Tremors 5: Bloodlines – talk about beating a dead Graboid well beyond its final death rattle. Tremors 4: The Legend Begins looked to spell an end to Burt Gummer’s monster hunting days back in 2004, but after ten plus years, the masses demanded more wormy horrors, and director Don Michael Paul heard their outcries. We’ve seen the underground killers morph into Shriekers, and then take flight as Ass-Blasters, so what surprises could possibly be in store? Maybe gills to allow underwater travel? Bulletproof skin? Graboids with freakin’ lazer beams on their heads? Nah – they just get bigger and meaner, because everything’s more vicious in the bush.
Michael Gross returns as legendary survivalist Burt Gummer, who now has his own Bear Grylls-like reality show (along with his own brand of marinades). With the Graboid infestation thought to be contained, Gummer is focusing on building his brand, but it’s not long before a South African gamesman brings word of Ass-Blaster sightings in the Cradle Of Humankind. Gummer jumps at the chance to hunt some Graboids, bringing along his new videographer, Travis Welker (Jamie Kennedy), and plenty of firepower. There’s only one man who can save South Africa from its new threat, but is Gummer ready for yet another evolution in the Graboid bloodline?
It’s a sad day when the addition of Jamie Kennedy can’t save a beloved franchise (he says sarcastically), but Tremors 5: Bloodlines is as ill-advised as they come. Every plotted tactic is cheap and unnecessary, the Graboids don’t evolve past being “bigger” beasts whose tentacles can detach, and animation overtakes practical effects in the film’s most unfortunate handcuff. What gives Tremors that oh-so-perfect 90s feel – besides cowpoke Kevin Bacon – are gigantic Graboid puppets who devour actors in one ferocious gulp. But the times have changed, and animators are now tasked with bringing Graboids to life, albeit with a natural pixelation that exemplifies better production values than some direct-to-DVD four-quels I’ve sat through. They might be computer generated, but at least they look…passable?
The problem with Tremors 5: Bloodlines is that it brings absolutely nothing noteworthy to the table. Kennedy’s bad-boy motocross skills and Pearl Thusi’s bow-and-arrow heroism aren’t enough to save a mostly mundane creature feature that sees the most exciting moments happen off-screen. It’s an easy trick when working with a minimal budget – whenever someone is about to die, just flail the camera around and splash some blood (or throw a severed arm) back into focus to indicate something gruesome. A better movie will hold steady on such a vicious act, but director Don Michael Paul simply doesn’t have the ability to pull off such scenework. Instead, we get a slew of cop-outs, and in the few moments of practicality we do get, Paul’s writing team lazily pays “homage” (aka rips off) to classic movies like Jurassic Park (kitchen scene with a Graboid).
Bringing Michael Gross back marks a nice touch for nostalgic fans, but his latest travels are just more of the same. It’s everything Tremors fans have seen before, except for a survival-obsessed Gross being covered in both human and animal urine, on separate occasions. At its most climactic, hostile situations are solved by simply pushing a button, without the explosive geyser of orange worm blood that used to accompany a Graboid’s death. There’s little adventure this time around, despite the discovery of a cave nest and Gummer’s obsession with heavy firepower. It’s Gummy enough for true fans to chew on (heh), but Tremors 5: Bloodlines does nothing to further the glory that once was, even with the tease of future team-ups between Gummer and his new monster-hunting partner, played by Kennedy.
They’ve tried sequels, they’ve tried prequels, and in today’s culture, it was only a matter of time before Tremors got a reboot – but Tremors 5: Bloodlines just doesn’t make the grade. The franchise has always been on the goofier side, yet without stinging action sequences, we realize how flat the campy comedy can actually be (see: Burt Gummer suffering heat insanity). There’s little innovation as far as filmmaking goes, but I suppose die-hard Graboid fans will be happy to give their beloved creatures one last hunt. Unfortunately, it’s a redundant, unexcitable last-hoorah, which will probably spell an end to Tremors for quite some time.
Tremors 5: Bloodlines is the beyond-generic reboot that may just bury this franchise once and for all.