Often consisted the weakest entry in the first four Tremors movies, maybe settling on “Back To Perfection” as a subtitle was hoping for too much. Oh sure, I realise that it’s referencing that the franchise has returned to the dusty little town that started it all after a quick little jaunt to Mexico, but for a direct to DVD production, perfection may be hoping for a little much.
Upon my original viewing, I initially dismissed the third installment as nothing more than your usual, frustrating attempt of a movie studio to wring as much dough as it can out of a cash-cow (or should that be cash-worm) by tightening up the budget to an unrealistic degree. While the second installment, Aftershocks, managed to just about balance its rapidly shrinking production values with an adorable can-do spirit, Back To Perfection just seemed like the filmmakers, like the voracious Graboids, had bitten off more that they could chew. What a difference twenty one years makes.
After heading over to Argentina to help out the government clear up a Graboid/Shrieker problem before it gets out of hand, survivalist slash Graboid hunter Burt Gummer returns to his home town for some well deserved rest. However, upon arriving he finds that all the lovable inhabitants of Perfection, Nevada have let all their Graboid tracking equipment fall into disrepair as it’s been over ten years since the last carnivorous invertebrate had been spotted breaking the surface.
The town has been playing off its Graboid history thanks to store owner Jodi Chang (niece of the late Walter) and her ambitious business plans and despite desperately trying to settle down, Burt is continuously bugged by newcomer Jack, who has set up Graboid safaris that freaks out tourists by staging mock attacks – however, most disconcerting of all is the return of Melvin Plugg, punk kid turned wannabe mogul who wants to turn the sandy shithole of Perfection into condos.
All of this gets put on hold when Graboids suddenly return to the area and start doing what they do best – eating their way through the cast list in order of least importance upwards – but before Burt can do what he does best, government agents descend to put a halt to any worm beating they can find. It seems the Graboids, thanks mostly to Burt, is now an endangered species and that if the danger persists, the townsfolk will be removed to new lodgings.
While Burt and co. try to process this turn of events, the Graboids have yet another trick up their metaphorical sleeves as it turns out there’s yet another link in their life cycle that comes after the Shriekers. Can the citizens of Perfection ready to face the flying incarnation of the Graboid species dubbed…. the Ass-Blaster?
Watching Tremors 3 now with a far more forgiving mind, it’s painfully obvious that the filmmakers are straining against cash flow problem that ruthlessly exposes a lot of it’s shortcomings and can divert the attention away from any plus points that are buried as deep as Graboid poop. A lot of the ambitious action is tackled either off-screen entirely (Shrieker attack on government officials) or cheated in a way that sometimes verges on pantomime (behold numerous scenes where people yell about what’s actually happening to simplify any complex set pieces). Worse yet, when we do get to witness some Graboid action, some extraordinarily ropey CGI often diminishes and tension by being as realistic as a freaking cartoon. The flying Ass-Blasters are bad (more on them later), but the computer generated Graboids are simply shocking in all their unconvincing glory as the film scrambles to cut costs.
However, to slouch back in a sofa nowadays and complain about bad CGI in a low budget movie made back in 2001 is about as pointless as complaining about how bad your favorite sports team performed if you yourself can’t do a single push up. To look past Tremors 3’s imperfections is to reveal a scrappy little comedy horror that has a genuine desire to please and even has the odd winning moment to boast about.
The best thing turns out to be Michael Gross’ accention to leading man after outlasting both Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward and the franchise finally finds its natural poster boy in his pernickety survivalist Burt Gummer. Channeling a similar goofy energy to Bruce Campbell’s Ash that essentially makes a hero out of a weirdo who has no business being one, Gummer is the perfect character to channel Tremors’ endearing sense of world weary sarcasm as the movie continues to dump all over him. “What kind of Supreme Being would condone such irony.” he moans at one point while simultaneously describing himselfas a Masterpiece of self destruction without a single shred of irony himself.
The rest of the cast (mostly welcome returnees from the first film) do their job sweetly, but another high point is the movie has at the expense of the franchise itself – Chang’s Store is loaded with Graboid paraphernalia including action figures and even a Dark Horse comic entitled Graboids Vs Shriekers.
Despite the drop in quality when the movie features its other, more monstrous stars (aside from the wonky CGI, the Graboid tongues are obviously rubbery hand puppets), Tremors 3 also features a couple of noticable sequences such as the opening scene where a smug Gummer uses an anti-aircraft gun to eradicate a swarm of Shriekers or a moment where Burt, cowering inside an oil drum, is actually swallowed whole by a Graboid and has to be briskly liberated by chainsaw.
As for the newest addition to the Graboid family tree, the Ass-Blasters may make thematic sense (they can fly to migrate their Graboid eggs to other places) but their jet-propelled butt based powers seem a little out of place, even inna film stuffed with giant, killer worms.
Possibly the best way to view Tremors 3: Back To Perfection, however, is as a feature length pilot to the 2003 Tremors TV series which feature not only the return of Gross (he must love playing Burt) but also that of sterile, albino Graboid El Blanco who became the little seen show’s unofficial mascot.
Far better than most would have you believe, Tremors 3 still struggles when trying to realise it’s bigger concepts, but it still manages to charm where it counts.
In it’s own modest and meager way, Back To Perfection ends up being an Ass-Blast.