Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tremors 3: Back to Perfection

It appears that someone learned a little something between the making of part II and part III, because this time, we zip on through the credits and get right to it – here’s the title, aaaand… here’s the movie.

Despite the fact that the movie is called “Back to Perfection,” the opening scene informs us that we’re starting off in El Chaco, Argentina. Two trucks are driving around in the dark in the middle of nowhere (okay, not nowhere, the movie just told us where we are, but you know what I mean).

They pull over and, hey, whaddaya know, they’re some kind of news people.

And then here comes another really, really big truck, and of course, it’s Burt. And is he armed to the teeth? Of course he is.

Burt spouts off a bunch of exposition about how a graboid was running around, but the government wasn’t prepared to stop it, so it evolved into shriekers. Oh, hey, the little screamy things have a name!

Burt notes that six of them came out of the graboid. Except, as we all know, graboids give birth to three of those things, not six. But we all know that Burt is probably totally insane, so let’s just go with it.

After the shriekers burst forth into this world, they ate a truckload of chickens which, of course, allowed them to be fruitful and multiply. But don’t you worry. Burt has some kind of massive automatic machine-gun thing mounted to the back of his truck.

So he straps in, and a bunch of shriekers come zipping over the hill, and Burt blows them all away.

And NOW we’re headed back to Perfection. Yes indeed. There it is. Population five. At least, that’s what the sign says.

You can tell the budget is headed south on a sequel when they just flat-out tell you that there’s no one in the town.

Burt drives into town, and then it’s exposition time! First, Burt spots the trailer and sign: Perfection Valley Ranchettes. Those evil corporate land-sellers have come to town, to sell unsuspecting folks a bunch of dust with a house on it.

Miguel, who you may remember as the other minority in Perfection, drives up and asks Burt about the collection of cement trucks that drove up to his land. It seems that Burt had a big old see-ment wall built around and under his compound so that graboids can’t get him. Even though there haven’t been any graboids in Perfection for 11 years.

Burt heads to what used to be Chang’s. Turns out that his daughter runs the place now, so it’s still Chang’s. Which is convenient for me. Just remember that when I say Chang, I’m no longer talking about an old Asian dude, but a young Asian woman.

Other important facts from this scene:

Chang is trying to up tourism by selling graboid and shrieker paraphernalia – including puppets.

Burt is now the proud owner of an awesome watch.

Earl and Grady did, in fact, start a theme park. Which means that apparently a couple of actors opted to price themselves out of part III.

And finally, some dude showed up recently and started giving tours, under the name Desert Jack’s Graboid Adventure.

We get a quick little CUT TO, and here we are, with Jack, driving along, telling people that they’re in the heart of graboid country. It is, of course, every stupid thing you’ve ever seen at a theme park.

In other words, they drive for a bit, then Jack sticks a hidden tape into a player and the viewscreen on his truck tells all the nice people in back that a graboid is on its way.

Meanwhile, his buddy, off in the bushes, fires a bunch of dust in the air and yanks over some fence posts. Just for, you know, verisimilitude.

Jack then takes his charges and secures them on a large flat rock, so they can sit around in the hot sun and buy tasty beverages from him at $4.50 a pop.

After that comes a short scene wherein Burt drives to his compound, so we can see that he’s a paranoid goofball. In case you missed that during the previous fifteen minutes. And the previous two movies on top of that.

And then it’s over to Chang and Jack, wherein we learn that Jack took some ice without paying for it. And possibly some other stuff, but I’m guessing it’s not important, so I’m not going to bother babbling about it.

And then, well, it’s off to the desert for a super-short scene where we get to hear some rumbling and see a hula-girl doll rock back and forth on the dashboard of an empty car.

The next morning, Chang is working in the store while somebody-or-other complains about how some kind of clay is too expensive. Luckily, the movie lets us know who we’re seeing by bringing in a teenage girl, and telling us that the girl is Mindy, the pogo-stick girl from the first movie.

Which, of course, makes the clay-complaining woman her mother. This also means that she eventually got her kiln built, even if Val and Earl weren’t the ones to do it.

Mindy is dropping off some pants for Jack. She mended them using duct tape, claiming that it’s a statement, and not just laziness on her part.

Mindy heads outside and runs into Burt, so she can fill him and us in on all the fascinating things she’s been doing. Like dropping out of college because her family can’t afford tuition.

(Well, sure. Not with that kind of work ethic.)

Oh, and also she’s working at the Arby’s in Bixby. Isn’t that like 38 miles away? So she’s driving something like 45 minutes to get to work, so that she can make minimum wage? Not great life planning. Her first hour, and probably most of her second, is going towards gas to get to work. Here’s hoping she’s taking a lot of 12-hour shifts.

Mindy wanders off, and Jack walks up to Burt. Jack tries to convince Burt that they should partner up. Burt could sign a few autographs, maybe give a weapons demonstration.

Burt says no, impolitely.

Jack’s partner drives up, and we learn that his name is Buford (really?) and that he’s got a thing for Mindy. Probably because she’s fully one-third of the female population of the town.

Back out at the only entertainment in town, Jack gives another tour, and Buford does his thing. He’s invited Mindy along, and she went with him, probably because it’s either that or sitting around at the house, watching the precious minutes of her life slip away.

Mindy asks Buford why he has such a pathetic job, and he ripostes by stating that he used to shovel roadkill for the country. Mindy speculates that perhaps Buford has reached his social peak, while Jack is almost certainly bound for greatness, or mending a broken heart.

Mindy has terrible taste in men. And career choices. And pretty much everything else.

Buford, meanwhile, has pulled out a really large knife and started throwing it into the ground, over and over. He starts to give Mindy a semi-threatening look that says, more-or-less, that perhaps if she can’t be with the one she loves, she should love the one she’s with, or maybe she’s gonna get stabbed, and then Buford gets eaten by a graboid.

Jack freaks right out, as this was not part of the tour, but Mindy keeps a cool head and tells Jack via frantic, silent signals that he should keep his mouth shut and not move.

She uses the same signals to have him throw his keys, and when the graboid is distracted, they run to Jack’s truck, throw some stuff as a distraction, and then drive back into town.

Burt, who has been planning for this day for eleven years, also races into town. And, uh… there’s some more racing.

Ultimately, everyone ends up in town, with lots, and lots, and lots of time to talk and plan what to do. Interestingly, someone points out that they can call the authorities this time, because they aren’t cut off.

Burt points out that they are the authorities. Dude. Whatever. If giant killer worms are coming after me, I vote to send some sort of militia members after them.

No matter. Burt, Jack, and Miguel all head out at dawn with some explosives and radio-controlled trucks in tow.

Only they get stopped by the U.S. Government, who have placed the graboids on the endangered species list.

There’s a boatload of dialogue here, but long story short: no graboid hunting allowed. And if the area becomes dangerous, the citizens of Perfection will be forced to move to a new location. Naturally, the government will give everyone a fair price for their land.

You know what this means, right? It means Burt is right about something that doesn’t explode. I guess that’s what makes it science fiction.

Later that night, Burt heads down to his basement to shoot some stuff, which he does right up until he hears his seismograph beeping. He steps outside, and a massive CGIed white graboid pops up from the ground to, like, hang out and demonstrate that CGI is popular in direct-to-video sequels.

Interesting to note, however, that the graboid sticks out pretty far. Makes one wonder just why Burt didn’t opt to build a six-foot wall ABOVE ground, instead of just below it.

A couple of scenes wander on past without much happening in them. The basic gist is this – the government boys want to catch a graboid. They can’t do it. So Jack cuts a deal. If Burt can catch one, then they give him back his hunting rights.

The government boys have been using tranquilizer darts, but they can’t penetrate the dirt. So Burt grabs a dart and sticks it on top of a remote-controlled truck.

He also grabs Jack and drags him along for the ride.

As Bert and Jack head off, the dude from the Smithsonian (he was with the government guys) comes driving up, all excited because he found an egg, which he immediately dated and determined that, yes, this is where the graboids come from.


Bert and Jack get ready to do them some graboid catching, when here comes another vehicle, out to the middle of nowhere. It’s Melvin, from the first movie.

Now, instead of a teenager you want to punch in the throat, he’s the man running Perfection Valley Ranchettes… who you want to punch in the throat.

Basically, he makes Burt an offer Burt can’t refuse, only Burt refuses it. At which point, Jack hears a beeping and realizes that a graboid is headed right for them.

Burt tells everyone to be quiet, only Melvin’s pager goes off. He throws it away from him, and it lands at Burt’s feet. So Burt gets eaten, while Melvin drives away.

Really. That’s what happens.

But Burt’s on the movie poster, so after a few moments of sad music, we learn that Burt is alive and in the belly of the graboid. He tells Jack, via radio, to engage the graboid and drive towards Burt’s front gate.

Naturally, this causes the graboid to smash headfirst into Burt’s underground wall. Icky.

Jack grabs a shovel and a chainsaw, first digging down six inches to find the worm, and then cutting into the dead worm with a chainsaw. Burt pops out of the worm like an ancient, goo-covered fetus.

And then it is later, and instead of just Burt and Jack, the team is now in two vehicles that consists of Burt and Miguel in one vehicle and Jack and Chang in the other vehicle.

They confer, and determine that they haven’t heard from the government agents in a while – only here comes the Smithsonian guy, who is covered in fire extinguisher foam. He lives just long enough to let us know that the other graboid turned into shriekers, then ate the other government dudes. Oh, and himself, kind of. He’s got a mess of blood on his back. Perhaps they ate his spine?

It kind of makes sense. He was only standing upright because he was frozen in place. But once he unfroze…

Burt hooks up some new gear and they go shrieker hunting. The only problem is, when they pause to figure out what’s up with the shriekers, the albino graboid attacks, which causes all our heroes to run for the rocks.

Unfortunately, they forgot their radios back on their vehicles, so they can’t call for help. So the team sits out on the rocks for a spell. And by a spell, I mean overnight.

In the morning, the worm is still out there. So Miguel hands Burt a fishing pole he made with sticks and dental floss. Because Miguel always has dental floss with him.

I can’t say I really want to know why.

Burt and Miguel go fishing, and grab Burt’s radio. Burt asks for loud music, and Mindy plays some. Burt tosses his radio, and the albino goes for it.

Burt leaps off the rock, hands guns to everyone, and then jams a toolbox on his accelerator pedal and sends his vehicle driving away at top speed. The graboid follows it.

Of course, now they’re trapped out in the middle of a field with nowhere safe to go, but, you know. Whatever.

The team heads into a nearby canyon to shoot the shriekers. But when they get to the canyon, there’s nothing there but shrieker husks.

Burt is saddened by the lack of things to kill – “Let’s go find my truck,” he says. Never mind that his truck just drove away from them at 45 miles her hour, headed for who-knows-where, with a gigantic beast behind it that’s really, really good at breaking stuff.

They eventually find the truck, only it ran off a cliff, flipped over, and is currently semi-engulfed in flames. So much for that really-poorly-conceived plan.

Suddenly, our gang hears a noise, and there, on the ground… is yet another mutation of the creature. Bigger than the shrieker. Smaller than a graboid. But! Bonus! This one has wings! And shoots fire from its rectum, allowing it to soar into the air majestically.

Which is does.

Burt shoots it a lot, but, sadly, not before it can knock Miguel off the cliff. Miguel is mighty dead, now.

Burt radios Mindy and her mom, and we almost get a moment of grief, only one of the new, improved killing machines come flying at them.

They race to get off the roof they’ve been hiding on, and head inside Chang’s store and into the meat locker.

Gonna be a nippy afternoon for them.

Chang, Jack, and Burt grab a mattress that’s lying on the ground nearby, and hide under it as they walk back to Burt’s place. Lucky for them, they’re walking on a strip of natural granite, so the worm can’t get to them.

Why yes, that IS convenient, now that you mention it.

The trio arrives at Burt’s place, and calls up Mindy and mama, only of course they aren’t answering.

Burt’s seismograph goes off, but they’re safe from graboids inside Burt’s basement.

They are not, however, safe from flying creatures who shoot flames from their bottoms. So one of the creatures crashes through the ceiling of Burt’s basement.

Which means that not only did it sense heat from Burt’s house, but it managed to pound through the ceiling and at least one story worth of home.

No wonder Burt lives in the basement all the time – his house is made of balsa wood.

The trio escapes to the safe room, only the creature turns around and applies its fire-shooting behind to the door, melting it.

So Burt and crew get out using an escape tunnel. Only first, Burt sticks a gas can in front of the melting door.

The creature, and the house, go up in flames. And a series of explosions and ricocheting bullets.

Mindy and momma radio to Burt at that moment – their beast ate all their food, which caused it to go into a total food coma.

So, had Burt opted to feed the creature instead of destroying it, it would have passed out. And Burt’s panic room was filled with MREs.

Oh, juicy, delicious, dried-food irony. Where would we be without you?

The trio needs to make a run for it, so they hop in Burt’s boat, stick a tarp over their heads, and wheel on down a steep hill. On a boat. In the desert.

They escape to the junkyard, where they kill one creature by knocking something heavy over on top of it. There’s a short victory celebration, only four more of the creatures spot them, and they’re forced to run and hide in a porta-potty.

Discussion ensues, but long story short, they remember that the creatures are filled with flaming chemicals, which is what allows them to set fire to their own booty emissions. So they decide they’ll shoot them with flaming arrows and they’ll blow up.

Jack figures they can build some kind potato gun. All they need is some pipe, some flammable liquid, a lighter, and something that can fire and also be flaming.

Everyone runs out of the porta-john to go find parts.

Chang gets spotted, and it looks like it’s curtains for the only remaining minority in the valley, until she runs into a boxcar of some kind (why is that in the junkyard?) and accidentally knocks over some gas cans inside (that still have gas in them – doesn’t that violate a law or three?) and escapes out a back window. She runs around to the front door and locks it, and naturally the thing which is designed to squirt flame does so, and there’s a loud explosion, and now it’s dead.

Everyone finds their parts, including Burt, who locates some hooch tucked into the walls of a destroyed trailer. And that trailer? Totally belonged to Nestor.

What? You don’t remember Nestor? He had, like, one line back in the first movie? Tried to hide inside a tire and got sucked down into the ground by a graboid?

I loves me some continuity, but, seriously, even fans of this series had to be going, “um, wha?” I seriously doubt they went back and rewatched the first and second movie before watching part three.

Jack, Burt and Chang wander around the dump until well after dark. Which means they must have been out in the junkyard for a few hours. I’m not quite sure how that works, since the junkyard appears to be maybe sixty feet by sixty feet.

Once the gang is all back together, they head into yet another trailer that’s stored in the junkyard. After a short altercation with a winged beast, in order to heighten suspense, they get to work making their potato/spear gun.

Luckily for the audience, Burt goes out of his way to explain that the moonshine is Nestor’s, and that Nestor died in the first graboid attack. Just in case the audience members were still looking at each other, going, “Do you remember Nestor? Was he the first dead guy? No, that was Old Fred, right?”

The gun is carefully assembled, the flaming arrow/fence post is set on fire, and the shot directly fired into the flying creature. He blows up real good.

That’s two down, and two to go.

The next beast crash-lands on their roof. It attacks through one skylight, knocking Burt to the ground. Jack and Chang grab the gun, and Jack boosts Chang up through the other skylight so she can shoot the creature.

The creature flames up, falls off the roof, and explodes, destroying the wall with it’s dying flaming gaseous emissions.

The fourth creature starts walking towards them, and the gang preps the gun and fires again – only this time, the creature ducks.

Yes indeedy, folks, it’s getting smarter.

The creature rushes them, and it looks like Jack is going to get eaten. Which is fine. It’s not like he’s a well-loved character. But Burt is always thinking on his feet, and carrying cannon fuse. He wraps some fuse around another metal stake, lights it, and jams it into the beast.

The trio manages to get away from the creature just long enough to get into a back room, and then, BOOM, the thing explodes off-camera, which is much cheaper than on-camera.

All’s well that ends well, except the albino graboid has found them again. Burt laments that the thing always finds him, until he realizes that his super-awesome watch that uses an ultrasonic signal is clearly the thing that’s causing the graboid to hunt him down.

Burt trips, falls, and lands on the underside of a matress, where he ends up snagged by his vest.

Jack jumps down and steals Burt’s watch. He pretends that he’s doing this to draw the graboid away, but let’s not kid ourselves. The minute he’s out of town, he’s pawning that thing.

It looks like everything is going to be more-or-less okay, only the winged beastie that they dropped the large object on? That was thought was dead, only I guess it was still alive? Yeah, it finally got free, and it’s coming for them.

Since Burt is still trapped, it looks like he’s going to be meal number one.

But no. Jack looks at the watch. Then he looks down at his pants, which were, and are, mended with duct tape.

He strips off the tape, and wads it up around the watch, sticky-side-out. Then he throws it directly on the angry, flaming creature.

The albino graboid pops up and eats its own third stage variation. So if history taught us anything, that creature is still alive, and at some point, the white worm will spit it out somewhere and it will go on a rampage.

Or maybe I’m overthinking things.


The movie then leaps forward some indeterminate time, as it tries to wrap up all its little plotlines.

So… let’s see how that goes.

First, we get to see the final winged gasplosion-using creature, which Mindy and her mom stuffed into a crate with an open back end. Mom is on the phone negotiating with people, and eventually it’s revealed that they’re selling the creature to Siegfried and Roy.

Which is sort of funny, until you remember that one of them was mauled by a tiger a couple of years later. Then you’re all, “Oh, that’s kind of sad…”

Moving right along, we learn that Jack, who clearly won’t be giving tours anymore, since his partner was eaten, now has a job managing a car wash down in Bixby. Given the size of his massive vehicle and the kind of gas mileage he’s getting, his first six hours of work every day will go towards fuel.

Jack offers to take Chang for a ride, help him break in his new rear axle. I think we all know what THAT means, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard referred to quite that way.

Chang asks Mindy to watch the store, and she and Jack head out for a “drive.”

Mindy is saddened that the only semi-youthful male in town is now taken, and that she will have to settle for Burt. But she’s philosophical about it.

(Okay, that might be giving her too much credit. What really happens is, she says, “Figures. Older women.” Whatever that means.)

Finally, we head out to the middle of nowhere, where Burt is driving a remote-controlled vehicle around the ground with a new watch strapped to it.

Melvin drives out, and Burt suggests that Melvin join him on the rock.

Burt then calmly explains that since the albino graboid is protected under the endangered species act, Melvin can’t build. So the entire town has built up its defenses in preparation to live in harmony with the great white worm.

(It was, of course, carefully explained that since albinos can’t mate, that the creature will never advance to the next stage o’ life.)

Burt jumps into his vehicle and takes off, leaving Melvin trapped on the rock to die out in the middle of the dessert.

That’s right, boys and girls. The hero of our movie. A genuine sociopath.

A final note: The credits point out that no graboids, shriekers, or their mutations were harmed in the making of this motion picture.

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