Directed by S.S. Wilson [Other horror films: Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)]
The first Tremors is a fantastic movie that I watched a lot growing up, and the same can be said here. While not quite as good as the first movie, Aftershocks still has a nice blend of humor and horror, and that, combined with Michael Gross, makes for a quality experience.
Kevin Bacon’s absence makes sense, but for what he was, Chris Gartin was a good replacement, and though he didn’t really have the same chemistry with Fred Ward as Bacon did, I think he did admirably. Ward himself was nice to see as a returning face, and he did work well with Helen Shaver (who herself was somewhat weak in comparison to Finn Carter’s character, but she had her moments).
Really, though, it’s Michael Gross who really makes the movie.
Burt has so many great scenes and lines that it’s hard to imagine what this movie would have been like if they couldn’t get him back. Bacon, I think they could afford to lose, but Gross? Forget it. With fantastic dialogue (“I am completely out of ammo,” “You know, as I lie here, I can’t help but notice…,” “I was denied critical, need-to-know, information,” and of course, “It’s gonna be BIG!”) and just an overall fun character, Gross is fantastic here, and really adds a lot to the movie.
Otherwise, while the movie does feel noticeably cheaper than the first film (losing two of the biggest cast names, Bacon and Reba McEntire, and being made as a straight-to-video film can do that), it still possesses a decent amount of fun moments, along with a clever way to invigorate the story.
Having the Graboids produce Shriekers was a clever idea, as it keeps things fresh and allows them to play with new ideas. I’m sure that, had the Graboids remained Graboids, they probably could have made a perfectly fine movie, but instead, like the underground monstrosities, they evolved, and I really appreciate that about this series (the third movie also has a quality evolution).
Special effects are pretty decent here. There’s not much in the way of gore, of course, but there are plenty of Shriekers getting shot or blown up (or in cases of running into Burt, both), and when others run into the carcass of a dead Graboid, it was disgustingly well done.
It’s also pretty well-paced. The film runs an hour and forty minutes, but it never feels like it’s dragging, and there’s a pretty good mixture between the suspenseful sequences and the humor. The finale was pretty fun (from Burt’s powerful gun ruining their escape plans to using a fire extinguisher to hide from the heat-seeking Shriekers), and that final explosion (as Burt said, “it’s gonna be BIG!”) was on point.
Tremors II: Aftershocks may be a step down from the first movie, but people should feel no shame in enjoying this. It’s a pretty well-made movie for the restrictive budget they had to go on, and I really think it holds up well, and given how many times I saw this as a kid, I can truthfully say that this provided a fun time back then, and still does today.