has a great cast with Kevin Bacon leading the way; however, while I’d seen Tremors 2 decades ago, I admittedly haven’t kept up with the franchise. So when I found out I’d be reviewing Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (aka Tremors 6) I took it upon myself to have a Tremors marathon, watching the first five films before the sixth – you know, just to make sure I didn’t miss any vital storyline information.

Having done that, I can safely say that none of the films that followed the original shared its charm or suspense, with the sequel that came out in 1996 almost being a parody of itself. Granted, the original was never meant to be taken completely seriously, but the sequel just throws the rulebook and tension out the window and is just plain silly for the first hour, until the Shriekers show up, which are heat-seeking land creatures that spawn from the Graboids. The only plus of the sequel (while I love Fred Ward’s character, he too is almost a parody of his previous self) is the return of Burt Gummer (Michael Gross,) who becomes the glue of the franchise moving forward.

Now, the sequels that follow are fine…they’re for fans of the franchise and not really anything special. The third film introduces Assblasters, which are what the Shriekers turn into, and the Assblasters shoot fire from their rear to launch themselves into the air, and eventually they lay eggs that hatch into Graboids and the circle continues. The fourth film is a prequel of sorts, and then there’s a massive hiatus (with a TV show that ran briefly which followed the events post-Tremors 3) between films from 2004’s Termors 4 to 2015 when Tremors 5: Bloodlines came out to breathe new life into the series.

That film starts the franchise on a new path with Burt Gummer finding out he has a son, Travis Welker (Jamie Kennedy), and the two bond while fighting a new, more aggressive breed of Graboid and Assblasters in South Africa. That leads us to Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, which again tries to freshen things up by placing Graboids in a new environment: the Northern territory of Nunavut in Canada.

Yep, Graboids in the snow! Well, at least for the opening sequence, and then they pretty much blame global warming as to why there’s no snow around the area the movie is filmed in – which is because they filmed the movie in South Africa. Now, it’s sort of forgivable, as I’m sure they had reasons for filming in South Africa once again…but at the same time, I feel like they missed an opportunity to really try something cool (no pun intended) in a new climate and setting. Adding the bitter cold alongside giant worms that tear through the ice…well, that’d just be awesome!

Instead, the opening sequence is clearly shot in a desert-like area, with the saturation blown out quite a bit, and blue hues added to make it look like it’s colder and that the sand is snow. Again, I mean, these movies are what they are, and if the budget was just easier to work with going this route, well, it passes off well enough with the excuse of global warming…but it just feels like it could’ve been so much different.

Returning once again is Gross and Kennedy, as they’re the only two qualified to hunt these beasts. This time there’s an added element in Burt’s story as he’s been infected by a Graboid (which is a throwback to when he’s trapped inside the stomach of a Graboid in Tremors 3…and you thought watching all five Tremors before this one wouldn’t pay off!) so he’s suffering from random, paralyzing attacks that leave him defenseless. This sort of allows Kennedy’s character to take on more of a leadership role, as Gross has been playing this character for 28 years, so it only makes sense to slowly transition fans to a new hero to follow once Burt finally passes the Graboid torch.

Also of note is the new character Valerie McKee (Jamie-Lee Money), who is the daughter of Valentine and Rhonda from the first film. It’s not a spoiler, as she basically tells Burt as soon as he arrives in Canada who she is, and it’s nice to have that extra connection to the original; however, I wish she’d done a bit more as I feel she’s underutilized as a character. This is likely due to the more prominent female role of Dr. Rita Sims (Tanya van Graam), who plays Welker’s will they-won’t they love interest of sorts. I think both could’ve been given a bit more to work with, but in the end this movie was more about putting Kennedy front and center above all else.

Don Michael Paul once again returns to the director’s chair for this installment, after reigniting the series with Bloodlines, and while he says he was going for the cheesiest, and goriest Tremors movie yet with this one, I feel like he held back a bit too much. There are a dozen or so characters and waaaay too many of them survive. I get that they’re nice people and all (well, they’re all fairly one-dimensional, but that one dimension is chockful of niceness) but I’d say another two or three at least needed to become worm-food this time out. There are just too many survivors when they really could’ve had some more fun with the lay of the land and such.

I also found there were far too many close-ups and sporadic edits, constantly cutting back and forth, sometimes from a close up to an extreme close up, back to a close up…it was just jarring at times and took me out of the moment. One thing I love about the two newer films is the updated Graboids and Assblasters…they look truly badass. The Graboids were restricted in their movements in the earlier films because of puppet or CGI limitations, but now they’re leaping 50 feet in the air and landing on their victims to swallow them up. It looks fantastic and I wanted to see more of it.

There’s a scene where a scientist is doing work in a hot springs, and the special features highlight it as the first ever water Graboid attack…and yet you never see the Graboid! It’s just water moving. It would’ve been awesome to see this beast bust out from beneath her, flying into the air and crashing back down into the water. Sure the pool wasn’t deep, but he’d just drill on down…or at least have the Graboid’s tentacles reach out, covered in water and wrap around her, pulling her into the jaws below the waters. Again, a small knock, but I really just love how the beasts look and simply wanted to see more of them, which is a big compliment.

As a whole, the movie is fun enough to recommend to fans. It’s never boring, or overly silly, but it’s clear the cast is having fun with the wacky Graboid tale being told, and that’s pretty much what’s expected from this franchise. While nothing will match the original, I do like the new direction the series is going in – and hey, Kevin Bacon recently filmed a Tremors pilot for a reboot of a TV show that the network decided to pass on, so hey, with his character having a daughter that’s now around in the Graboid-verse, maybe he’ll come back in a future sequel as well!

The movie looks great, as even the over-saturated opening sequence to make the desert look like the arctic is at least crisp and clear. As a whole, there are no real complaints when it comes to the video side of things, nor the audio mixes side of things, as the dialogue, score and sound effects all mesh together harmoniously.

Special Features:

The Making of Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell – This feature runs at just over 14-minutes if you click “Play All” and covers the setting, the director, the cast, the creatures and the franchise itself over its six individual parts. It’s fast and fun to hear the cast and crew talk about putting the film together, so fan’s will want to take a look at it.

Anatomy of a Scene – This is a four-minute featurette that focuses on the making of the water scene I mentioned in my review. It’s fun to watch how they put it all together, and make it work, but I stand by wanting to actually see a Graboid hunting in that water!

Inside Chang’s Market – At just under three minutes this is a brief look at how the crew made a replica of Chang’s Market from the first film, but this time in South Africa. They also show various Easter eggs that fans wouldn’t be able to really see while watching the film, which are nice bonuses and add to the set dressing, even if most things would be missed by the naked eye.

Universal Pictures Presents Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell. Directed by: Don Michael Paul. Written by: John Whelpley. Starring: Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy, Tanya van Graan, Jamie-Lee Money. Running time: 99 Minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on Blu-ray: May 1, 2018.

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