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Tremors 4: The Legend Begins
2004 - PG-13 - 101 Mins.
Director: S.S. Wilson
Producer: Nancy Roberts
Written By: Scott Buck
Starring: Michael Gross, Sara Botsford, Billy Drago, Brent Roam and August Schellenberg
Review by: Bill King

Will somebody turn on the lights on this soundstage?
I would hate to think that the "Tremors" series is running out of steam. One theatrical release and two direct-to-video sequels later, S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock had maintained the series' sense of humor and imaginative plotting. Now comes "Tremors 4: The Legend Begins," which relocates the setting to the old west (1889), and stars Michael Gross as Hiram Gummer, the great-grandfather of series hero Burt Gummer. "Tremors 4" has none of the creative energy of its predecessors. Very low-budget and looking like it, the movie is a tired series of escapes climaxing with a limp showdown between graboids and humans.

The settlement of Rejection, NV, the future spot for Perfection, is under siege by graboids. The only hint of originality comes near the beginning, when we see baby graboids attacking miners. Once they grow up, they resemble the graboids we know and love, only this time they are referred to as dirt dragons. With the mine shut down, owner Hiram Gummer arrives in the area to investigate. Unlike his great-grandson, Hiram is not a gun-toting survivalist. He's a rich guy interested in making profit from his mine.

Rejection has a few residents. Christine Lord (Sara Botsford) runs the local inn, which doesn't see a lot of business since nearby Carson City is the busiest settlement in the area. Pyong Chang (Ming Lo) and his family are immigrants from China, and they own a business that will eventually evolve into Mr. Chang's grocery store from "Tremors." Juan Pedilla (Brent Roam) is a former miner who acts as Hiram's guide. When the baby graboids prove too much for Hiram to handle, he calls upon the fastest gunslinger in the west, Black Hand Kelly (b-movie actor Billy Drago). He brings in the heavy artillery which proves useless once the worms grow up to enormous size.

All through this movie, I could sense the series gasping its last breath. The filmmakers ran the gamut of graboids, shriekers and ass blasters, so what was left? Making an unimaginative prequel only points to the fact that ideas were running low. The screenplay by Scott Buck lacks the wit, humor and cleverness of the previous three films. This series was known for its moments of inspiration, but there's little of that here. The survivors catch on to the dirt dragons' method of navigation through sound, but that idea isn't exploited enough here. Even the soundtrack by Jay Ferguson is insipid. It's a ridiculously upbeat western score that sounds like it was composed by drunken cowboys after a wild night at a brothel. Billy Drago's appearance as Black Hand Kelly makes no sense given that he's onscreen briefly and contributes almost nothing to the story other than a few inspirational moments for Hiram.

S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock need to rethink their strategy if they're going to continue the series. I noticed that salivating "Tremors" fans speak highly of this film, but I suspect the excitement over a fourth entry is the source for their praise. Viewing "Tremors 4: The Legend Begins" from a purely critical standpoint reveals the film's shortcomings, and viewing the film simply as someone who thought the first three were good still reveals shortcomings. The fourth go-around isn't as fun or inventive as those that preceded it.
Movie Guru Rating
Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better. Disappointing.  Had the right ingredients and should have been better.
  2 out of 5 stars

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