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Film / Tremors 2: Aftershocks

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Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996) is the second movie in the Tremors film series.

Filmed and set six years after the first, a group of Graboids is menacing a Mexican oil refinery. The owners hire a reluctant Earl and his hustling fanboy Grady to deal with the problem, and they in turn recruit Burt to assist them. But things gets complicated when the Graboids start hatching out "Shriekers" — smaller, bipedal critters that hunt by sensing heat and operate aboveground.

This film provides examples of:

  • Achievements in Ignorance:
    • The enemy's actions like attacking the truck and disabling the radio tower initially make it seem like the Shriekers are just as intelligent as the Graboids they spawned from (e.g. Stumpy from the first film throwing a lit pipe bomb back where it came). As the characters learn later, rather than hunt by sound like Graboids, Shriekers hunt by heat and were only attacking vital resources like a working car and a functioning radio tower because they were running hot.
      Grady: You mean they're acting so smart because they're so stupid?!
    • Later on, it turns out that the Shriekers actually are capable of surprisingly concrete problem-solving despite their apparent stupidity, as they work out how to form a living ladder to get at Earl and Kate on top of the tower.
  • Adorable Abomination: When the caged shrieker gives birth, we see a brief shot of it gently nuzzling its newborn baby. Sure, it may be a carnivorous reptilian that would eat you as soon as look at you, but it is still a bit heartwarming to see it caring for its baby. Also serves to remind the viewer that the Shriekers aren't evil, we just happen to be their food.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Lampshaded.
    Grady: Of course! Stuff like this only happens in the middle of nowhere!
  • An Arm and a Leg: Earl and Grady see the truck they called for has been torn apart by Shriekers. When they look for the driver, all they find are his severed arms.
  • Answer Cut: Earl suggests they might need help in hunting the Graboids, but Grady thinks anyone would have to be crazy to want to help them.
    [cuts to phone ringing]
    Burt: [picks up phone] Yeah?
  • Arc Words:
    • The line "Doin' what I can with what I got" originates on-screen in Tremors 2 when Burt says it.
    • There's also the term "Dandy"...
  • Artistic License Art: The pinup Earl has, identified as "Miss October 1974," is obviously not Helen Shaver. More glaringly, the real Miss October 1974, Ester Cordet, is black, looks nothing like her, and has a completely different pose for her centerfold. The centerfold used was Miss September 1970, Debbie Ellison, who does bear a passing resemblance to Helen Shaver. The 1970 centerfold was used and deliberately misidentified so the subplot would work.
  • Artistic License Biology: Kate tells the others that the fossilized Graboid spike is in Precambrian rock, making it, by far, the oldest living multicellular organism. However, this would have required that the Graboids survived off of bacteria. Later films and the series indicate that Kate actually misdated the rock, with it instead being from the Devonian Period.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Grady certainly acts this way and does have genuine admiration for Earl.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...:
    Grady: How dumb do you think I am?
    Earl: Catch me later on that one.
  • Bad Vibrations: Played with twice. An unseen creature is making a tremendous racket thanks to some discarded metal sheets... and what finally hops into view is one small Shrieker. And that loud growing rumble? It's not a Grabiod, it's something far more dangerous: Burt Gummer arriving in his explosive-laden truck.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • In Earl's first scene, it looks like he's roping an unruly stallion to lead the animal into a corral. When we actually get a look at Wildfire, he turns out to be an ostrich.
    • The first appearance of Earl's "secret weapon": a toy truck that makes its appearance over a slope accompanied by impressive music, as if it's a monster truck.
    • While hunting the Graboids, Earl and Grady run afoul of one particular specimen that takes them for a ride and eats their radio which gives it a distinguishing feature not unlike Stumpy, making one think it will be the last Graboid faced. Nope, Burt kills it easily and makes Grady feel cheated.
    • Also, as noted under Bad Vibrations, during the first appearance of a Shrieker, both the characters and the audience are set up to expect some huge monster to appear.
  • BFG:
    • "Grizzly single-shot BMG based on a World War I anti-tank cartridge." This gun blew a Shrieker in half, then proceeded to punch holes through the stone wall behind the Shrieker, several oil drums, a tool shed, another oil drum and the engine of their escape vehicle.
    • Burt gives Earl and Grady .375 H&H magnum double rifles and cautions them to "hold 'em good and tight to your shoulder or they'll break your collarbone."
  • Big, Bulky Bomb: 2.5 tons of high explosives. It levels everything in the area and leaves a massive crater.
  • Blatant Lies: This telephone exchange:
    Earl: So I guess you've been kinda laying low?
    Burt: No, negative. Keepin' busy. Lots of projects. [brushes food crumbs off his shirt]
  • Catchphrase: Grady's sheepish "I forgot..."
  • Chekhov's Armoury: Burt's literal truck full of guns and bombs ends up getting all used up by the end of the film.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Burt's MRE's, also in his truck full of guns and bombs.
  • Chest Burster: The Shriekers eat their way out of the Graboids.
  • Closed Circle: The characters originally go to the Petromaya oil fields willingly and can leave whenever they want, but then the Shriekers show up and start destroying their radio equipment and vehicles, effectively cutting them off from the outside world.
  • Comically Missing the Point: See Stuff Blowing Up below.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • When Kate finds evidence of the Graboid's origins, Earl states that he had always thought they were from space - an opinion he had also expressed in a conversation during the first movie.
    • The scene in Burt's rec room shows a wall visibly patched in the same spot a Graboid had burst through in the previous movie (of course, there's also the giant stuffed Graboid head mounted on the wall next to Burt). You can also see the patch in the third movie. Burt still hasn't painted over it.
    • Earl mentions the Graboids' ability to use tactics such as playing possum and digging traps.
    • On the wall of Earl's home we see that he and Val did end up in both People and National Geographic magazine (among others). Also, the photo used for People is the one that Rhonda took of Val and Earl at the end of the movie.
    • Earl decides things with Grady with rock-paper-scissors as he did in the first movie with Val.
    • There is a short scene where Earl explains how the Graboids got their name in the first movie.
      Earl: He named them. Then they ate him.
    • Earl finding out that Kate, a geologist to whom he's attracted, was once a centerfold he'd drooled over when both were younger but had never expected to meet. In the first film, Val is initially disappointed that geologist Rhonda doesn't look like a recent centerfold whom he's been drooling over, but is attracted to her anyway by the end.
    • This very obscure one takes quite a bit of knowledge about firearms and a sharp eye for detail. When he mentions to Earl that Heather left him, Burt says that she wanted him to send her the HK91 in the divorce. This is the first rifle that Burt pulls off the wall when the Graboid breaks into the basement.
  • Crazy-Prepared: This is played around with Burt. He's prepared extensively for Graboids, and kills loads when he comes to help Grady and Earl. Then they transform into Shriekers, and his tactics are suddenly completely ineffective. While he's able to kill the initial horde, it takes him every bullet he has, and he's as stuck as the others when their ability to multiply kicks in. The one time he gets to use his anti-Graboid cannon on a Shrieker, it proves so overpowered the round kills it then travels through multiple walls to accidentally take out the car the group were planning on using.
    Burt: What? I didn't know! How could I've known?! We're supposed to be up against Graboids! I wanted maximum penetration!
    Earl: Well, you got it.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Burt is expecting to fight Graboids when he is brought into the hunt, so he brings several BFGs that sacrifice ammo and fire rate for damage and penetration. Unfortunately, he is soon pitted against Shriekers, who are able to chew through all of his ammo through sheer numbers.
    Burt: I am completely out of ammo. [Beat] That's never happened to me before.
  • The Croc Is Ticking: Because Grady left the radio blaring on the ground.
  • Deadly Remote Control Toy: Weaponized RC cars are used to deal with the Graboids. As Graboids hunts by detecting motion, the protagonists uses RC cars strapped with dynamite to trick Graboids into ascending out of the earth and swallowing the cars, and then remotely detonating the dynamite seconds later. At least 28 Graboids ends up blown to bits onscreen via this method.
  • Didn't See That Coming: The Shriekers break all the previously established "rules" of Graboids, being smaller, faster, much more numerous, and hunting above-ground through infrared rather than below using sound. And that's before taking into account their reproductive cycyle or capacity for further mutation, which sequels would explore. So naturally when first introduced they catch their would-be hunters flatfooted.
    Burt Gummer: I feel I was denied... Critical... Need-to-know... Information.
  • Don't Ask, Just Run: After Earl tosses a timed bomb onto Burt's massive pile of high explosives.
  • Drone Deployer: Earl and Grady's initial strategy for hunting Graboids: Lure them in with some noisy scrap metal chained to the back of his truck, then when some Graboids appear on the seismojigger, kill the engine and send out a remote-controlled toy truck rigged with remote explosives. Graboid takes the bait, hit the switch, and payday. (Just don't forget your umbrella to deal with the next bit.) Burt's attempts to replicate this strategy involve a toy tank loaded with C4 instead of dynamite.
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Averted. A car takes a BFG's bullet to the engine without exploding (the bullet still wrecks the engine, leaving the car undrivable, it just doesn't explode). When Burt's truck explodes, it's because it was stuffed full of high explosives.
  • Explosive Breeders: Shriekers. They reproduce asexually by just eating enough food until they literally throw up a newborn Shrieker. A single Shrieker in a warehouse full of food turns into dozens in a matter of hours.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: A desperate Kate uses the old Irish Switchblade to mangle a shrieker's probing tongue.
  • Had to Be Sharp: Earl's casual knowledge of geology is rather out-of-place compared to to his previous occupation as a handyman and his most recent attempts at what we will generously refer to as "animal husbandry". But since Graboids are subterranean and can't travel through hard rock, knowing where it's safe to stand could mean the difference between life and death, as the previous film rather perilously demonstrated.
  • Heartbroken Badass: Not a very prominent part of his character, but Burt qualifies, when he all but admits he's there at least in part to get his mind off of Heather leaving him.
  • Hidden Depths: Earl seems like a two-time loser when he reappears, only to demonstrate some surprisingly-astute knowledge of geology once he's in the field. Seems he'd been studying a lot between films. He also keeps his home clean and tidy.
  • Hope Spot:
    • At the beginning of the movie an oil worker is trying to get to a van without touching the ground, and he sees a direct path by hopping on oil barrels. Unfortunately for him, it's not good enough.
    • After the group realizes they may have at least 21 Shriekers to worry about, Burt returns to home base and reports his encounter, which ended with killing dozens. The group hopes he killed all of them, but one Shrieker survived on the underside of his truck and soon gets into his food.
    • Burt lures all the Shriekers into the garage and locks them up. Everyone is relieved, until the Shriekers start getting into some boxes. The group discovers it's food.
  • Human Ladder: When most of the heroes hide on a roof from the Shriekers, the beasties eventually decide to get at them by stacking themselves on top of each other.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Earl chastises Grady for not knowing geology terms, and then refers to the seismograph as a "Seismojigger".
    • Later on, Burt goes on a rant about how the oil company that brought them in didn't brief them about the Shriekers, something they couldn't have possibly known about. Twice in the movie, once before this point and once afterward, Burt's actions put the group in further danger due to something he couldn't have known about.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: Subverted, for the most part.
    • In an early example, Burt hands Earl an elephant gun, having first checked to make sure that it was unloaded. After receiving it, Earl then immediately checks for himself. This is exactly what you're supposed to do when you pick up a gun!
    • A minor example when Burt shoots a Shrieker with his anti-tank rifle. He kills it, but the very high powered bullet continues through a brick wall, several oil barrels, and right into the engine block of the truck they were going to use to escape. General rule #4 of shooting is "be sure of your target and what's behind it."
  • Improbable Cover: Subverted when Earl sets Burt's whole truck—packed with explosives—to explode. When the others hide behind a nearby building, Burt shouts at them to "Keep running!". They look at Earl, who replies "Burt knows his bombs". After quite a bit more running, they find a ditch, which, combined with the distance, provides sufficient cover. In the subsequent explosion, the aforementioned building is indeed blasted to bits along with the rest of the base.
  • Indy Ploy: Earl is very good at thinking on his feet.
  • Infrared Xray Camera: Shrieker vision - though a realistic, non-X-ray version.
  • It Can Think: Zigzagged. Initially everyone is convinced that the Shriekers are highly intelligent and coordinated, only to find out that all they're doing is just attacking anything warm that they see on their infrared vision, which includes car engines and electronics. This leads to everyone concluding that the Shriekers are really just stupid animals right up until the Shriekers start forming a living ladder to get up on top of the tower Grady, Earl and Kate are hiding on, and later immediately locate the refinery's large food stores when they get locked inside the garage and begin spawning huge numbers to break out through brute force.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Justified - when survivalist Burt gives Earl and Grady some of his MREs to eat, Earl unwittingly bites into the wrong item:
    Earl: Ugh. This tastes like toilet paper!
    Grady (sounding amused): Earl, that is the toilet paper.
  • Jump Scare: Burt, is naturally surprised after his seismograph starts coming up empty (Due to the creatures mutating from underground worms to infrared-sensing land creatures, and not being underground. He's unaware of this at that point.) He stops to take a look at the map, hears a noise, and when he drops the map, we get a sharp musical chord and see Burt's shocked expression as he's now surrounded by the new creatures. Then the scene fades to black, leaving the audience uncertain of his fate temporarily.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: During the night, Earl and Grady hear a coyote howling in the distance. Grady says it better keep quiet, and immediately afterwards the coyote's howl is interrupted by the sound of a panicked yelp and earth moving.
    Coyote: Howl
    Grady: That a coyote?
    Earl: Yep.
    Coyote: Howl
    Grady: He better keep quiet.
    Coyote: How—rumble-smack-yelp
    Earl: Yep.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    Earl: Sure is the middle of nowhere.
    Grady: Of course! Stuff like this only happens in the middle of nowhere!
  • Magic Countdown: Averted/inverted; Earl sets a bomb for 2:45 seconds. It explodes 2:15 later.
  • Male Gaze: A great example and reversal. In one scene, Earl checks out Kate while her back is turned; in the very next shot, Kate checks out Earl in exactly the same way.
  • Matte Shot: The final scene of the movie is the survivors walking towards the smoldering crater of the destroyed refinery. Except they're actually walking towards a painted background made by Rocco Giofre and which was actually rescued by, and hung in the home of writer/director Steve Wilson.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only eight actors appear on-screen at all. Two of them never appear again after the first reel.
  • Monster Threat Expiration: In the first film, there were only four Graboids, and each one was a major threat, in part because nobody knew anything about them. Now, having learned their behavior and hunting patterns from their prior experience, the humans are much better prepared. Equipped with seismographs that can track the Graboids' movements and armed with remote-controlled toy cars and explosives, Earl, Grady, and Burt easily dispatch two dozen of them without a single casualty. But then the Shriekers show up and send everybody back to square one...
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Burt's reactions after he accidentally destroys the last remaining truck with his overpowered gun, and later when he accidentally locks the cluster of Shriekers in the warehouse filled with food. He also gets a second hand one for Earl when Earl tells him he activated a bomb and simply tossed it into a truck full of high explosives...At an oil refinery.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Earl starts out thinking he's blown any chance to make something of himself. Grady convinces him the current threat is his big second chance.
  • Nave Newcomer: Earl is very experienced around Graboids, while Grady... isn't.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Twice. Burt uses an anti-tank rifle to take out a Shriekernote , and as noted above also accidentally destroys the getaway vehicle they were heading for. Later, he manages to trap a Shrieker pack inside a building, which he only then learns is filled with food (which causes the creatures to multiply rapidly).
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Burt's escape from the Shrieker ambush, which included fighting some of them off hand to hand.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Earl and Grady when they find the remains of a Graboid that just gave "birth" to Shriekers.
    • They have an understandable "Oh God, we're fucked!" reaction when they find Pedro's remains. It's a whole new ball game indeed.
    • Burt's reaction to finding out Earl threw a bomb in his explosives-filled truck is a horrified "You what?!"
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Grady gets upset when Burt takes out the Graboid that terrorized him and Earl. Justified because they've been hired to hunt Graboids, with a per-kill bounty payout, and Burt just cost them money.
    Grady: Burt, you scum! That one was ours!
    Burt: Oh yeah, son? I didn't see your name on it!
  • Outrun the Fireball: Subverted and justified.
    • The subversion is when the heroes flee the site of an impending explosion and take cover behind a wooden shack, and then Burt runs past them, yelling "Keep going! It's going to be big!" He eventually settles for a nearly trench. That little shack they wanted to hide behind is blasted to splinters!
    • The justification is that the bomb takes a bit longer to go off than they expected, giving them just enough time to find appropriate cover to survive the considerable blast radius.
  • Properly Paranoid: Burt brings it up himself:
    Burt: You know, Grady, some people think I'm over-prepared. Paranoid. Maybe even a little crazy.... But they never met any precambrian life forms did they?
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "I feel...I was denied.. CRITICAL .. NEED TO KNOW .. INFORMATION."
  • Raptor Attack: The shriekers are a velociraptor-like "nymph" stage (this movie premiered 3 years after the first Jurassic Park). However, they're not even close to dinosaurs, actually being even older.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Senor Ortega and by extension the Mexican government. They immediately recognize the danger the Graboids represent and send for the best hunters they can get and pay Earl, Grady, and Burt handsomely for their work. Even when Senor Ortega offers double pay for capturing a live Graboid, he stresses it's only a suggestion and will hold no ill will if they can't (or won't).
  • Red Shirt: Kate's assistant, Pedro, does very little before getting eaten by a shrieker.
    • Also, Pedro's only big moment is when he travels by truck to come and collect Earl and Grady. He get close enough for them to see his truck, but he's killed off before he can collect them. His death mainly serves to drive home how everything has changed, when they find only his severed arms hanging off his truck.
  • Refusal of the Second Call: Variant - the original film starred Valentine McKee and Earl Basset as the heroes. In the first sequel, Earl agrees to face a second Graboid incursion in a Mexican oil field... but Val, who killed the last Graboid, is specifically mentioned as having been previously contacted by the oil field's owners off-screen and refused to get involved again.
  • Sequel Goes Foreign: Takes place in Mexico, although lacks many of the typical stock elements to show they're in another country.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Burt can always be counted on to bring on the explosions:
    Burt: That's two and half tons of high explosives, Earl!
    Earl: You mean that's not enough? Oh Burt, don't tell me it's not enough!
    Burt: Not enou... Never mind, just run! Run!
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • Burt coming loaded for bear becomes a liability after the wolf pack appears, as it were, and he ends up expending almost all of his ammunition in his first real fight with them.
    • Burt manages to take out a shrieker with the only weapon he has, a .50 caliber rifle he brought along to kill graboids with. It obliterates the shrieker, but then proceeds to punch through everything behind it, including the engine block of the one working vehicle several yards behind it.
    • Earl tries to pull off an Indiana Jones-style swing to escape from the shriekers with a hanging lamp, but his weight immediately yanks the wiring down from the ceiling and drops him on the ground.
    • When Earl sets all of Burt's explosives to blow, the group initially tries to hide behind a nearby structure. However, this isn't nearly far enough, forcing them to hunker down in a ditch further way.
  • Suspiciously Stealthy Predator: Subverted. Earl and Grady have a major Oh, Crap! moment at how smart the Graboid hatchlings seem to be after they destroy a running car engine to block any escape and take out the radio tower so they can't call for help. Then someone observes that their rudimentary vision is based on heat signatures, and they only went after the car and the tower because both were putting off heat.
  • Tempting Fate: The heroes flee the site of an impending explosion and take cover behind a wooden shack... then Burt runs past them, yelling "Keep going! It's going to be big!" As they keep running, Burt keeps shouting the same line before finally settling on a trench that should be deep enough so the blast wave doesn't kill them. Grady finally loses his patience.
    Grady: Is it going to be today?
    Burt: Grady, get your ass down!
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: "Man, Burt, you put a whole new shine on the word 'overkill'." Said about the ginormous truck full of two and a half tons of high explosives when Burt first shows it off. Turns out to be Foreshadowing.
    Burt: Memo: four pounds of C4 may be a little... excessive.
  • Too Dumb to Fool: While the Graboids and Shriekers have some capacity for problem-solving, it turns out that for the most part they are just attacking anything they perceive as food, and in doing so just happen to tear apart anything that humans are using for shelter, distractions, weapons or methods to try to communicate or run away.
    Grady: You mean they're acting so smart because they're so stupid?!
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: Same deal as the first film, but this time the group of humans have to deal with the smaller, more numerous, bipedal offshoot of the Graboids, which they dub "Shriekers" on account of the sound they make. While it doesn't hunt based on sound (being both blind and deaf), it can detect any heat signature, which also causes them to attack all machinery including car engines, disabling it, and trying to run from them in a wide open space is similarly suicidal.
  • Ultraterrestrials: Earl initially believed that the Graboids were from space. Kate ultimately discovered that the originated in Pre-Cambrian Earth.
  • Wall of Weapons: Burt still has his, and it even has a Graboid head mounted on the wall as a trophy.
  • We Need a Distraction:
    • Earl soaks a piece of clothing in hot water to use as a distraction for the heat-seeking Shriekers so he and Kate could move to a safer location.
    • Later on, Burt uses himself as a distraction to lure the Shriekers into the garage to trap them inside, though that doesn't work out as planned thanks to the piles of sweet snack foods, rice, and flour inside.
  • Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: According to Burt, one of the reasons Heather had for leaving him was the fall of the Soviet Union, and that Burt couldn't handle life without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
    "What kind of thing is that to say to a man?"
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The characters are prepared for Graboids and stock up accordingly, and actually do a pretty good job at dealing with them early in the film. But then they're dealt heat-seeking, topside-dwelling, self-reproducing Shriekers that completely change the ballgame. Even Burt can barely keep up, and at one point his remaining superweapon does just as much harm to their situation as good.
  • Zerg Rush: The Shriekers are smaller and considerably more fragile than the Graboids they hatched from, and are easier to fire at since they're on the ground. However, they're also far more numerous and, in that particular situation, Burt had stocked up on low ammo, high impact weapons expecting to deal with Graboids, which results in him burning through his ammo rather quickly once the Shriekers show up. Notably, Shriekers seem to be a combination of both remarkably stupid yet incredibly smart. They attack anything that's hot enough to be alive, resulting in them assaulting a radio tower and shredding the electronics within, as well as ripping up the engines of cars. At the same time, they're clever enough to prepare ambushes like the one that Burt stumbled into (and apparently the one that killed Pedro) and they formed a living ladder to get to the humans on top of the oil tower.