Thursday, July 30, 2009

Tremors 2: Aftershocks

You know, it’s rare that you ever think about movie credits, except when they’re preventing you from getting to the actual movie you want to watch.

In the case of “Tremors 2: Man, That First One Sure Did Rake It In On Video, Didn’t It?” the opening credits run for a full minute-and-a-half, and there is nothing going on in the meantime. Just pleasant, vaguely-Mexican sounding balladry, as one-by-one the names of the various people who worked on the movie appear and vanish, appear and vanish.

This is not how you tell people that they’re going to be watching a scary movie, folks. This is how you tell people that the first two dudes to appear in the credits are going to fall in forbidden love with one another.

Which could happen. Let’s find out.

Once the credits come to a mercifully boring end, a burn-in on the screen informs us that we’re looking at Petromaya Oil Field, Chiapas, Mexico. So I guess the music over the credits was at least stylistically correct.

Now that we’ve established a place, the camera paaans over to show us a pair of feet dangling in the air. A Mexican oil worker is sitting on top of some pipes, trying to avoid something under the ground.

He reaches the end of the pipes, and surveys the situation. Ahead of him are several empty oil barrels, laid out like lily pads in a pond. And on the other side of them is his van.

Our first victim leaps onto a barrel, and then proceeds to jump from one barrel to the next despite the fact that the thing under the ground behind him is shoving up more than enough dirt to knock over a barrel.

Sure enough, our first meat gets knocked to the ground and devoured.

Now that there’s no one left to eat, the movie tools on over to Perfection Valley, Nevada. Which looks a lot like Mexico.

We get reintroduced to Earl, who is trying to lasso a hidden something so he can get it to mate with something else. He gets knocked over and dragged a few feet, and then we get the big reveal.

He just lassoed an ostrich. I wish I could tell you it was really funny, but it’s sort of not.

Earl hears a car and goes to meet it. It contains one goofy driver and one serious Mexican in a business suit.

The serious Mexican tells Earl that the creatures (they started calling them graboids in part I, and the name sticks for part II) have appeared in a Mexican oil field and killed a bunch of people. They want to hire Earl to hunt the graboids.

Mention is made of Val, who “married a good woman.” So I guess Val found love. With someone. Maybe he girl in the first movie, maybe not.

Earl storms into his trailer.

The driver, whose name is Grady, follows Earl in and asks why Earl is so grouchy. He notes that the Mexicans want to pay Earl $50,000 for each graboid. And we get a little backstory about what’s happened over the last seven years.

Val and Earl did some shoe commercials, it seems. And there was a video game, which is prominently displayed in Earl’s trailer.

But, as Earl notes, he should have gotten a lawyer – he didn’t see much money from the franchise that is graboid. He spent all the money he made on the two ostriches in his yard.

I feel compelled to mention two important facts here that are tossed out amongst the banter:

Grady refers to himself as Earl’s biggest fan, and goes out of his way to tell him that he has two copies of the People magazine with Val and Earl on the cover. One of them is wrapped in plastic.

Second fact: Earl points to the wall, at a picture of Miss October, 1974. He keeps it there as a reminder of things he’s never going to get. I presume he means the girl, not the magazine. He appears to own the magazine.

Much back-and-forthing happens as Earl determines whether or not he wants to go graboid hunting, and then, finally, he says yes. Which is good, because if he didn’t this movie would be pretty much over.

And Grady is going with him, so they can have more banter. Awesome banter. Banter like Earl telling Grady that while the graboids are eating Grady, Earl will have time to run away.

Grady and Earl drive down to Mexico, and you can tell when they made it because the soundtrack goes from hard-edged acoustic guitars to cheese-ball keyboards playing Mariachi trumpets.

Grady and Earl play paper, rock, scissors for the last soda, and it’s carefully established that Grady was born fully-formed from a pod, because the guy has never played paper, rock scissors before.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this is a whole setup/payoff thing, but really? A human being who has never played paper, rock, scissors before?

Earl and Grady arrive at the Petromaya field office. They meet Pedro, who does something-or-other that probably won’t be important. They get to meet their huge pallet of guns and dynamite.

And they get to meet Kate, the geologist for the oil company.

Earl is smitten.

They also get to meet Julio, who just finished setting up the seismographs so they can get an accurate head count on the creatures. No one is smitten with Julio. But we’re only fifteen minutes into the movie, so that could change.

Will Julio find love? Especially now that Grady clearly doesn’t have a chance with Earl?

Earl goes to visit Kate later that night to look over some maps. She tells him that only three workers are left, which is untrue, since we just met four people (the guy who hired Earl, Kate, Julio, and Pedro, the dude who does something-or-other). Kate also notes that six people got killed. People she knew.

With that single line, this movie has already had more instances of pathos than all of the original “Tremors.”

This pathos lasts until moments later, when Kate asks who named the graboids. Earl tells her it was Chang. “First he named them, then they ate him.” He chuckles to himself.

I’d be scared to be in a room with the man, frankly.

Grady comes in carrying a bunch of cans tied to chains. He figures they’ll hook them to the back of the truck to make noise.

Grady heads out to the truck to hook up the cans, and talks to Julio, who explains that Grady’s eyes look lovely in the moonlight. But only with longing glances. And also, the seismographs have been set up to send radio transmissions to Earl’s truck. There’s a monitor in there that will display where the graboids are at all times.

The next morning, Earl and Grady head out – and here’s the big plan:

Step one – Drive until a graboid starts coming for them.

Step two – Stop the truck.

Step three – Put a remote-controlled car on the ground with dynamite strapped to it.

Step four – Drive the car until the graboid takes it.

Step five – Blow up the dynamite.

Step six – Musical montage showing a bunch of monsters getting blown up.

Earl and Grady stop to eat, and Grady leaves their radio on the ground. A graboid eats it, only it doesn’t, really, because you can still hear the radio.

Not sure how that works. But I don’t know much about biology. And clearly, neither do the people who made “Tremors 2.”

Earl and Grady catch 40 winks, and wake up the next morning ready to kill some more stuff.

Things go well until Grady loses his umbrella (don’t ask) and gets off the truck to go grab it. The graboid with the radio inside it chases him, and ends up snagging the chain on the back of the truck.

The graboid proceeds to drag Grady and Earl around for a few minutes, until they escape when the graboid runs under a rock, snaps the chain, and frees them. All’s well that ends well, until Earl notes that their display screen is showing lots and lots of graboids in the area.

So they call Burt.

I could detail the next ten minutes worth of scenes, but suffice to say, Burt’s wife left him, and he’s bored out of his mind, so he shows up in Mexico with a whole lot of things that go BANG.

Kate, bless her heart, finds a fossil that indicates that the graboids have been around since before the dinosaurs, and are probably the oldest life form on the planet. It’s nice that she won’t let the death of six people get in the way of scientific discovery.

Burt, Earl, and Grady head out and blow up a few more graboids, but then the game changes. One of the graboids runs away from Earl and Grady. They give chase, Earl getting more and more panicked as he thinks about how the creatures are always getting smarter.

Suddenly, a graboid pops out right on top of their hood. Earl panics, and reverses, driving the truck down a short cliff, trapping the truck into a little ravine.

Earl races to get their gun, terrified that he’s moments away from becoming monster chow, only… nothing happens.

Earl and Grady get on some rocks and go for a closer look. The monster is lying on the ground, making various roars and growls.

Grady tosses a radio-controlled truck on the ground and drives it over to the creature, who ignores it.

Earl figures he’s sick and Grady states that it, “Probably ate somebody that didn’t agree with it.”

Then Grady jumps off the rock and goes to slap it. It’s clear that the fact that Earl doesn’t love him is slowly draining Grady’s will to live.

Instead of calling Burt and saying, you know, please come rescue us before we get eaten, the boys call Kate and tell her to have Pedro to get out there with his truck with the crane. Grady is all excited because they caught a live one, which means they’ll net $100,000 instead of $50,000.

Night arrives, and the boys sit and listen to the graboid as it continues to make odd scary noises. They go check on the beast, and discover that something has hollowed out their creature.

Earl thinks it’s gone through some sort of metamorphosis, and that whatever came out of the creature probably isn’t a butterfly.

But look! Off in the distance! There’s Pedro’s truck! Only… it isn’t moving.

After much deliberation, the boys investigate. They discover that the truck has been torn to bits. They also discover Pedro’s arms, minus Pedro. See? I told you that his profession wouldn’t be important later!

Earl and Grady decide to head for a nearby radio tower so they can call for help.

Elsewhere, Burt has been out of radio contact with anyone for several hours, so he decides to head back to base.

Earl and Grady arrive at the radio tower. It’s been torn to pieces, despite the fact that there were no people there.

The boys discover that there is, in fact, a car there, so they prepare to hotwire it – only they hear a growling noise.

They duck behind the car, and look into the darkness – and hear it comes. A tiny two-legged thing, maybe three times the size of a goose.

They shoot it. It dies. They hear more of them and decide to make a run for it in their freshly hotwired vehicle.

Back at the ranch, Kate is getting upset because she can’t raise anyone on the radio. Julio sticks his head in the window and says he’s going to go looking for everyone, and Kate is grateful until Julio starts screaming.

Naturally, he’s screaming because he’s being eaten by the Sons of the Graboids. Oh, Julio. If only you had declared your love for Grady in words, instead of in longing looks, you might have survived this movie.

Luckily for Kate, but not Julio, Grady and Earl drive up and shoot the new, improved creature. Then they all run for the car, which, in the meantime, has been eaten by another creature.

So they kill that one, too.

Our heroes do some math and figure out that there were eight graboids left, with three creatures inside each one. As far as they know. For a total of twenty-four. Three are dead. This makes Kate sad, as she thought they would have killed more.

Considering the fact that Kate has done nothing to assist anyone up to this point, it’s kind of hard to listen to her whine. Buck up, little solider! They’re only keeping you alive as a love interest.

Burt arrives, his vehicle covered in goo. He thinks it killed a couple dozen of the creatures. Which should mean they’re all dead. Hoorah!

Unless you’re Kate, in which case you whine about it because these creatures are very important. Scientifically.

No matter: Burt captured one.

The gang pulls Burt’s truck into a nearby shed and pull the creature out. They grab it and haul it into the office.

Unfortunately, the not-quite-dead creature on the bottom of Burt’s truck goes unnoticed. As does the fact that it grabs an MRE and gobbles it down.

Inside the office, meticulous scientific testing allows the group to determine that the creatures can only sense heat – they don’t smell, or see. They feed the creature, and it hacks up a wad of slime that turns out to be… yet another creature.

They literally just eat and reproduce. They’re like Tribbles, really, only copyrighted by an entirely different company.

(I was going to make a joke about reality TV show stars here as well, but, honestly, who has the time?)

There’s some more discussion about evolution and such, until the gang notices that the warehouse that’s attached to the office is now totally overrun by creatures who were eating Burt’s food.

So they run away, escaping to another building, which would have totally worked if the other building wasn’t missing three of its four walls.

The group decides to head for the nearest car – Julio’s. They pick up some doors that are lying around and hide behind them as they make their escape, walking carefully to disguise their body heat. After a few minutes, they cower behind yet another building – this one complete.

They run around to the other side of the building… and then run back. One of the creatures is sitting by yet another tiny wall.

Bert loads up his very large, very overpowered rifle, and takes his one shot. He completely smokes the creature, and they run for the truck.

Unfortunately, the truck was behind the creature, and Bert’s very, very overpowered rifle overpowered itself right through the engine of the vehicle. Our heroes are totally hosed. The monsters eat them all and the movie comes to a sudden end.

Okay, that’s not what really happens. But wouldn’t that be sort of awesome? Wouldn’t you totally wonder what part III was about if that was the ending?

The gang makes a run for it, heading for the nearest building. But they get spotted, and split up.

Grady runs up a tower.

Bert ends up in the shovel portion of something that looks very much like the Cat from part uno. Sort of a mini-bulldozer type thing.

And Earl and Kate race into the nearby cantina – only the things know they’re in there, and try to get in with them. One jams its tongue into the cantina, so Kate breaks a beer bottle and stabs the beast right on the tongue.

Credit where credit is due, you don’t see that in a lot of movies.

Earl finds some clothing, sticks it in the sink under hot water and slides it out the window and onto a nearby clothesline. The creatures race after it, and Earl and Kate make a run for it, climbing up the same tower that Grady is on.

Now that everyone is reasonably safe, tempers flare. Fingers are pointed.

Time passes.

Kate and Earl talk about this and that, Earl finally diving in and asking if Kate is seeing anybody.

Kate says, “Not since the monsters arrived.” Which kind of implies her boyfriend was eaten. Nice rebound there, Kate. “Well, my ex is probably some form of poop now, so, yeah, I’m free.”

Kate confesses that she used to be a model, and according to the laws of setups and payoffs, yes, she was Miss October 1974.

Kate then strikes a pose from her centerfold shot. Considering the fact that Grady is still up on the tower with them, it appears things are going to get very awkward.

Grady yells, but surprisingly enough, he’s not telling his cohorts to knock it off. No, no. Instead, he points down at the ground, where the creatures have started stacking themselves up like a collection of boxes, slowly building a tower of their own. One that will allow them to eat Grady, Earl, and Miss October 1974.

Burt looks up from his hiding place and determines that all the people-eaters are engaged in their project. So he jumps out and taunts them, which is kinda pointless, since they’re deaf, and then runs to a nearby warehouse.

The beasts chase him in, he runs out a back door and locks it, then runs to the front door and closes that as well. The creatures are trapped!

In a food warehouse.

But Earl has a plan forming. Sorta. (His words, not mine.)

He grabs a couple of fire extinguishers and has his fellow victims cover him in extinguisher foam. Grady tries to man up for the job, only when they do paper, rock, scissors, Earl takes paper and Grady takes rock.

Earl claims that paper wraps rock. Because Grady is a moron born out of pod, this plan works.

Earl walks in and goes to Burt’s truck. The monsters don’t see him until he starts to melt. With only limited options, Earl grabs a random timer from Burt’s truck and sets it to 2 minutes and 45 seconds.

Unfortunately, now he can’t escape, because he’s visible. Because the movie wants him to live, the previously very-fast-moving very-smart creatures become sort of slow and stupid, and Earl’s buddies pull him out a second-story window using a fire hose.

Earl tells everyone to run, due to the imminent explosion. Burt points out that there are two-and-a-half tons of high explosives in his truck.

Burt makes everyone run, and keep on running, until they find a ditch to cower in.

The building goes BANG. It takes out the building next to it. And pretty much everything else in the immediate area.

There’s some banter after that, but really, the final moments of the movie are all about the huge smoking crater in the ground. And the fact that the oil people owe Grady, Earl, and Burt 1.4 million dollars.

1 comment:

  1. So I don't know how this works, exactly... but did you like the movie? I thought it was a great way to kill an hour and a half.