Tremors: Shrieker Island, Michael Gross, Jon Heder, (Horror Movie Review #2)

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

PLOT: When the Avex-Bio company illegally smuggles underground Graboid monsters to Thailand to be poached by wealthy sport hunters, Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) is dispatched to help quell a massive murderous onslaught throughout the island resort.

REVIEW: Admittedly late to the party, I vividly recall the first time seeing TREMORS in about 2002 or 2003. I distinctly remember because I was suffering the worst toothache of my life at the time and happened to catch the film alone at night on cable. The movie was so goddamn enjoyable and gave me so much pleasure that I very clearly remember saying to myself halfway through, damn I hope this movie never ends. The movie was so joyously entertaining that it genuinely helped me keep my mind off the unspeakable agony of what of course would turn out to be root-canal operation a few days later. I’ve seen TREMORS a dozen times since, and gratefully remind myself every time of how much it helped me get through that painful night. Cut two decades ahead and here I am watching the seventh TREMORS outing, SHRIEKER ISLAND (OWN IT HERE when it's released on October 20th), again one day after visiting the dentist. While some things never change, my dental problems clearly among them, the seventh and perhaps final entry into the long-running franchise sadly resembles anything but the original 1990 cult-classic. A few mildly absorbing moments aside and a gorgeous locale beyond reproach, TERMORS 7 plays as an effete SyFy channel parody and a sad specter of what made the original so special.

The best thing about SHRIEKER ISLAND is its gorgeous Thailand setting that adds instant atmosphere, production value, and a natural ambiance far more alluring than the dusty and arid desert setting of the original TREMORS film. Director Don Michael Paul, who helmed the prior two chapters as well, understands that altering the setting is an easy way to update and refresh the tiresome Graboid setup. TREMORS 6: A COLD DAY IN HELL took place in the Canadian tundra, and here the tropical setting lends a seductive exoticism with its verdant mountain ranges, stunning white-sand beaches, eerie subterranean caves, etc. The location is so beautiful and inviting that it’s easy to spend the 100 odd minute runtime there. As the film opens, we meet the oily and venal Bill (Richard Brake), a wealthy business magnate who has illegally hatched four Graboid monsters on an island-resort, where a group of hunters pays to poach and kill the creatures on sight. Bill and his nondescript hunting party are opposed by a team of scientists including Jas (Caroline Langrishe), Jimmy (Jon Heder) Freddie (Jackie Cruz), Iris (Iris park), and others who are studying the Graboids and understand that hunting them is a terrible idea. Cue Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) to the rescue.

When Burt is found living on a desert island alone looking like the Unabomber, he claims he’s retired from Graboid ass-kicking. Jas, his former lady, convinces him to help, and soon Burt is spouting cheesy, eye-rolling one-liners once arriving on the infested island. This is where the movie falls flattest in comparison to what worked so well in the original, the inferior blend of horror and comedy and the pitch-perfect tonality sustained between the two for the duration. In fact, SHRIEKER ISLAND is technically codified as an action movie, not a horror-comedy as the original TREMORS is. Point blank, the movie is nowhere near funny or scary enough. This lets you know how far the franchise has been cut loose from the umbilicus of Ron Underwood’s original classic. The attempts at humor are not only decreased, they flat out fail more often than not. The only line in the whole film that made me chuckle was when Burt grumbles “Destiny’s a bitch!” Beyond that, the film is littered with bad dad jokes that, for even a 73-year old Burt Gummer, feel stale and dusty.

As for the violent action, the title of the film alludes to the Graboid Shriekers, the monstrous bipedal offspring first introduced in TREMORS 2: AFTERSHOCKS. Equipped with infrared sight, the heat-signature POV shots coupled with the jungle setting calls too often to mind PREDATOR, which Jimmy mentions multiple times along with RAMBO, and THE EVIL DEAD. But merely mentioning the films you steal from does not lessen the criminal offense. Save for one final Queen Graboid at the end of the film, much of the action involves the Shriekers attacking Bill’s hunting group before advancing to Burt and his crew. Unfortunately, far gone are the arresting practical FX work of the original film, only to be replaced by the sort of generic and cheap-looking CGI (digital flames are the worst) that the SyFy channel might even blush at. The over-reliantly formulaic plot follows a similar course of holing up, fashioning an impressive arsenal, tracking the Graboids, and then concocting a final plan to kill the big-bad-final-beastie. It all feels so rote and painfully perfunctory as to nearly warrant its existence in the first place, outside of showcasing the stunning Thai landscapes. There’s one really cool attack scene in an underground cave that capitalizes on the natural topography of the region, which is almost sullied by the silly CG.

Look, I really wanted nothing more to enjoy TREMORS: SHRIEKER ISLAND as much as I adore the original TREMORS. Alas, given what transpires at the very end of the movie, I’m afraid the conclusion of the film is a bald admission by the filmmakers that the TREMORS franchise has run its course. Unless Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and director Ron Underwood all return to breathe new life into the franchise, TREMORS is bound to end with unlucky number seven. Despite a breathtaking setting, a decent moment of action or two, the bottom line is SHRIEKER ISLAND is only a must-see for TREMORS completists. It’s a middling affair in every other regard.

Source: Arrow in the Head

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Jake Dee is one of JoBlo’s most valued script writers, having written extensive, deep dives as a writer on WTF Happened to this Movie and it’s spin-off, WTF Really Happened to This Movie. In addition to video scripts, Jake has written news articles, movie reviews, book reviews, script reviews, set visits, Top 10 Lists (The Horror Ten Spot), Feature Articles The Test of Time and The Black Sheep, and more.