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Film / Tremors 4: The Legend Begins

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Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004) is the fourth movie in the Tremors film series.

The movie is a prequel set in the late 1880s and centered around a milquetoast ancestor of Burt's, as well as ancestors of Walter Chang and Miguel.

Rejection, Nevada is a small camp ("town" would be far too generous) whose silver mine, owned by one Hiram Gummer of Philadelphia, is plagued by mysterious predators. As most of the surviving miners pack up and move on, Gummer (whose dying father blew the entire family fortune in his final hours) arrives to join a few stubborn holdouts in reclaiming the mine.

They soon discover that the small "dirt dragons" are extremely lethal, and hire notorious gunfighter Black Hand Kelly to deal with them. By now, though, the dirt dragons have matured into full-size graboids.

This film provides examples of:

  • Analogy Backfire: Subverted:
    Hiram: We will make Rejection our last bastion, our last line of defense.
    Juan: Our Alamo.
    Hiram: Juan, we were the losers at the Alamo.
    Juan: Speak for yourself, Gringo.
  • Bait-and-Switch: When Hiram implies that "Black Hand" Kelly's killing skills might be "hyperbole", he asks Fu Yen to toss him an apple. Everyone assumes that he plans on shooting it in mid-air (with Fu Yen right behind it), only for him to catch it and take a bite out of it. When everyone tells him they were expecting him to shoot it, he interrupts them by shooting a length of dry beef in the corner, managing to fill it full of holes at it fell to the ground.
  • BFG:
    • Hiram Gummer obtains a 2-inch bore punt gun, a giant hunting shotgun that has more in common with a cannon than a rifle - so named because it was too large to be wielded, and had to be mounted on specially constructed boats, or 'punts'. A gunshop in the driest state in the US has one in their inventory because, to quote Hiram:
    It's for shooting ducks. Vast numbers of ducks.
    • He obtains a Gatling gun in the final scene, which is hinted to have sparked the love of guns that would be passed down to Burt.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Hiram returning to town with a wagon full of weapons mere minutes before the townspeople expect the Graboids to attack.
  • Brats with Slingshots: The Changs' son, Fu Yen, brings out a slingshot when everybody in Rejection shows Hiram that they're armed.
  • Call-Forward:
    • The film recreates the discovery of Old Fred's head in the first film, even going so far as to use the same name for the owner of a hat found lying on the ground. Except this time the head's not under the hat, it's under the wrecked wagon.
    • As in the original movie, the townspeople face off against four Graboids initially.
    • Hiram comes up with a paraphrasing of what would be Burt's line and philosophy: "We must do what we can with what we have."
    • Christine's hotel is deliberately placed on the location of Nancy's house, though Stampede Entertainment's FAQ notes it's a completely different building.
    • When Hiram Gummer first learns the mine has been closed, he laments "I feel I've not been privy to critical, most needful to know information," a reference to Burt's famous line from the second film.
  • Continuity Snarl: Burt Gummer in Tremors 1 mentioned having decided to move to Perfection with his wife because of how remote it was; when taken in consideration of his beloved Atlanta Hawks cap, it's quite obvious they are very-recent newcomers to Perfection. Tremors 4 implies that Hiram Gummer moved to and stayed in Perfection, tossing that all for a loop.
    • The Gummer family could have moved to Atlanta sometime before then. Alternately, Burt and his wife may have been at a Hawks game and he bought a hat while he was there.
  • Cool Guns: It wouldn't be Tremors without some. Juan and Black Hand Kelly both carry Colt Peacemakers. Tecopa packs a brace of Remington 1875 revolvers. The posse members have a mix of the ubiquitous Winchester '73 and rarely-depicted Winchester '86 rifles. The arsenal Hiram purchases in Carson City includes a .52-caliber Sharps buffalo rifle, a Remington Rolling Block rifle, a Henry 1860, and of course the punt gun.
  • The Dandy: Hilariously, gun-nut Burt Gummer's ancestor is one, bordering on Upper-Class Twit.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Black Hand Kelly, the hired mercenary, spends his entire screentime wearing black, have some bigoted moments (like asking if he can shoot the token Native American character) and is played by iconic villain actor Billy Drago whose resume consists mostly of villainous roles. But he turns out to be firmly on the side of good, even teaching Hiram how to properly use a revolver before he bites it.
  • Doesn't Like Guns: Burt's ancestor Hiram, believe it or not. He only brings along a tiny pea-shooter when searching for the "Dirt Dragons". Towards the end, they start to grow on him. And just before the credits roll, his love interest gets him a present: a gatling gun. He likes it...
  • Foreshadowing: The way that Hiram uses Fu Yien (see Kick the Dog below) can come across as the actions of an Idle Rich asshole that lacks social tact, but it also comes across as the act of a cynical pragmatist who believes that the world is full of exploiters and exploited and that he has been a victim of it, hinting that he isn't as rich as he plays himself off to be.
  • Gatling Good: At the end of the movie, Burt's ancestor makes up for his lack of skill with a pistol by learning to shoot a Gatling gun.
  • Generation Xerox: The subversion is Played for Laughs, as Hiram is as far removed from Burt as humanly possible. Double subverted in the climax, as Hiram toughens up and really enjoys his new gatling gun. Also completely played straight in that an ancestor of Burt falls for a redhead.
    • As with Walter and Jodie, a member of the Chang family names the creatures the townspeople are facing.
  • Graceful Loser: Hiram tricks Fu out of some desert and advises him that anyone can be taken advantage of. When Hiram's bicycle chain breaks, Fu fixes it and intends to overcharge him for it. Having no money, Hiram just lets him have the bicycle without complaint and even teaches him how to ride it.
  • Heel Realization: Hiram feels guilty about not staying behind to defend the town, but this really kicks in when he's at the train station and learns of the telegraph messages pleading for help.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Hiram is quite taken with the red-haired Christine.
  • Hidden Depths: Hiram Gummer is rather pretentious, but he exhibits no racism or prejudice against Juan, Tecopa, or the Chang family.
  • Identical Grandfather: Michael Gross plays Burt's great-grandfather Hiram.
  • Idle Rich: Hiram actually subverts this. He really wants to be this, but his father squandered much of the family fortune. This is why Hiram needs the silver mine back in operation; it's his only source of income.
  • Instant Marksman: Just Squeeze Trigger!: VERY subtly played straight when Black Hand Kelly tries to teach Hiram Gummer how to shoot a gun and gives him all kinds of handling advice, only for him to consistently miss.
    Gummer: This is a waste of time.
    Kelly: Well what'd you expect? You expect me to teach you in 20 minutes what took me 20 years?
    • Kelly however notes that Hiram has consistency down. Consistency is the most important trait in a marksman. If the marksman is missing the target, but his misses are consistently going to the same place, he is in fact doing things right and simply needs to adjust the sights on the gun and possibly make some minor adjustments to his stance and grip. That Hiram had consistency down with no practice is a nod that he has inborn talent. Meanwhile his inability to immediately hit with a gun he'd not only never shot, but was sighted for an obviously older man with shorter arms is a touch of realism rarely seen with this trope.
  • Ironic Echo: "Anyone can be taken advantage of and if you can, do."
  • It Can Think: As ever, the Graboids, such as targeting the punt gun after Hiram successfully used it to kill one of them.
  • Kick the Dog: Hiram offers Fu Yien a piece of gingerbread if he collects his peach brandy bottle for him. After he leaves to get it, Hiram eats the last piece anyway, exploiting the boy with a false promise. He then passes it off as a lesson about how the world works.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Arguably, the Rejection survivors' agreement not to tell anyone about their encounter with the "dirt dragons" inadvertently left their Perfection successors, including direct descendants, without any forewarning about the Graboid threat.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Juan describes how not seeing what attacked the other workers in the mine made it scarier than if he had.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Graboids were known as "dirt dragons" a long time ago.
  • Psycho for Hire: Black Hand Kelly is a professional gunhand who enjoys his profession way too much. He introduces himself by asking (in the creepiest tone imaginable) who he's being paid to murder, then gesturing at Tecopa and Juan and saying, "The Injun or the Mexican?"
  • Remember the Alamo:
    Hiram: We lost the Alamo, Juan.
    Juan: Speak for yourself, gringo.
  • The Seven Western Plots: The film falls under the "Empire" story with a Weird West twist to it. The plot revolves around a silver mine meant to help a struggling town in The Wild West, only for a Graboid — here called a "Dirt Dragon" — to kill anyone who goes near it. The protagonist starts off as an Upper-Class Twit with classist tendencies who, through trials, tribulations and his new local friends, learns to be a better person and becomes the hero.
  • Spanner in the Works: On the return trip to the mine, the group discovers Graboid egg shells next to where the miners had piped hot spring water. The pipe had broken, so Hiram suggests the warm water caused the eggs to hatch.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Hiram. Compare his meek arrival into town in a stagecoach and his triumphant return in the wagon he's driving.
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Once all the Graboids are dead, Hiram advises that the townspeople keep this their little secret.
  • Unfortunate Names: Perfection used to be called Rejection. This is of course lampshaded by the characters and by the end of the movie the name is changed.
  • Weird West: The whole premise is Tremors IN THE WILD WEST!, with all the trappings one would expect. Everyone has a gun, thick accents with colorful vernacular, black hat outlaws and so on. This western just so happens to have monstrous Sand Worms.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Hiram gets all kinds of grief for wanting to just leave town rather than try to kill the Graboids.
  • The World's Expert (on Getting Killed): "Black Hand" Kelly is one of the greatest gunfighters around, and hired to take care of some beasts... unfortunately for him, they happened to be Graboids. True to this Trope, everybody in Rejection freaks out because if the biggest badass on the land bought the farm to them, what chance do they have? Justified, as when hiring him they wanted someone who could easily kill the 'Dirt Dragons', which Kelly had the necessary skill to do, but by the time he arrived they'd already grown into their adult stage.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: When Hiram says all he wants in life is to be Idle Rich, Christine tells him he can be more.