Friday, October 10, 2014

Tremors: The Series - Shriek & Destroy

The second episode of the Tremors TV show features the second stage of the monster life cycle.

As its title gives away, the second episode of the Tremors television series centers on the same creature that the second Tremors movie was centered on: the second stage of the Graboid life cycle, Shriekers.

Directed by Jack Sholder (A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge, The Hidden) from a teleplay by Tremors co-creators S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, Shriek & Destroy sets up a scenario that could be used to send survivalist Burt Gummer out on monster hunting missions all around the country as the series goes on.

Scientists believe that the Graboid species is experiencing a long term hatching cycle after hundreds of years of dormancy, and a new egg has hatched in the vicinity of Juniper, Arizona. That Graboid has since split open to produce a batch of Shriekers, the two-legged creatures that reproduce by eating. To put an end to this problem and save Juniper, Department of the Interior agent Twitchell, the man who watches over Perfection, Nevada, the little desert town that is home to both the Graboid known as El Blanco and the series' human characters, enlists the aid of Perfection resident Burt Gummer. In fact, Twitchell blackmails Burt into taking the Shrieker hunting job by threatening to have him evicted from El Blanco's habitat for having a negative impact on the massive prehistoric worm.

Twitchell does offer Burt something in return - the government will provide him with any weapons he wants and will pay him for his time. Burt is hurting financially since having to blow up his house to escape a monstrous creature in Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, an act which also had a devastating effect on his gun collection. So for money and guns, and to keep what's left of his home (the basement), Burt agrees to go to Juniper.

Twitchell also gets new Perfection resident Tyler Reed, owner of the Graboid Adventure Tours business, to go along with Burt by promising to let him add after dark tours to his schedule. Burt needs a handler.

Arriving in Juniper, Burt and Tyler find that the locals are a trusting lot, still going through with their Pioneer Days fair despite the fact that, according to the heat signature reading Burt gets on a satellite monitor, there are twelve Shriekers - two groups of six - lurking out in the countryside.

Burt and Tyler make quick work of one group of six, catching up with them and mowing them down with machine guns. But then an arrogant Fish and Wildlife officer shows up and takes over the situation, determined to wipe out the second group on his own. He kills five, then catches a sixth to be studied in captivity by locking it inside a building. He doesn't take note that the building he has trapped the Shrieker inside of is a feed and grain company. The Shrieker devours the company's product and soon there are a whole lot more Shriekers to deal with in Juniper... And they're headed for the fairgrounds.

Twitchell told Burt he'd get anything he wanted, but he skimped on the ammo, only providing the Shrieker hunters with a thousand rounds, which Burt and Tyler blow through pretty quickly. Luckily, a Juniper resident has a really nice gun collection. Unfortunately, those guns are Civil War era, muzzle loaded muskets.

Shriek & Destroy's simple story makes for an action-packed episode that hardly ever slows down and features everything you could ask for from an entry in the Tremors franchise - adventure, monsters, and copious amounts of gunfire. Plus a couple surprisingly gross moments of gore.

Part of the reason why Tremors: The Series only lasted for one season on the SciFi Channel may be the fact that the network totally scrambled up the order in which the episodes were aired, which made it hard to follow continuing storylines. Even though Shriek & Destroy was meant to be the second episode and the one which establishes the "doing jobs for Twitchell" angle, SciFi aired it last of the thirteen episodes. Because of this, ADR voiceovers were added to the opening scenes to account for the fact that viewers watching the series in SciFi's mixed up order had already seen Burt and Tyler going on jobs for Twitchell. So when you watch the series in its proper order on DVD, that's why characters are saying things like "once again" and "just like last time" about a situation that they're doing for the first time. Just ignore those lines.

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