Since the opening burn-in notes that we’re in Nevada, in 1889, I think we all know what we’re in for, right? Right?
And we all know what that means, of course. Because in the first movie (which is now the second movie) no one ever said, “Hey, these things coming out of the ground and eating people? That totally happened before. Check out this old diary I found…” it means that at the end of this here prequel, there’s gonna be a cover-up of some kind.
Maybe they’ll eat all the graboids? Big old Nevada-style barbecue? That’d be awesome.
Moving right along.
As our story begins anew, a bunch of miners are in a mine, noting that there’s quite a bit of soft dirt. Which they have to note, because otherwise people like me would be all, “I thought they couldn’t tunnel through rock?”
We meet a dude named Juan, and then another guy. But I’m not going to bother to tell you his name, because thirty seconds after we meet him, he mysteriously vanishes.
This puzzles Juan, who goes to talk to another friend. That friend is just about to offer a theory when he gets yanked up towards the ceiling and his head gets popped off, complete with gratuitous neck stump.
Juan screams, and several of the men outside the mine inquire after his health in loud voices.
Then Juan hears screaming, and the mine goes dark, because special effects cost way, way, way, way too much to blow the budget in the first three minutes of the movie.
Now that Juan’s fate is sealed, the movie jumps on over to a nearby town called Rejection, which I’m about 100% certain will be called Perfection by the time the closing credits roll.
Oh, hey. There’s Chang’s market, right there. Good old Chang. I don’t feel so bad that he died in the first movie now. The guy was at least 100 years old. That’s a good long run by any standard. No wonder no one got all that sad about his death.
The movie then takes a moment to introduce us to Chang, only there’s two Changs. Chang, and his son. But the movie doesn’t bother to tell us their name right away, so from now on they’re going to be Big Chang and Little Chang.
Big Chang tells Little Chang that the mine has closed and everyone is leaving. Little Chang thinks that the town’s name is the problem. Little Chang has a smart mouth. It’s time for Big Chang to bring down the long arm of the law on his behind, methinks.
Chang squared walk into their store, where we get to meet some more of the town. For example, we meet Mrs. Chang. She’s a peach. And by a peach, I mean she’s angry and bitter and wants to go back to China.
Also in the store: Some woman, a drunk dude, and Juan, who wants to buy a hat but can’t afford it. Chang says he can buy it on credit, but Mrs. Chang says no.
What a fun little group, huh?
The telegraph machine goes clicky-click, and Chang picks up the message and reads it. The owner of the mine is coming to town, all the way from Philadelphia.
And who is the owner? Hiram Gummer. Which I guess would make him the grandfather of Burt.
“Some woman,” by the by, has a name: Christine.
Hiram arrives by stagecoach, along with a lot of luggage. The movie takes a long, long time setting up this mysterious stranger, just so that we can see that it’s the very same actor who plays Burt.
Why bother? If you’re a fan of the series, you know who it is based on the name. And if you don’t follow the series, all you’re going to think is, “Oh, it’s that ‘Family Ties’ guy. I wondered what happened to him.”
Everyone fills him in on what’s going on – the mine closed, seventeen men were killed, and the person who runs the mine just skipped town, which is why Hiram hasn’t heard from him.
Christine takes Hiram to her “hotel,” which is basically a tent with some beds in it. Man alive, who doesn’t love the old west? Hiram is shocked and somewhat dismayed. He is, however, intrigued by Christine’s collection of guns – all of which were taken as payment for services rendered when the mine closed.
Later, as Hiram concludes his lunch, he offers Little Chang the last of his gingerbread if the boy will run and get him some brandy. Then Hiram eats the gingerbread. He says he wants to teach the boy a lesson about life, but I suspect he’s just not a very nice guy. He probably kicks puppies and then informs them that they should avoid shoes.
Hiram talks to Juan and says that he wants to take the remaining miners out first thing in the morning, and deal with whatever it is that ate 17 miners.
In the course of events, we learn that Hiram doesn’t own a gun, but that everyone else does. Except Little Chang. He owns a slingshot. Hiram is lucky he didn’t take a shot to the face for the gingerbread stunt.
The next day, Hiram and Juan set out. There’s some semi-amusing business, but it’s mostly about making fun of Hiram and the fact that he’s never ridden a horse.
The good news is, we learn another character name: Tecopa. He works for Christine. Or maybe he doesn’t. It’s a bit unclear.
Juan, Hiram, and a cadre of miners head up to the mine. They investigate it, but they don’t find anything but a few dead bodies. Which is odd, seeing as how we’ve never seen that in a “Tremors” movie before. Perhaps the graboids of 100 years ago were a little more sloppy.
Hiram declares the mine to be safe, and everyone camps out for the night.
Things go smoothly until one of the miners wanders off to play his concertina to the horses. He is promptly eaten. By the horses. Well, okay, probably not.
The horses run off, which aggravates the rest of the miners. One of them wanders out into the darkness to find his missing comrade, and he, too, is eaten. By the horses. Because once they get a taste for blood, y’know?
Everyone starts to freak out, and rightfully so. Guns are pulled out, and people go on alert. But it’s too late – the graboids are here.
Or rather, little mini-graboids that are capable of shooting out of the dirt and leaping through the air are here. They immediately eat a third miner, and Juan loudly suggests that everyone should get off the ground and onto a nearby rock.
Of course, since these graboids are capable of making tremendous jumps into the air, the chances of the rocks protecting any of the remaining victims is somewhat laughable. And even if they survive, they won’t be able to protect themselves from the man-eating horses.
Death is imminent.
Oh, uh… except that the foothills just behind Hiram and Juan, the only survivors, are made entirely of rock. So that was lucky.
Hiram and Juan walk home, and recount their tale of screaming and running to the rest of the town. Hiram determines that they need to hire a gunfighter – someone with a fast trigger finger who can shoot the creatures as they fly through the air.
Little Chang sends a telegram to a few semi-local papers.
A month passes.
Several small scenes roll by, providing us with two pieces of information: The town owns a massive steam engine, and Hiram is broke because the not-running silver mine is where all his money comes from.
Finally, someone remembers that they should get back to the plot, and the people of the town gather together in the hotel on dark and stormy night.
A flash of lighting illuminates the wall, and there, in the shadows, is Black Hand Kelly. He has a black glove on. That’s why he’s Black Hand Kelly.
Kelly demonstrates that he’s a great shot by shooting a sausage off a wall, then shooting two holes in it before it hits the floor. I’m going to let you fill in your own jokes here.
Discussion of payment comes up, and Kelly demands some money up front – forcing Hiram to give up his one extremely valuable coin and his diamond cufflinks, all of which were set up during the dull scenes from a few minutes ago.
This sacrifice really impresses Christine. Christine is sort of gullible, I guess, since giving up a couple of valuables now will re-open a quite literal silver mine for Hiram. If someone could promise me I’d win a 500 million dollar jackpot by handing over 100 bucks, I’d do it in a heartbeat.
Hiram, Juan, and Kelly saddle up and ride back to the mine. And Mrs. Chang gives Juan a hat. As a gift. I realize this is a payoff in a setup-payoff scheme, but seriously? How many times have we made reference to Juan’s hat? Did no one get into editing the movie and realize, say, this hat thing just goes on, and on, and on, and on… ?
The boys ride to the mine, where they discover that the worms (Chang has taken to calling them Dirt Dragons) are missing. But they do find some egg shells, which as it turns out were hatched when the miners pumped the hot spring from the mine.
Bad form, boys. I guess the good news is they have no one to blame for their deaths but themselves.
The boys continue grub-hunting,
They come across an old wagon that belongs to Old Fred, the drunk guy who was always hanging around. Turns out Fred is dead. And only a head. Why whatever ate him left his head lying around is a mystery. Perhaps they thought it would be creepy.
The gang buries the head, then heads down to the old muling station to get some sleep. Juan thinks they’ll be safe, because there’s no way that the dirt dragons will be able to break through the heavy beams in the barn floor.
Of course, Juan doesn’t take into account that there’s a big old wagon behind them that’s been torn in half. Someday, when the short bus is invented, Juan will ride it.
The boys get to the muling station, get the horses behind the fence, and then go the sleep.
That night, a loud rumbling scares the horses and they all run away.
Moments later, graboids stick their tentacles through the wide slats in the station walls, and steal Juan’s hat. Just when you thought that joke was over…
The boys all jump up and start firing away at various and sundry tentacles. The tentacles pull out, and Kelly decides its time that Hiram learn how to shoot. So there’s a shooting lesson.
The thing is, each time Hiram fires, the graboids can feel the vibrations and try to break through the floor.
Finally, the graboids wise up, and start grabbing the boards in the floor and dragging them away, one by one.
Hiram tells Juan to go make clicky-clicks on the telegraph, only Juan doesn’t know any Morse code. So he just clicks at random.
Lucky for him, Little Chang, Mrs. Chang, and Christine hear the tapping, and figure out it’s from the muling station. The other men have left on some expedition or other, so Christine decides to saddle up and head to the muling station herself.
Back at the station, a full-sized graboid breaks through the floor, and almost eats Juan.
Kelly realizes that none of their weapons are effective against the creature, so he decides they should sit and wait, and when the graboid attacks they’ll all shoot it at the same time and kind of hope for the best.
Really. That’s the plan.
The next morning, with nearly all the boards gone, the boys hear a sound from behind them. They turn around, and of course it’s a trick, and of course Kelly gets eaten, because he’s the guest star.
Lucky for Juan and Hiram, Christine shows up with a horse and wagon rig, and our remaining boys jump out and hop on. Hooray! They are saved!
Though come to think of it, in the last movie, Bert lived for a while after he was swallowed. So Kelly is probably all right. They should go back and save him.
Back at Chang’s, everyone debates what to do. Long story short, Hiram thinks everyone should run away to a new existence and never look back. But everyone else feels like this is their home and that they should fight for it.
Never mind that four little creatures managed to eat all of the miners except one. Never mind the fact that Kelly, their only real chance as survival, got eaten. These people are going to stand their ground.
Gonna be a full short bus.
Hiram, who is not insane, decides to leave.
The townsfolk, however, give him an ultimatum. He’s going to have to leave on their horse – in trade, they want the mine. Hiram says he’s going to sell the mine. The townsfolk say they’ll send a telegram to the papers saying just what happened at the mine.
Hiram will be destitute.
But he’ll be alive.
So he rides off anyway, telling everyone they can have the mine.
Hiram rides through the night and gets to the next town. Perhaps this is the legendary Bixby? Sadly, it’s Carson city. Drat. Perhaps we’ll see Bixby in part V.
He goes to a hotel and takes a bath, though it’s unclear how he’s paying his hotel bill. The man has no money, by his own admission.
Back at the other town, Juan goes for a ride and discovers that the dragons are coming.
Then the worms arrive, and everyone dies. The end.
Well, okay, actually there’s a half-hour to go.
Hiram goes to buy a train ticket home. At the station, the telegraph starts to chatter. The folks back in Rejection are asking for help, only the guy behind the counter figures the whole thing is a big joke.
Hiram leaves the station without a ticket, which makes sense, because the man still has no money at all. He looks across the street, pulling out his watch while eyeing a big old gun shop.
Back in Rejection, everyone is packing up. They see dust from the South… only the worms will be coming from the North. Who could it possibly be?
Really. The movie not only asks the question, but makes us wait a minute for the answer. That’s just weird. Did they make this movie for people who’ve never seen a movie before?
Anyhow, Hiram rides up with a big wagon filled with guns. Everyone gets one. Oh, and Juan gets another hat, because Hiram figures Juan will need a spare. I did not make that up.
Strongly emphasized is the punt gun, which is a really, really, really, really long gun that shots a whole lot of shot at once.
And now we’re into the final battle.
First worm: Everyone stands around on something heavy, while they lift and drop a gigantic dinner bell on top of a rock using a rope. This causes the worm to stick its head above ground, and Hiram shoots it with the punt gun. It dies.
Second worm: Everyone gets back on something heavy. The worm grabs the punt gun and drags it under the ground. Juan trips and falls, the worm hears him, and goes after him. Juan climbs a tall pole. The worm starts to eat the pole. Tecopa grabs a really long saw, and jams it down a really deep hole he made earlier in the movie so that they’d have a place to stick a flagpole when Nevada got a state flag.
(One again, not kidding.)
He whacks on the saw-in-the-hole with the butt of his gun, and the worm races over and, presumably, chops itself in half on the saw. I say presumably because blood seeps up from the ground.
Third worm: The worm eats Tecopa. No, wait, we’re led to think that, instead the worm eats a cigar store Indian. Tee-hee.
The graboid then races away, circling the town. The characters claim this is because it is hunting, but let’s not kid ourselves – this is because the screenwriter couldn’t think of a scenario that reached this point, but didn’t end with every member of the town being consumed.
Think about it. Everyone is standing on the ground right now, and they lost their big gun. They’re basically a undercooked buffet. But whatever.
Big Chang grabs the remaining gunpowder from the punt gun, and some twine, and makes some explosives. In case you missed that, the Chinese fellow takes the Chinese-invented gunpowder and makes explosives.
I feel a mite uncomfortable with this.
The bomb is just about finished then the telegraph machine starts clicking, attracting the worm. Chaos ensues. Various people nearly die.
The worm pops out of the ground and stays out of the ground, attempting to eat itself some people. Hiram grabs a long belt-like thing, sticks a hook at one end, and attaches the belt to the steam engine.
He jams the hook into the worm’s tail, Big Chang fires up the engine, and the worm is dragged out of the ground and splats to its death.
The town is saved. Hoorah!
Later, Hiram gets a loan from the bank to hire workers so he can re-open the silver mine. Hiram points out that it’s not really his mine anymore, and the townsfolk say, no, really, it’s his mine.
Hiram agrees to take back the mine under two conditions. One is that they never tell anyone about the dirt dragons, and two is that the hotel gets real walls, the shop gets real walls, Juan’s land is paid off, and Tecopa gets a cigar store Indian that looks just like him. Really, that’s what Tecopa wants. He requests it.
I have no words.
Well, I do, but I don’t know that I really want to spew them out here.
As the credits get ready to roll, we get to see miners coming into town, Big Chang changing the town sign from Rejection to Perfection, and Hiram getting a shiny new gun that shoots lots of bullets really fast, which causes him to laugh and laugh and laugh, so we can see the crazy on his face as we fade out.