Release Date(s)1996 (November 28, 2023)
Studio(s)Universal Pictures/Stampede Entertainment (Arrow Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: A-
The lack of box office success for Tremors and its subsequent popularity on home video eventually prompted Universal to greenlight a sequel. Tremors 2: Aftershocks saw many of the same production team returning, although the original’s director, Ron Underwood, and stars Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire, had moved on to other things. The results under director and co-writer S.S. Wilson were released direct-to-video with mostly positive feedback from fans and critics.
The key difference between Tremors and Tremors 2 lies in the pacing. Tremors 2 is a very laid back film, almost to a fault. It carries the same lightly comedic tone mixed with a bit of monster movie horror, but it’s not nearly as hard-driving as the original. Part of that is dictated by the plot. Earl Basset (Fred Ward), now down on his luck after a brief bout of celebrity, has been hired by a Mexican oil company to hunt down and destroy Graboids that have been killing workers. Earl initially says no, but is talked into it by Grady (Christopher Gartin), who wants to be involved and informs him that they’ll be paid $50,000 per kill. Once in Mexico, Earl meets Kate (Helen Shaver), a geologist who will be monitoring their progress, but when the Graboids become too much for them to handle on their own, Earl calls up Burt Gummer (Michael Gross), who’s been lying low. Though he arrives armed to the teeth, courtesy of the Mexican government, the team still find themselves unprepared when the Graboids begin changing into some new.
Indeed, much of the first half of Tremors 2 involves Earl, Grady, and Burt simply hunting for the Graboids, which is meant to leave room for character development and comedy. Unfortunately, Grady isn’t the best substitute for Val (Kevin Bacon) from the original film. As such, there’s not much chemistry between he and Earl and the comedy often falls flat. One wonders what Tremors 2 could have truly been if some of the main cast had returned, but as someone who’s a fan of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, having Fred Ward back as one of the main leads is a fair enough trade-off. The same sense of fun and adventure mixed with a little bit of horror is still front and center, even if all of the various elements aren’t quite as compelling.
While Graboids predate Jurassic Park by three years, it’s clear that Jurassic Park had an influence on Tremors 2. It tries to up the stakes by having the Graboids spawning a new creature dubbed Shrieker, which walks on the land, senses heat, and reproduces by eating. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that a sequel is adding a new element into the mix instead of just rehashing what worked in the first one, but at the same time, the new creatures aren’t nearly as interesting as their parental counterparts. The practical, on-set creature effects at least have some weight to them, but their CGI counterparts leave much to be desired. It’s not a major flaw, but it’s less suspenseful than creatures that dwell under the ground that you can’t see and don’t always know are there. Tremors 2 also shows its Predator influence by adding in the heat-sensing element. This is taken full advantage of in the finale when Earl is sprayed down with CO² from fire extinguishers to hide his body heat from the Shriekers, which goes about as well as you’d think.
Despite the lesser elements at play, Tremors 2: Aftershocks is still very charming and fun. Judging by the franchise’s future entries, things could have been much, much worse. The series became an all-out action schlock-fest, though keeping Michael Gross gainfully employed (not a knock, just an observation). When most people talk about the Tremors series, it’s fair to say that they mostly refer to the first couple of films, and maybe the following two. After that, the series became unrecognizable. Here, it’s still an enjoyable, if a tad flawed, monster movie romp.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks was shot by cinematographer Virgil L. Harper on 35 mm film with Panavision Panaflex cameras and spherical lenses, finished photochemically, and presented on home video in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 (VHS) and 1.85:1 (LaserDisc). Arrow Video brings the film to Ultra HD for the first time with a new 4K restoration of the original negative in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio (approved by director S.S. Wilson), graded for High Dynamic Range (HDR10 and Dolby Vision options are included), and presented on a BD-100 disc. Authoring duties were carried out by David Mackenzie of Fidelity in Motion.
As Tremors 2 never really made it to theaters, most people of a certain age (myself included) remember the low resolution look of the film, and not so much its disc-based presentations. That said, this new UHD blows its optical counterparts out of the water, even with a couple of obvious imperfections. First and foremost, grain is more solid throughout, though expect some moments to look uneven, particularly during visual effects shots (more on that in a moment). Nearly everything is crisp with excellent detail and a maxed-out bit rate that’s often at or above 90 Mbps. The color palette is limited to brown desert and vegetation-laden landscapes under blue skies, but occasional flashes of other hues do pop up from time to time. The HDR grades bring out the richness in these colors, boosting detail and maintaining that open country look. Blacks and contrast benefit too as everything is inky deep. The real flaw lies in the moments of CGI, which have been uprezzed from lower quality sources. It’s possible that these shots don’t exist any other way and can’t be restored properly without redoing them completely, but in 2160p, they look even worse than they did in 1996. Otherwise, everything is clean, stable, and organic to the original source. So it’s not a perfect presentation, but it’s still the best available.
Audio is included English 4.0 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. According to the booklet included with this release, “the single rear channel of the original 4.0 track was split and adjusted to fit the two rear channels of a standard surround setup.” I’m not sure why there was a multi-channel track prepared since the film went to straight-to-video, but nevertheless, it offers an expectedly wider and more robust experience with a little more push during explosive moments. Dialogue is well-prioritized and the music and score are given plenty of heft in the mix. The more standard stereo track offers nice immersion in and of itself, but the 4.0 track is clearly the more aggressive and spacious option. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks on 4K UHD sits in a black amaray case containing a small fold-out poster of Shrieker X-ray artwork by Matt Frank. Alongside it is a double-sided poster featuring the original home video artwork and new artwork by Matt Frank, and a 60-page booklet containing cast and crew information, the essays A Whole New Ballgame: Writing Tremors 2: Aftershocks by Jonathan Melville, Tapes, Discs & Double Digit Franchises: A Whistlestop History of the Universal Pictures Direct-to-Video Sequel by Matty Budrewicz and David Wain, restoration information, and production credits. Everything is housed in sturdy slipcase packaging containing the same new artwork by Matt Frank. The following extras are included on the disc:
- Audio Commentary by S.S. Wilson and Nancy Roberts
- Audio Commentary by Jonathan Melville
- Graboid Go Boom with Peter Chesney (HD – 19:44)
- Critical Need-to-Know Information with Phil Tippett (HD – 7:24)
- The Making of Tremors 2 (Upscaled SD – 8:43)
- Outtakes (Upscaled SD – 7:45)
- Tremors (HD – 1:55)
- Tremors 2: Aftershocks (Upscaled SD – 1:53)
- Image Gallery (HD – 98 in all)
The first audio commentary with director and co-writer S.S. Wilson and co-producer Nancy Roberts is a very tightly-edited together track that offers plenty of educational information about the making of the film. Wilson appears to be doing a straight commentary as an interview with Roberts is cut in to cover long gaps of silence, which is greatly appreciated. The second audio commentary features Jonathan Melville, author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors. It’s not quite as tightly-woven, but as someone who’s both a fan and very knowledgeable of the Tremors franchise, he has plenty to say about the film and its creation. Graboid Go Boom interviews special effects coordinator and second unit director Peter Chesney who details his work on the production, specifically trying to be efficient in making sure the main unit keeps moving with quicker, more actor-oriented shots, while second unit takes care of the other material that takes more time. He also talks about specific shots and some of the special effects. Critical Need-to-Know Information interviews legendary visual effects creator Phil Tippett about his involvement, discussing what little memories he has of the production, and also expressing his feelings about A.I. and how it will affect future film production. The Making of Tremors 2 is a vintage promotional featurette made concrurrently with the production, featuring interviews with director and co-writer S.S. Wilson, executive producer Ron Underwood, co-producer Nancy Roberts, creature effects creators Tom Woodruff, Jr. and Alec Gillis, special effects coordinator and second unit director Peter Chesney, visual effects creator Phil Tippett, actors Fred Ward, Christopher Gartin, Helen Shaver, and Michael Gross. Next are a set of Outtakes, which consist of bloopers and alternate effects shots. Last are trailers for both the first and second film, and an Image Gallery that contains 98 stills of publicity photos, behind-the-scenes photos, storyboards, home video artwork, and press materials.
After years of being locked in bare bones multi-packs with other films in the series, it’s nice to see Tremors 2: Aftershocks finally get some much-needed love on home video with a very fine presentation and an entertaining extras package. Long-time Tremors fans will appreciate this one. Highly recommended.
- Tim Salmons