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Film / Tremors 3: Back to Perfection

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Tremors 3: Back To Perfection (2001) is the third movie in the Tremors film series.

Eleven years after the first, the Graboids return to Perfection and it falls to Crazy Survivalist Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) — the Ensemble Dark Horse from the first two films — to stop them. The Graboids mutate yet again, turning into jet-propelled, farting "Ass-blasters".

This film provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Ineffective Barricade: Burt has spent the last ten years proofing his house against any attempts by graboids or shriekers to attack from below or ground level. The roof, however, is completely unprotected and guess which direction the flying Ass Blaster attacks from...
  • Affectionate Parody: The third movie can be seen as an affectionate parody of the first. Notably, they mock the movie's Graboid effects through Desert Jack's Graboid Adventure, and lampshade the film's Pop-Cultural Osmosis Failure with characters referring to the Graboids as "tremors" and to Burt Gummer as "the gun guy" or "Mr. Goober."
  • All for Nothing: Burt destroys his entire house and everything in it to kill an Ass-blaster after it gets close to his MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat) because he believes that it, like the Shriekers, will vastly multiply when it eats enough food. It's only after the destruction of his house that he gets a call from Nancy and Mindy to inform him that Ass-blasters go into a "Food Coma" when they eat enough food, meaning that it would have been better for Burt to let the Ass-blaster eat his supplies and that he destroyed his house for no reason. Cue Thousand-Yard Stare.
  • All There in the Manual: In-universe example. Jodi repeatedly states that the Graboid comics contain a great deal of information on the creatures, and advises Jack to read them after he shows his lack of knowledge.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Paleontologist Andrew Merliss and two government agents attempted to capture a live graboid, but the agents were killed when it transformed into the shrieker phase. He attempted to get away by dousing himself with a fire extinguisher to avoid the shrieker's heat vision, but was still mortally injured in the back. He lives long enough to reach Burt's group and tell them what happened before dropping dead.
  • And This Is for...: After he and Jack apparently kill an Ass-Blaster at the junkyard:
    Burt: That one's for Miguel!
  • Animal Wrongs Group: One of the scientists seems to be the Animal Wrongs type. He gets on Burt's case for making a career out of hunting Graboids and Shriekers, completely disregarding the fact that Graboid encroachment poses a major threat to human life. He later gets his back torn to ribbons by a Shrieker.
  • A-Team Montage: There's one where the characters are building weapons literally off what they find in a junkyard.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: At the end, Melvin rants at Burt Gummer for spoiling his plans to turn Perfection into a profitable condo complex, for refusing to kill El Blanco, for being a crazy paranoid gun fanatic, and for wearing a stupid hat.
  • Asshole Victim: Agent Frank Statler, Agent Charlie Rusk, and Dr. Andrew Merliss, who refuse to let Burt hunt the graboids that have recently invaded, citing their protection as an endangered species. When the citizens of Perfection argue that the graboids are a threat to their lives and homes, the government agents tell them that their properties are going to be seized under Eminent Domain to set up a preserve. None of the three survive the film.
    • Buford, Jack's assistant who fakes blown-sand "wormsign" for the tourists, acts creepy around Mindy and is the first one eaten.
  • Back for the Dead: Miguel
  • Big Red Button: Burt has set up a Graboid detection system, complete with one of these that triggers air-raid sirens when pressed.
  • Bizarre Alien Locomotion: The Ass Blasters fly using...ahem...flaming farts.
  • Blatant Lies: Desert Jack's monologue during the tour, in which he speaks of Graboids leaping out of the ground and swallowing semi trucks.
    • Notably, he gets tourists to waste time (and buy soft drinks) by faking a Graboid attack and having them wait on a rock for the Graboid to get bored and leave. Graboids don't get bored and leave.
  • Boring, but Practical: When Agent Statler and Agent Rusk claim that they intend on ordering more advanced (and expensive) tranquilizer darts and launcher, frustrated expert Burt points out that they could get the same results for $50 using an RC car and the darts they already have.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: Burt and Nancy's conflicting opinions on how to deal with the Graboid threat are both fairly reasonable. Nancy suggests the more practical approach of calling for help, since nobody besides Burt has any experience hunting Graboids. While Burt argues that the authorities could take too long to respond, or complicate things and that they must take action before things get worse. In the end Burt is naturally proven right.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Burt perusing the comics for sale at Jodie's (all, appropriately enough, by Dark Horse Comics): Graboids, Shriekers, and Graboids vs. Shriekers.
  • Brick Joke: Val's taunt to the last Graboid in the original culminates in the third film, where the Graboids metamorphose into flying Assblasters.
    • In the first film, Burt made reference to being "Eminent Domained" out of Perfection if a geology student found oil or uranium or something in the valley. Come the third film, and the residents risk being "Eminent Domained" out due to Graboids.
  • Call-Back: When the government agents threaten to Eminent Domain the town, Burt snarks that he warned people about this back in the original film.
  • Cassandra Truth: While Burt has encountered Graboids since the first film, it's been a decade since everyone else in the valley has seen one. As a result he is the only one who takes the possibility of their return seriously and is prepared when they return.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Burt's sonic wristwatch. The signals it gives off act like a homing beacon for graboids. This comes in handy at the end where Jack uses it get El Blanco to eat the last Ass-blaster. A two-for-one, as he sticks it to the Ass-Blaster with the tape Mindy used to repair his pants at the beginning of the film.
  • Closed Circle: Played with. One of the characters even makes a point of how they're not cut off like they were in the first movie. By the end of the movie, however, the characters do end up trapped by the monsters.
  • Community-Threatening Construction: Despite its history of monster attacks the residents of Perfection Valley enjoy its isolation and do not like the idea of it being turned into a larger town, a proposal offed by Melvin, who was a child in Perfection during the original attacks. Eventually the valley is turned into a nature preserve for el Blanco, the sole remaining (sterile) graboid in Perfection.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Burt's Grizzly from the second movie makes a reappearance. Unfortunately, Burt never gets a chance to fire it.
    • Burt uses one of his pipe bombs from the first movie on a spot where he thinks several Shriekers have gathered, with Miguel pointing the reference out.
    • The scientist in the Government's team sprays himself with a fire extinguisher in order to escape a group of Shriekers, the same technique employed by Earl in the second film. It worked for a time, but he wasn't fast enough to do what he needed to before the cold wore off.
    • Grady reportedly made good on his plan to open a theme park and managed to talk Earl into doing it with him.
    • While discussing how to deal with the Graboids, Burt mentions a detection system based on a theory put forth by Rhonda LeBeck. Jodi also mentions she has all of Rhonda's books in stock.
    • While looking for supplies for a makeshift weapon in the junkyard, Burt references Nestor, who was killed in the first movie and whose moonshine gets used to fight the Assblasters.
    • The Graboid arcade-game prop from the second film makes a reappearance in Jodi's shop.
  • Counting Bullets: Burt.
    *Jodi and Jack draw their guns upon hearing another Assblaster incoming*
    Burt: Forget it! You're both empty!
    Jack: What!?
    Jodi: Already!?
    Burt (to Jack): You fired ten, she fired four.
  • Crazy-Prepared:
    • Burt being Burt, his compound is outfitted with underground reinforcements and seismographs, even though there hasn't been a Graboid in the valley for over a decade. He also has an alarm rigged up to alert the town to just such an emergency. Other residents subvert the trope, though. While the market has attic ladders for easy roof access, no one has bothered to maintain their seismographs in the years since the first movie.
    • Lampshaded in when they build a makeshift potato/harpoon gun to shoot down an assblaster.
      Jodi: Uh, but do we have a lighter?
      Jack: Burt does.
      Burt: How do you know?
      Jack: Well, 'cause you're... Burt.
      Burt: [presents lighter] Damn right I am.
    • If were watching closely, you'll have noticed that every previous time Burt needed something lit, someone else had provided the fire, leaving the question actually dubious for a moment. Then again, he probably learned from the experience.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Burt + an anti-aircraft gun verses a hoard of Shriekers in an open field = a lot of dead Shriekers.
  • Death Glare: Burt gives Jack an epic one after he learns that he just needlessly blew up his house and Jack tries to calm him with a stupid "zen zinger."
  • Didn't See That Coming: As ever with the creatures. Burt finally thinks he has them figured out, but is he ever wrong.
    • Burt uses high-heat flares to lure in Shriekers and a .50 cal anti-aircraft gun to mow them down in droves in the opening with astonishing ease compared to the second film. Then, not only do they change again, confronting him with airborne enemies that render all the characters' attempts to hide on higher ground moot, but their feeding habits do too, leading to a spectacular case of Irony, when he blows up his house and all the food in it to prevent them multiplying - only to discover immediately afterwards eating too much sends Ass-Blasters into a Food Coma.
    • He also discovers there's such a thing as non-breeding graboids with the sterile El Blanco, leading to him having to deal with attacks from the air and below ground at the same time.
  • Disney Villain Death: Inverted. It's Miguel, a heroic character, who falls to his death when he's knocked off a ridge by an Ass-Blaster.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Jack may be a confidence shyster, but he's not happy to see his assistant Buford perving on Mindy.
  • Flat "What": One of the main character's reaction to first seeing an ass-blaster fly overhead? Not panic, not curiosity, just a blank "What the."
  • Food Coma: While their previous stage, the Shriekers, multiply if they eat, the Ass-blasters go into a food coma when they eat too much. Nancy and Mindy are able to capture one because of this. This leads to a scene where Burt destroys his entire house and everything in it to kill an Ass-blaster before it can get to his supply of MREs (Meals-Ready-To-Eat), fearing that like the Shriekers the creature will vastly multiply when it eats enough food, only to learn afterwards that letting the creature stuff itself would have actually incapacitated it.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • One of the comics on the store's rack is "Graboids vs. Shriekers". Desert Jack later takes out the last Ass-Blaster by baiting El Blanco into eating it, in a comparable display of life-cycle stages turning on each other.
    • The first film had Val mocking the last Graboid if it could fly after tricking it into falling to its death. Then in this one we find out at the right stage of its life cycle, it actually can...
  • Gatling Good: At the beginning, Burt shows us what he can do when given the proper equipment for the job.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • When the graboids make their grand return, Nancy's the first one to make the sensible suggestion of calling the authorities for aid on the grounds that, unlike last time, they're not cut off from the outside world.
      • Unfortunately, this trope proceeds to bite on the ass when the feds that arrive tell them that not only are they banned from killing the graboids, but they're seriously considering eminent containing the whole valley and kicking everyone out to make a preserve. The graboids might be monstrous man-eaters, but they're still just animals, and their scarcity means they qualify as an endangered species.
    • Averted with Desert Jack, who repeatedly demonstrates he knows practically nothing about Graboids, and is told often that he "really needs to read the comics." In particular, his con of a Graboid tour has the guests marooned on a rock while they wait for the fake Graboid to get bored and leave, which anyone who knows Graboids knows isn't going to happen. When a real Graboid attacks, fortunately Mindy is there to come up with a plan to actually get them to safety.
  • Heroic BSoD: Burt briefly goes into one when he blows up his entire compound, only to be informed moments later that it was completely unnecessary. This is pretty much Played for Laughs.
    Jodi: Um, Burt... Burt's not available right now, but thanks for the update Nancy.
  • I Am Not Shazam: In-Universe. One of the tourist calls a Graboid a "Tremor" before being corrected.
  • I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: After previously averting it, they get a little lax regarding this. One example would be when Burt finds out that Jack's gun is fake, and hands him a pistol. Jack sticks the thing down his pants, which is a great idea if you plan on blowing your own nuts off, but generally something you want to avoid. Burt doesn't even bat an eyelid at this. Then again, Burt doesn't particularly like Jack at this point.
  • Irony: Burt, firearms enthusiast extraordinaire, doesn't know what a potato gun is. As he explains, as a child he had already converted his BB gun to full auto, so he skipped right past the need to cobble together firearms.
  • Lesser of Two Evils: At the end of the film, the people of Perfection decide that they would rather live with a gigantic, man-eating worm then have their homes bought out by Melvin.
    Burt: The whole town agrees. Between you and El Blanco, they'll take him every time.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: After being eaten by, then extracted from, a Graboid, Burt insists to Jack and Jodi that the incident be kept between them.
  • Moby Schtick: Burt's interactions with El Blanco are this; by the end and in the series, they've settled into a Worthy Opponent relationship.
  • Monstrous Cannibalism: The last ass-blaster to be running free is eaten by El Blanco.
  • More Dakka: The opening in Argentina has Burt shredding down a horde of shriekers with a WW2 anti-aircraft turret.
  • My Car Hates Me: Desert Jack has a switch in his car that he uses to intentionally invoke this on his "Graboid Safaris".
  • My God, What Have I Done?: After Miguel is killed by an Ass-Blaster, Burt takes it pretty hard.
    Burt: "I should've taken that shot!"
    Jack: "You should've shot sooner."
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero:
    • The Federal Agents forbid the Perfection residents from hunting the Graboids since they are an endangered species. This delay gives the creatures time to spawn Shriekers which metamorphose into Ass-Blasters.
      • To a lesser extent, Nancy for calling them in the first place.
    • Burt blows up his compound to prevent a fully-evolved Ass-Blaster from reaching his food, only to again belatedly learn that when they overeat they instead slip into a coma:
    "What sort of supreme being could condone such irony?"
  • Not Quite Dead: During the events at the junkyard, Burt, Jack and Jodi push a large, heavy object over onto an Ass-Blaster. Later, it turns out the creature was only stunned as it pushes the junk off itself and comes after the group once more. It gets killed for real when Jack sticks Burt's ultrasonic watch to it via a ball of duct tape, attracting a hungry El Blanco to it as a result.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: A team of three federal agents appear to protect the endangered Graboids. Naturally, they're all killed by the things. Lampshaded by Burt when they finally come to him for help and ask what they should do:
    Burt: Do what you do best: find something simple, and complicate it!
  • Properly Paranoid: Burt's (justified) paranoia comes up again. He spent years preparing for the possibility the Graboids would return to the valley, which they ultimately do - much to everyone else's surprise. When the government shows up to interfere with the residents taking on the worms, Burt remains unsurprised by their actions.
    Burt: Oh, "Eminent Domain." And people call me paranoid.
    Jack: I don't think you're paranoid.
    Miguel: I do..... But not no more.
  • Put on a Bus: Earl and Grady's absence is explained by them having opened their own Graboid-themed theme park.
  • Short-Distance Phone Call: Burt Gummer and Jack Sawyer have an angry conversation while Burt is driving. When Burt arrives and parks, he is perhaps ten feet from Jack, yet they continue talking on the phone. At least until Burt hangs up and delivers to Jack's face that classic line "Is your head up your ass for the warmth?".
  • Shout-Out: Jodi has some comics in stock: Graboids, Shriekers, and finally Graboids vs. Shriekers. To complete the shout-out, these parody comics are attributed to Dark Horse Comics.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: Good news: the Graboids going on a rampage did not smashed the phone lines early on this time, so Nancy calls for help. Bad news: The "help" that arrives are a pair of Obstructive Bureaucrats from Wildlife Protection and their Animal Wrongs Group scientist who promptly declare Perfection Valley a wildlife sanctuary for Graboids, prohibit Burt and the others from killing the Graboids because they are allegedly endangered, and make clear they are going to kick out the residents.
  • Stranger in a Familiar Land: When Burt returns home at the start, he's stunned that no one else is properly maintaining their graboid monitors.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: The final Ass Blaster is about to attack the protagonists, but at the last moment, as it swoops down, it is devoured by El Blanco. The characters specifically set this up.
  • Swallowed Whole: Burt Gummer gets swallowed by a Graboid; he's in an oil barrel at the time, which offers a degree of protection, but he's still looking a little grotty when he's cut free from the corpse. For anyone else in the franchise, this is invariably fatal — Burt only survived because the barrel kept him from being crushed and the secondary protagonist managed to both trick the Graboid into caving in its skull by charging head-first into a concrete barrier and then dig up & cut through the corpse before Burt suffocated.
  • Take That, Scrappy!: An In-Universe example. Melvin, The Millstone of the first film reappears in the third film as the property developer trying to buy out Perfection Valley, still as irritating as before but without the excuse of being a kid. Not only does he end up indirectly causing Burt to get (temporarily) eaten alive, but one of his property signs end up ruining a perfect escape attempt from the Ass-Blasters. At the end of the film, Burt decides to punish him by leaving him trapped on a boulder next to El Blanco.
  • Theme Park Version: Early on, Jack's graboid tour offers the theme park version of a graboid attack. Of course, the simulation becomes real when actual graboids show up.
    • Although never actually shown on camera, Earl, Kate, and Grady opened an actual graboid-themed theme park sometime after the second movie.
  • Unexplained Accent: Michiganer Shawn Christian's character speaks with a painfully bad Southern accent.
  • Villainous Rescue: A Graboid unintentionally saves Mindy from being assaulted when it eats Buford.
  • Wham Line: When El Blanco passes by Burt’s home he reassured Jack and Jodi that his home is completely 100% Graboid proof. Then Jodi hears the soar of an Ass-Blaster, which cues this line:
    Jodi: But is it Ass-Blaster proof?
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: The characters are prepared for Graboids and stock up accordingly, but then they're dealt heat-seeking, topside-dwelling, self-reproducing Shriekers that completely change the ballgame. By Back to Perfection, Burt has mastered dealing with Shriekers (becoming a sought after expert), but then Ass-Blasters emerge. Burt thought an Ass-Blaster would eat and spawn more creatures like Shriekers do, so he blew up his house before it chowed down on his MREs... only to then learn that Ass-Blasters just go into a coma from overeating.