2018 | rated PG-13 | starring Michael Gross, Jamie Kennedy | directed by Don Michael Paul | 1hr 38mins |
I admit to being remiss on the direct-to-video dynasty that evolved out of the 1990 cult monster movie Tremors. Now coming in on the 6th movie readily available on streaming and with the promise of a change of scenery that put the Graboids under the snow, I can make a few easy assumptions. There must be a loyal following of fans of this series, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell is a work aimed directly at them and only them. A creation both lazy and weird and kind of sureal, completely insulated by in-jokes and returning characters doing their shtick for the few remaining hangers-on of the franchise. If anybody is thinking it doesn’t get any worse than big studio monster movies like the Jurassic World franchise, the garish, screeching Tremors 6 is a cold snap back to how bad it can get.
Apparently, these movies revolve around Michael Gross’ survivalist prepper Burt Gummer who at some point jettisoned Reba McEntire for obvious budgetary purposes and was reunited with his adult kid (Jamie Kennedy). I do know that there are new flying Graboids now, called Ass-Blasters after where they blow fire out of like a shuttle launch and to also signal where the level of the humor of this series has settled at. Tremors seems to operate on a Louder is Funnier model. Gummer is re-introduced to us in a scene that goes on forever as he first chases off a tax collector and then has words with his son. Listening to Gross dial it up to a 10, screaming and ranting and raving immediately begs the question why anyone would want to follow this guy for 6 movies.
Gummer immediately slips into Graboid-hunting mode, while still screaming and ranting, when he gets a call from a Canadian outpost attacked by the sandworms. The opening scenes of the Graboid’s leaping out of the snow like whales look surprisingly good. Does this sequel have some money behind it? Nope. Soon the movie shifts locations entirely, completely ditches the snow motif and becomes a single-location monster movie with Gubber, his son and a handful of Canadian scientists and Graboid enthusiasts hold up in a trailer surrounded by dirt in an area that might as well be back at Perfection. This movie promises one thing – Graboids in the snow – then pulls a bait and switch. How expensive is it to throw some fake snow around outside a trailer? It also doesn’t use the setting change as an opportunity to expand it’s monster lore or explain why they’ve migrated north. Do they breed in the cold or something? It chalks up to throw away lines about climate change – Hollywood’s go-t0 catch-all plot device.
One of the most fun and replicable things about the original Tremors was that the monsters who sensed vibrations on the ground gave way to a game of The Ground is Lava as our characters tried different ways to move around without touching the sand. If this series ever played on that, it seems to see no inspiration in it now. What we do get is a race against time to save Burt from succumbing to a Graboid infection after being swallowed by one in the last film. This causes him to have generalized electro-shock flashbacks and collapse when the script needs an additional complication.
Instead of Graboid attacks we have a government that wants to weaponize them – because of course they do – all that’s missing here is a government contractor looking at a monitor of Graboid footage going “Imagine those things in Tora Bora”. Now if Tremors 7 realized this long-teased monster movie plotline and did an entire movie about the government controlling weaponized Graboids and releasing them around the world to take out terrorists and seize land – count me back in.
A Cold Day in Hell is bargain basement stuff. Director Don Michael Paul makes this movie look bad, not by a lack of coverage, but by his own choices for shooting this stuff. Don’t do a snap zoom. It’s cheesy. No theatrical film does a snap zoom unironically. Don’t fill the film with cheesy slow motion of sand lifting off the ground and people thrashing about in the water. And don’t release a direct to video monster movie with a tame, bloodless PG-13 rating. The script is terrible, the acting is terrible, the jokes are terrible, and it’s not interested in the monsters of it’s monster series.