Review – Tremors 5: Bloodlines

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Review – Tremors 5: Bloodlines
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Tremors 5: Bloodlines
Action, Horror, Science Fiction
Rating: PG-13
Prod. Co.: Universal 1440 Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Studios
October 6th, 2015

Tremors first hit the silver screen back in 1990. The first entry to the now widely popular franchise about a small town plagued with ancient man-eating worms earned plenty of praise with critics and viewers alike, spawning a few sequels that expanded the lore into the spawn cycle of the creature, as well as a short lived television series that involved a secret government lab in the small town of Perfection, Nevada, as well as a white, infertile version of the graboids. Yes, the commercial success within the films had nearly mirrored that of the series in reality and, roughly ten years after the fourth entry in 2004 titled Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, a direct-to-video entry set in the wild west, a new threat has shown in another continent in the latest chapter, Tremors 5: Bloodlines. But does this different setting and largely new cast pay off as another worth while entry, or is this just a shameless cash grab to keep the franchise relevant?

Bloodlines is more a supplemental story that carries on the series much like the fourth outing, but in modern day instead of the town of Perfection’s past. Michael Gross (Family Ties) returns to the series to play an aging Burt Gummer. In the years following the events of the third film, as well as television series, Burt has started filming his own reality survival program. However, during filming, his camera man is replaced with a young adrenaline junkie named Travis Welker (Jamie Kennedy, Malibu’s Most Wanted, Three Kings) who intends to fix the Gummer brand. Coincidentally, a new species of “ass blaster” has been recorded in South Africa, and Erich Van Wyck (Daniel Janks, Ganghi, My Father, Ali) has hired Burt to capture it for study with the South African Wildlife Foundation.

However, these creatures on the southern plain have evolved, unlike the more primal ones in Perfection, Nevada. This poses a whole new challenge for Burt and Travis as they hunt the beasts in hope of preventing any more fatalities, as well as the reintroduction of the species into the South African ecosystem. Travis, however, is often more interested with the local veterinarian Lucia (Natalie Becker, Disgrace, The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior) than heading right out in search of the beast. Eventually, the beasts run havoc, secrets are revealed, and the legacy of these creatures becomes known. Their life cycle is different, as are their paternal instincts, driven to protect their own as Burt and his team find themselves in the cross-hairs of a survival mission of the species’ own.

While a noble foundation that lives up to the Bloodlines sub-title, there’s a lot of this film that actually goes unanswered. These South African versions of the graboids and ass blasters are, in a way, the polar opposites of the North American versions. So much so that the natives there tell a story through the dance of the thunder birds, which tells of their hunting cycle and fixation of the cold. Even with Travis aware of this, it remains a premise that is only glanced upon from time to time, and never really incorporated into the story other than an attack due to a cooler being open or a shower scene. Instead, we’re left with the traditional rules of the American ass blasters to contend with most of the time with a paternal/bloodline preservation angle that Burt himself seems purposely written to be too oblivious to pick up on until much later in the story.

On top of that, there’s also the comedy to contend with. While the Tremors series always has been cheeky and humorous at times, a trait that has grown a bit out of control with each new entry. However, Bloodlines takes it to near Looney Tunes levels at times. At one point Burt is trapped and begins to go insane due to the heat, which is humorous to watch to an extent if nothing for some of the lines he delivers during what he assumes to be his final will and testament. But then you have scenes where someone is crushed by an ass blaster out of nowhere, much like a rock falling on the Coyote as an added insult to injury due to a failed attempt to catch the Roadrunner, and everyone acting as if it’s the most natural thing and he’ll probably come back to life with the body and movements of an accordion. Even the delivery of the reason why Travis tracked down Burt is handled with a great deal of cartoonish flair, leaving Burt’s eyes nearly bulging out as though he had seen Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit at the very least, not to mention the near orgasmic glee that comes across his face during a massive explosion later on. While the latter two are understandable, especially the reaction to the explosion given Burt’s history with the graboids in general, both are played up to overly eccentric levels that really do more harm than good, diverting this mildly entertaining action science fiction horror flick into that of a living and breathing version of an feature length animation from Warner Bros.

Plus, Bloodlines really doesn’t offer anything all that different to the first few other than a weaker story all around. The same tropes of the series are present: Burt doesn’t know exactly what he’s hunting and complains about not having the proper intel, a crew of townsfolk aid him to stop the plague, insert x kill count here, all who survived are happy. In fact, the visual aesthetics of the town itself are all essentially the same, but set in more of a edge-of-nowhere stereotypical rural South African town instead of Perfection, Nevada. Each character and aspect of the original town is there, just represented as someone from Afria, or just the common expectation of a small side town in that country.

While this worked out well for the past four films, Bloodlines had an opportunity to do something a little more dynamic and make this entry far more appealing than just another safe entry that plays it by the book. Instead it was squandered by essentially rehashing the plots of the second and third films in a way the fourth pretty much rehashed the first in a different time period. What’s worse is the only elements unique to this entry of the franchise are the many Jurassic Park nods thrown in. The most obvious of that reference is the scene involving the ass blaster in the kitchen as it hunts Lucia’s daughter and one of the other men who stayed behind to help them. Even the scene of being trapped on a rock with no ammunition is present, as well as the equivalent of someone attacked walking up to the main cast, except he’s holding something instead of being covered head to toe from a fire extinguisher to keep the shriekers from seeing him.

Much of this film does look spectacular, though. The high definition visuals are fantastic, and director Don Michael Paul did a great job overall, as well as the rest of the crew, in making sure this new high definition entry looked top notch. The best way to put it is that a lot of the settings look like something that would appear in more recent seasons of The Walking Dead, which compliments the cut off, almost helpless atmosphere of this small town, really putting the stress on Burt and Travis to succeed a lot more believable. It was also a good choice to hold off on showing the creatures for a while, relying more on filters and camera angles to stress just how much more violent these creatures are to their prey than their American counter parts. Sadly, once the reveal is made, the character models are impressive and suit the terrain, but the execution visually beyond the first glimpse causes the computer graphics to really take the viewer out of the film with how obviously fake they look, akin to the sleek, unrealistic renderings that comprised most of the dinosaurs in Jurassic World, if not all of them. Ironically, at the moment, Jurassic World is suggested as an additional purchase on Amazon.con when you order this movie and the Tremors Attack Pack franchise blu-ray set…

And that’s the worst part of Bloodlines. The computer graphics in this follow-up are abused terribly with the monsters, which is a massive shame. One of the things that made the Tremors films so great in the first place was the use of practical effects. The graboids and shriekers all looked normal for much of the film, relying on digital visualizations for scenes that practical effects simply couldn’t accomplish well, or well enough to make them look believable. This included things like when the creature would run towards enemies or, like in the second, the shriekers would stand on one another to try to reach people on top of the buildings and shops. This film, however, uses computer effects for nearly everything they do, even the feet of the ass blasters that you see through the openings below the kitchen table. What’s more, they already look fairly outdated, as if something you might find in a Square-Enix big budget title mid-seventh generation console run, or a monster from Final Fantasy XIII. Even Tremors II: Aftershocks have creatures that look less outdated than these, and that came out in 1996.

In the end, Tremors 5: Bloodlines isn’t exactly a bad film for one that didn’t at all need to exist. It takes the general characteristics of the first three, throws them in a bag, shakes it up, then puts the pieces together with a largely African cast in that very continent using flimsy scotch tape. In a way, it’s an odd little reboot masked as a sequel that clearly attempts to make the series relevant again in a way that leads me to suspect this film as an extended backdoor pilot to a possible second television series in the near or distant future, if not a rejected high-budget one to try to get the SyFy channel to reboot the cancelled series they ran. And, well, given this film focused on Michael Gross and Jamie Kennedy’s character more than anything, it does seem incredibly plausible, though the premise would be largely void of the graboids entirely, as if they incorporated Jason Vorhees into the lore behind the Friday the 13th television series.

But, whatever the case, Bloodlines acts as a supplemental story fans of the series don’t necessarily need to see, but it’s there if you want. And since it’s available on Netflix streaming [at the time of writing this review], those who already pay for the service essentially see it for free, so there’s less concern about paying for additional potentially irrelevant story material. Outside the cgi and cartoonish overtones in the last half, Tremors 5: Bloodlines is a decent entry for those who crave more Gummer and gravoid fan service.


Overall Score: 5/10

Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.