Imagine traveling back to January of 1990 and telling someone who had just seen Tremors that the Kevin Bacon-led film about monstrous, subterranean worm creatures would spawn a franchise that would last for at least three decades. As great as the beloved creature feature is, it’s still surprising that sequels are being churned out after all these years, especially with such a clear-cut concept ripe for opportunists in a climate of remakes and reboots, and it’s a testament to the lasting strength of the original film, from its tight writing and narrative focus to its charming cast of characters to the practical effects work that brought the Graboids to life, that diehard fans still embrace the franchise as a whole.
Though Tremors was released in theaters, everything that came after it was relegated to the direct-to-video market, starting with Tremors 2: Aftershocks in 1996, which introduced the heat-seeking Shriekers into the mix. Beyond that, 2001’s Tremors 3: Back to Perfection brought the winged Ass-Blasters into the franchise’s mythology before the short-lived Tremors: The Series surfaced in 2003 in an attempt to branch out with all sorts of new creatures.
Following its cancellation, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins turned the clock back to serve as a prequel set one hundred years before the original film, after which the franchise sat on ice for over a decade before returning with Tremors 5: Bloodlines in 2015, which sent franchise face Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) to Africa, and – most recently – the Canada-set Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, which released earlier this year.
To say it’s been quite the ride would be an understatement, as the franchise’s continued evolution, particularly when it comes to building on its own mythology, has seen all sorts of twists and turns, some of which have worked, some of which haven’t. And though Michael Gross has admirably held it all together since becoming the franchise’s primary lead starting with Tremors 3, it’s not really all that controversial to say that the original Tremors is still held up as the gold standard by which all the other sequels are measured. Which has only worked to serve the idea to anyone but diehard fans of the franchise that sequels where the word “Ass-Blaster” is thrown around aren’t even worth considering as good films.
To be fair, the longer the franchise has gone on, the higher the barrier for entry for newcomers has become, as later sequels have essentially worked to appeal purely to longtime fans invested in the adventures of Burt Gummer and the ongoing revelations surrounding Graboid mythology. For me, I’ve been a fan of the films since around the time Tremors 2 was originally released, as I’d watch the first two films back on The Sci-Fi Channel – remember that? – when they’d be sandwiched between episodes of shows like Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Sliders. I remember excitedly watching the first airing of Tremors 3 and tuning in weekly to The Series only to be disappointed at its cancellation. And even at its lowest point, which I personally consider to be Tremors 5, I can still find things to enjoy about this franchise, which has been rolling along for my entire life.
All this is to say that while the Tremors franchise as a whole may not appeal to everyone, particularly when the sequels wildly vary in quality and are often considered disposable in the eyes of anyone who only cares about the original film, I would argue that at least one of them deserves a better reputation: The original sequel, Tremors 2, a film that – in my opinion, of course – actually stands shoulder to shoulder with its predecessor, one of those rare, shining instances where a sequel that never needed to exist turned out to not only be a worthwhile adventure but just as good as the movie whose footsteps it followed in.