Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (Tremors 6 for those who believe in numbered things) offers the franchise’s very first arctic graboids. Arctic graboids are remarkably similar to desert graboids, so fans can rest assured this latest entry will deliver the same goods. It’s a fun change of setting without compromising the monster attacks.
Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) and his son Travis (Jamie Kennedy) answer a call from a Canadian mountain research center asking for help with graboids. Burt doesn’t believe graboids exist in cold climates, and Travis just wants to meet the female scientists. So they join Dr. Sims (Tanya van Graan), Valerie McKee (Jamie-Lee Money, playing Val and Rhonda’s daughter) and their team where they are indeed fighting graboids in the snow.
Well, they get some good scenes in the snow but most of the movie is at sea level. It has mountains in the background but not remarkably different from Perfection. The science lab gives them a place to hole up and it plays out like most Tremors movies. They fend off the graboids for a while, then devise ways to trap and kill them.
The pace of A Cold Day in Hell moves. Once they get to Canada (South Africa on location), the graboids and ass blasters start coming right away. There are plenty of set pieces. Plenty of dirt or snow flies, building the anticipation of the underground graboids nearing their target. On the ground there are various points of elevation survivors climb up to to dodge the graboids.
I lost count of exactly how many graboids there are, but it’s a lot. Each one gets a very involved, drawn out death with just as much gooey slime when they’re exploded. Whatever money was saved making this latest straight to home video sequel, they did not scrimp on the graboid guts.
There are more CGI graboids than there were in the early entries in this series, but the CGI is not obtrusive. At this budget, they probably can’t afford to overdo it like a theatrical movie. Even in CGI, they seem to follow the same rules established by the puppet graboids in the first movies. They still have to come from underground. They still cause panels to blow off and floors to bust open so that much is practical. The finale definitely looks like a graboid build with CGI offshoots.
The humor can’t match the original. Part of that is you can’t discover graboids for the first time again. There’s a callback to Rhonda taking off her pants in the original but it lands with a thud this time. Burt’s macho talk of balls is in character but not really clever. Other characters’ jokes about ex-girlfriends are unnecessarily misogynistic, and Tremors 6 tries to do the exact same tax joke as Armageddon and hope we don’t remember.
Gross maintains the same enthusiasm for the character and even finds some new colors to play as Burt deals with old age. Kennedy fits into the world of Tremors more smoothly this time. The new characters are a delight. Money could very well carry this franchise on when Gross retires. Van Graan is as sciencey as the fifth Tremors sequel needs her to be and she seems to get it. Other actors with less screen time (sorry, spoiler alert) do embody the archetypes of fraidy cat and government A-hole dutifully.
Burt Gummer has always been a comically extreme gun enthusiast. After decades of mass shootings, that might be a little too real to be funny, but on the other hand, you don’t want to water down Burt just because of some psychos in real life. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but it feels like A Cold Day in Hell was conscious to redirect Burt’s obsessions so it’s not all guns all the time. He’s still armed well-enough to be faithful to the character, but it didn’t feel insensitive post-Parkland.
I’m very curious about the Tremors TV series that Kevin Bacon is involved with. It may be that the premise of that precludes merging the current DTV Tremors franchise with it. Maybe Gross can show up in a different role while shooting Tremors 7. Either way, as long as they can devise clever sequences of graboid attacks, Tremors can rumble along forever.