4K UHD Release: November 28, 2023
Video: 1.85:1/2160p (HDR10/Dolby Vision)/Color
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 4.0 and 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Run Time: 99:28
Director: S.S. Wilson
Earl Bassett’s (Fred Ward) celebrity after defeating the Graboid attack against the town of Perfection has proved short-lived until he’s recruited by a Mexican oil company whose workers have found more than they bargained for under the soil. With the help of a scientist (Helen Shaver) and a new sidekick (Christopher Gartin) – not to mention the return of his gun-toting survivalist pal Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) – Earl is about to learn the Graboids have evolved and are deadlier than ever. (From Arrow’s official synopsis)
The straight-to-video market had been a big B-movie business model since the earliest days of the medium, but the idea of an STV sequel to an established theatrical release was almost unheard of outside the realms of Charlie Band’s Empire Films. That is until Disney released Aladdin 2: The Return of Jafar in 1994 and raked in unheard of profits. Still, the industry never really became comfortable producing follow-ups to major blockbusters and sending them directly to rental stores, so the practice was mostly limited to other animated films, like Roy Allen Smith’s The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure (1994), and genre pictures, like Bradford May’s Darkman II: The Return of Durant (1995). 1996 was apparently a breakout year for the model, having seen the release of Alan Mehrez & Philip Tan’s Bloodsport 2 (minus Jean-Claude Van Damme), May’s Darkman III: Die Darkman Die (shot back-to-back with Darkman II), Tad Stones’ Aladdin and the King of Thieves (celebrated for the return of Robin Williams as the Genie), and the subject of this review, S.S. Wilson’s Tremors II: Aftershocks.
Reportedly, Tremors II was not planned as a STV sequel to Ron Underwood’s original Tremors (1990), but became one when (according to some sources) stars Kevin Bacon and Reba McEntire dropped out for other projects (Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 * and a world tour, respectively) and the proposed budget was slashed to one-fourth its initial size. Undeterred, Wilson, his cast, and his crew put in the effort needed to ensure that Tremors II didn’t feel like a compromised continuation of the burgeoning Graboid epic. Following high scores from test audiences, Universal even tried to finagle theatrical distribution to no avail, leading to an unusually high quality video-only film that pleased fans and most critics – others unfairly compared it to Jurassic Park when it is clearly modeled on James Cameron’s Aliens – and led to an enduring franchise, including seven total movies and 13 episodes of a made for Sci-Fi Channel series.
It’s not as good as Tremors, whether that’s the fault of the first-time director’s inexperience or, much more likely, the holes in the budget, but, like that first film, Tremors II excels because of its amiable characters, unique sense of humor, and genuine love for ‘50s/’60s monster movies, all things that can probably be attributed to the fact that the first two movies were co-written by Wilson and Brent Maddock. The duo also wrote John Badham’s popular sci-fi-comedy mash-up Short Circuit (1986), Matthew Robbins’ unpopular, but well-liked family sci-fi movie Batteries Not Included (1987), Sidney Poitier’s very, very awful Ghost Dad (1990), and Barry Sonnenfeld’s notorious flop Wild Wild West (1999). They continued ushering the Tremors series through Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (directed by Maddock, 2001), the 2003 Sci-Fi series, and Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (directed by Wilson, 2004). They appear to have had little-to-no involvement in movies 5 through 7, all of which were directed by Don Michael Paul. In a fun case of legacy STV sequel happenstance, Wilson & Maddock were also story consultants on Don Bluthe’s original Land Before Time (1988).
* In another weird conincidence, Kevin Bacon left Tremors II for a higher profile job on Apollo 13, while Fred Ward stayed on. Previously, Ward had co-starred in Philip Kaufman’s The Right Stuff, a 1983 epic about the Project Mercury astronaut program. Several Mercury astronauts ended up in the Apollo program, including Gus Grissom, the character Ward played. Tragically, Grissom was one of the three astronauts who died when Apollo 1 burst into flames on the launch pad. This event is referenced throughout Apollo 13.
As you might expect, Tremors II had a big roll-out on VHS and Laserdisc. It was first released on Blu-ray from Universal in 2004, then steadily reissued as part of multi-movie collections. The first stateside Blu-ray was a quadruple-feature ‘Attack Pack’ featuring the first four movies in the series. Arrow’s 4K UHD debut was created using a new 4K scan of the original negative. The restoration was then approved by Wilson and the final transfer is presented in full 2160p with HDR10 compatible Dolby Vision enhancements. The images on this page are taken from the included 1080p Blu-ray copy, but are a pretty good representation of what the 4K transfer looks like, minus the increased dynamic range and extra detail.
Previous HD releases weren’t the utter mess that early Tremors Blu-rays were, but they were still pretty heavy with edge enhancement and that issue has been corrected here. Generally speaking, Virgil L. Harper’s cinematography is evenly lit with deep-set, but not overly sharp details, which isn’t conducive to wholly impressive HDR enhancement, but the palette is rich and eclectic, so there’s still something to be said for the dynamic range boost (the blue skies, for instance, are punchier on the UHD than they appear on this page). Textures and patterns are complex, but, again, not too sharp, and there are few notable compression artifacts, despite a bit of banding and noise on the Blu-ray copy. Note that some of the CG shots appear to have been mastered in standard definition, so there are a couple of dips in resolution throughout.
Tremors II: Aftershocks is presented with 4.0 and 2.0 audio options, both in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio. The 4.0 mix is the better of the two and the closest most of us will get to the intended sound, had Universal found the space in its schedule for a proper theatrical release. The three-speaker front channel spread is especially effective for an analog mix from the early digital era and the discrete center channel helps separate dialogue. That said, the stereo track has a bit more oomph, specifically where Jay Ferguson’s rock, western, and Tejano-infused original score is concerned. The rear channel doesn’t do too much, but supports the Graboid attacks when necessary. Whichever mix you choose, the tracks are clean and aren’t overly crisp or squeezed by noise reduction.
Commentary with director/co-writer S.S. Wilson and co-producer Nancy Roberts – The Arrow exclusive extras begin with a new director and producer commentary. Wilson and Roberts have fun looking back on the film, but were recorded separately, so there are slight issues with editing their discussions together, i.e. it sounds kind of like they’re interrupting each other. Still, the combo approach means that there’s little to no downtime and the commentators are free to stick to their sides of the story – Wilson focuses on writing, directing, and technical aspects, while Roberts covers the production, casting, and financing – without fumbling to fill space.
Commentary with Jonathan Melville – The author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors (Fountainbridge Press, 2015) brings extensive research to the table while describing the lengthy behind-the-scenes process, earlier versions of the script, and special effects processes. There’s surprisingly little overlap with the director/producer track, too, aside from some casting and technical discussion.
Graboid Go Boom (19:44, HD) – Special effects designer Peter Chesney breaks down his work on the film, the difference between visual and physical effects (his job), and bringing the Graboid puppets and animatronics to life.
Critical Need-to-Know Information (7:24, HD) – CG supervisor Phil Tippett talks about changes in the industry after Jurassic Park (which he worked on), Tremors II as one of his studio’s first digital effects projects (sans ILM), and the technical aspects of early CG effects.
The Making of Tremors 2 (8:42, SD) – The original 1994 behind-the-scenes EPK.
Outtakes (7:45, SD)
Tremors and Tremors II trailers
The images on this page are taken from Arrow’s same-day Blu-ray release – NOT the 4K UHD – and sized for the page. Larger versions can be viewed by clicking the images. Note that there will be some JPG compression.