After the surprise revival of the Tremors franchise back in 2015, the series seemed to be in the best shape it had been in in years. Boasting above average production values for your usual direct to video comedy/horror sequel and upping the gore content while maintaining the same, tongue in cheek sass the franchise was famous for, Tremors 5: Bloodline was a revival that no one ever saw coming. Another alteration to the series was the shift from Arizona to Africa which allowed a soft reboot of the classic Graboid design in order to introduce more formidable variants that may have lost the cool, throwback, practical effects, but they gained in having numerous awesome shots of Ass-Blasters stalking their prey during a lightning storm or Graboids exploding from the ground like a scud missile with a digestive system. It was no real shock then when the series resurfaced in 2018 with a trip to Canada – but could these souped up subterranean son’s of bitches still manage to keep the momentum of their African adventure?
We rejoin paranoid survivalist Burt Gummer as he unsuccessfully cowers from the IRS as the sole inhabitant of the dried up town of Perfection but not long after his constantly horny, wayward son Travis returns home after ditching filming their streaming content, Burt gets a double dose of Graboid fun. Firstly, he hears of news of a Graboid attack in the unlikely location of Canada’s glacial Nunavut Territory, which tweaks the old spider-sense as those giant-ass worms are thought to be strictly a desert only predator, however the second has to do with the frequent and painful episodes he’s been having that he’s been keeping to himself.
Upon entering the Great White North, Gummer and Travis’ plane is immediately attacked by a cruising Ass-Blaster that causes them to effect an emergency landing en route to the facility with the worm problem and after arriving they meet the staff whose number contains none other than Valerie McKee, the Graboid chasing daughter of Val and Rhonda from the first movie.
Gummer learns that an arctic heat wave and melting glaciers are most likely the reason that unassuming Canadians are getting swallowed by ice dwelling sand worms and that this particular variant may actually predate any other species of Graboid we’ve seen before a pre pre-cambrian lifeform if you will.
As if fending off Graboids, Ass-Blasters, and a shifty government program hoping to use the creatures as bio-weapon isn’t enough, it turns out Burt’s episodes are being caused by a parasite Gummer picked up years ago after surviving being swallowed alive way back in Tremors 3. The only way Burt can be saved is if antibodies are harvested from a live adult worm, but as the numbers of researchers rapidly drops due to the voracious appetites of those damn invertebrates, Gummer’s chances aren’t looking too good.
While those Tremors 5 production values are very much still in effect, no amount of Graboids head butting cars or even trailers clean off the ground or bursting from the dirt in magnificent slow motion while twirling through the air like a man-eating Free Willy can mask the fact that the Tremors franchise may be finally running out of steam. It’s not for the want of trying though as returning veteran director of many direct to DVD epics, Don Michael Paul, strains to come up with new and innovative ways for giant killer worms to orally ensnare their prey – bonus points for the screaming morsel who also happens to be on fire thus proving that Graboids can add flambé to their diet – but it’s all getting way too familiar.
As if to counteract this, the script deploys a pincer movement of franchise in-jokes and slightly weirder-than-usual jokes to spotty effect with gags concerning a pants-snared character refusing to remove her clothing to save her life due to her going commando or a dude drawing Graboids away with the strength of his energy drink fueled urine stream. On the other hand, the references to past movies work noticably better than out of place piss jokes, with running gags about Burt’s new taste in baseball caps (“You changed teams?” “Just hats!”) and a massive callback to Tremors 3 keeping a comforting sense of continuity, but arguably the most intriguing proves to be the inclusion of Valerie, daughter of the characters played by Kevin Bacon and Finn Carter. Unfortunately, despite the fact that she’s a crack shot, wears Graboid skin boots, out Graboid-geeks Burt himself and drops tantalising teases about Val McKee’s parenting style (not great, apparently), she’s also woefully underutilised, blending into the rest of the rest of the new cast members who prove to be as memorable as a single block in a Lego factory.
Once again, Michael Gross is still a joy as the paranoid, walking armory that is Burt Gummer, but the movie makes a fatal mistake rendering him bed bound for the final third of the film and even though Jamie Kennedy’s illegitimate son Travis is decidedly less irritating this time round, he’s simply not fit to wear Gross’ cap.
Still, even though the climax is frustratingly Gummer-less, it also almost manages to salvage the movie as Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell makes a welcome gear shift to something that feels far more like classic Tremors fare. Watching Kennedy have to go spelunking down the very slimy throat of a captured worm is a nicely silly way to end a movie that seems obsessed with showing endless slow motion shots of dirt spraying everywhere. Also, for a movie subtitled A Cold Day In Hell, it’s not actually that cold (thanks to a budget saving arctic heatwave) and it’s a shame that the frozen surroundings teased by the poster are only featured in the pre-credits sequence that feature the most powdery snow I’ve ever seen.
This sixth installment of the franchise may not have the heat of previous installments, but these worrisome worms still prove they have no chill…