Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004)

“I feel I’ve not been privy to critical, most needful information.”

Justin’s rating: Saddle up, this one’s for the history books!

Justin’s review: After three outings (and one TV series) with giant killer worms and heat-seeking critters, it was time for the Tremors franchise to change things up a bit. But instead of a reboot, the original writing team decided to take the prequel route for Tremors 4: The Legend Begins. I don’t think “legend” was the appropriate word here, as it makes this series sound a lot more grand than it actually is. It’s people getting eaten by and shooting upjumped earthworms while making quips, so don’t put on airs.

Anyway, the third sequel jumps back to 1889, where the town of Rejection, Nevada finds itself on the cusp of becoming a ghost town when mysterious beasts start snacking on the local silver miners. As the residents flee, mine owner Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross) comes in from the big city to put things to right. The joke here is that hyper-survivalist Burt Gummer’s ancestor is a gun-avoiding suit who treats everyone as lowly peasants. But the townsfolk put up with him because, as they keep saying, “He’s the only chance we have.”

The western setting suits this film series well, especially because it wasn’t that far removed from horses and wild hills to start with. But I will say that it’s a bold move to make Gross play a dandy and a coward who is very slow in adapting to the danger and the lowbrow lifestyle. He’s got a long journey to getting close to attaining the rank of “hero,” but in a way, that makes him much more fascinating to watch. As always, Gross throws himself into the role without looking down on his lot in life. By 2004, he was a Tremors man through-and-through. This time, he comes under the tutelage of Black Hand Kelly, a skeezy gunslinger who tries to embody every Western stereotype as the running time allows.

While the acting is a little rickety, everyone continues to clearly enjoy themselves as we’ve seen in this series so far. And I am beyond glad to see that the graboids are back to being a genuine threat rather than a joke. The first time we see them, they launch a fireside rampage that is as vicious as it is hard-hitting. Even in their smaller form, graboids are more than capable of taking down armed adult men in a split-second. It might even be my imagination, but there seems to be better puppetry and effects with them than in the previous two installments.

And even though this is set back in the 19th century, it doesn’t mean the townsfolk are incapable of coming up with some ingenious — and explosive — solutions to fight back against the monsters. Part of the attraction is seeing what they can come up with to battle the graboids, from large-bore weapons to steam engines. Again, the western slant adds a refreshing flavor to what had become somewhat routine by now.

Of course, you’ll be asking at this point why the people of Perfection in the first film had never heard of graboids if the “dirt dragons” of the prequel were killing in the area a hundred years before. It’s a good question that’s glossed over by a town pact to keep the incident under wraps at the conclusion of the film. That seems short-sighted, but it’s one of those continuity hiccups that prequels tend to cause.

Overall, Tremors 4 is in fine form nearly across the board. We don’t often get western creature features — quick, name any other — and it works far better than it has any right to due to the cast and crew clearly caring about adding to the mythos rather than making a quick buck. In fact, it may be the best entry since the first Tremors. Yeah, I feel comfortable saying that.

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