05th Nov2020

‘Tremors: Shrieker Island’ Blu-ray Review

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Jackie Cruz, Jon Heder, Michael Gross, Richard Brake, Caroline Langrishe | Written by Brian Brightly, Don Michael Paul | Directed by Don Michael Paul

Tremors: Shrieker Island is the seventh (yes, seventh!) film in the comedy/action franchise and is the best film since the original Tremors. There have been a few misses in the franchise, let’s not talk about the Cold Day in Hell film, but overall, the franchise has been a fun, light-hearted series that is propped up by Michael Gross’ character of Burt Gummer. While Tremors: Shrieker Island may be the finale to the franchise, it also lays the groundwork for a new direction for the series, if the demand is there.

When big game hunter, Bill (Richard Brake), wants to commercialize the greatest hunt he can imagine, he uses his company, Avex-Bio Tech, to scientifically engineer Graboids on his own private island. For those unfamiliar to the series, Graboids are 30-foot long underground worms with a hard exoskeleton and three snake-like tentacles protruding from their mouth in order to grab it’s prey. And yes, they smell awful when they explode. While Bill books hunting parties for the rich on his private island, Dark Island, a research crew helmed by Dr. Jasmine “Jes” Walker (Caroline Langrishe) and colleague Jimmy (Jon Heder), is working on the neighboring island and investigating the unnatural seismic activity occurring in the area. After sneaking onto the island, Jes and Jimmy uncover the truth about what is causing the seismic activity, aka Graboids, and after their tour guide is killed by Shriekers, two-legged above-ground offspring of Graboids, they realize they are in over their heads.

After sweet-talking the master Graboid killer, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross), to fulfill his destiny of wiping out this evil creatures, the film picks up the pace and the laughter. Burt classifies himself as not a “prepper” but a “survivalist” and isn’t worriecd about the Graboids until a talk with Bill confirms that his company has genetically bred these creatures to be more powerful and intelligent than ever before. On top of that, Burt advises the crew that they are against the clock as once the Graboids molt in 48 hours, they become flying creatures and will leave the island in an attempt to colonize the rest of the world. Luckily for Burt, he does have assistance in the form of Freddie (Jackie Cruz) a take-no-prisoners security expert that has grown up with every known type of weapon. The team also has the advantage of dynamite, flamethrowers, and machetes, courtesy of a World War II bunker that is located on the island. It’s almost not a fair fight for the Graboids and Shriekers. You know the rest, Burt and his crew take on these nasty creatures, resulting in creative deaths, loud explosions and great one-liners, but this time, it feels fresh and new.

The film switches often between Bill’s unprepared hunting party on a Jurassic Park-like island and Burt’s less experienced but more competent team, which keeps the pace of the film moving quickly. Once Bill’s team is eliminated one by one in gruesome fashion, the story switches to Burt’s possible final journey to take down the Queen of the Graboids and the potential for final extinction for these creatures.

The Good:

  • Burt Gummer. If this is truly Michael Gross’ final film as the iconic Burt Gummer character, the writers do a phenomenal job paying respect to the actor that put this fun, campy series on his back which spawned six sequels. From many callbacks to the prior films, including prior characters, action scenes, and quotes, to a fitting final battle between Burt and the Queen Graboid, to the devotion Gross has for this character, Tremors: Shrieker Island truly knows how to give a fitting sendoff for a character that is the heart and soul of the series.
  • The Supporting Cast. When audiences see a “direct-to-video/stream” film, they are often expecting a less than stellar cast. Tremors: Shrieker Island dispels that notion and delivers with a strong supporting cast, which includes the always great “bad guy” actor Richard Brake, to Orange is the New Black actress Jackie Cruz playing a no-nonsense mercenary (is there any other?) to even Jon Heder of Napoleon Dynamite fame in his least annoying role since, well, ever. The cast is given, minus the few listed below, plenty of time to expand their characters from one-note supporting characters to people the audience will grow fond of and worry about their well-being.
  • The Island. By moving the film setting to two islands in the middle of the ocean, the writers are able to freshen up the Tremors franchise and not be hampered by the typical deserted town setting found in many of the films. The island setting gives a Jurassic Park type vibe to the franchise and allows for much more room to play in this sandbox without the constraints of keeping these creatures confined to a small town. The series attempted to shake the setting up in the Cold Day in Hell film, but it never clicked like it does in Shrieker Island as this film combines the ideas of Jurassic Park, Kong Island, and the original Tremors film and succeeds.

The Bad:

  • Nothing. I’m as shocked as you, but the film is solid from the start and never insults the intelligence of the audience. It’s a fun movie that is more serious than previous sequels and benefits greatly from using the past films to expand the Tremors universe.

The Middling:

  • The lesser known supporting cast. As noted above, one of the best things of this film is the “main” supporting cast, but a few of the cast gets left behind. Freddie has two members of her security detail that never speaks but yet are in almost every scene Freddie is in. The lack of dialogue from these characters hampers the idea that Freddie is one of the best in her field in running security for corporations. The same can be said of Bill’s hunting party as we are only given the stereotypical “rich Silicon Valley guys” are looking for the thrill of the hunt since they are behind computers all day. I understand that it will appeal to the mass audience seeing the ultra-rich get their “just dues” but a little more backstory would have been appreciated.

Final Grade: B- (Good)

By setting the film on an island and using the Jurassic Park theme of genetically enhanced creatures, Tremors: Shrieker Island gives a fresh take on the Tremors franchise, while also paying homage to the past films in the series. The newest film is the strongest of the series since the original and while it may lack the silliness of the multiple prior sequels, Shrieker Island is a fun film for anyone looking to jump back into the Tremors universe. The story wraps up Burt’s destiny nicely, while also providing opportunity for new characters to take up the mantle and go in a new direction for future films. Overall, the film is well worth anyone’s time and attention that appreciated the campiness of the original film.

You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcasting apps. 
You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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