A remote Canadian science team is under the threat of a Graboid situation, hunting drill parties through the ice and ripping them to shreds with their snake-like mouth tentacles. The team phones the only known Graboid hunter, the legendary outdoor sportsman Burt Gummer, who flies from Perfection, New Mexico to the North of the border with his son Travis Welker to terminator their subterranean predator problem. Graboids aren’t the only problem as nasty Ass-Blasters also roam the sky. Stranded on a remote research station and stuck with non-combative administrative researchers, Gummer’s shoulders bare much of the battlefield burden, but the long time Graboid ass-kicker comes face-to-face with an internal Graboid stemmed disease that sidelines his ability to finish the campaign. Travis must pick up the reigns and band together a ragtag team of scientists to not only save Canada from a being swallowed from below, but also to save his father’s life by obtaining antibodies from a live Graboid.
Michael Gross is back! Reprising his role of Burt Gummer, the gung-ho military nut with a penchant for hunting down and killing Graboids, Gross straps on the HK-91 assault rifle once more for Universal’s “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell,” the sixth installment to the “Tremors” franchise that began 27-years-old in 1990! The PG-13 creature feature is helmed by direct-to-video sequel director Don Michael Paul (“Tremors: Bloodlines”), written by two-time “Tremors” sequel writer John Whelpley, and release appropriately enough on Universal’s 1440 Entertainment label. Whelpley relocates the franchise away from the blistering heat, the scorching sand, and the denim-camo-plaid sporting bedrock to cooler climate of the Canada’s 49th parallel north. Under the ice and the chilled soil are pre-pre-cana Graboids awakened by the ever looming effects of global warming. Al Gore was right; Global warming will kill us all…by rousing the underground beasts who’ve been dormant for thousands of years! The very one aspect the filmmakers wanted shiplap together for this next chapter is to perilously put the invincible Burt through a taste of own mortality, plaguing him with a symbiotic Graboid worm that puts him on the edge of death, and introducing a worthy replacement, or perhaps a legacy, in his son, Travis Welker.
Welker is a returning character from “Tremors: Bloodlines” portrayed by comedian Jamie Kennedy. His role as Brad “B-rad” Gluckman from “Malibu’s Most Wanted” has been forcibly seared in many of our minds and his horror enthusiasm captured our black hearts as the lovable Randy Meeks in Scream, but being Travis Welker nearly upends those personas and transform him into a smooth talking, fast thinking, son of a gun whose perfect to match wits with his on-screen old man, Burt. “Tremors 6” is essentially the Burt and Travis show, leaving many other characters up as red shirts, but waver a handful as potential love interests and bone headed comedic reliefs. Starting with South African Tanya van Graan (“Starship Troopers 3: Marauder”) as the kinda kooky Jamie Kennedy love interest in Dr. Rita Sims. Sims is nearly all over the board being the lead scientist on the research expedition to a complete bad ass with a rifle to being a sultry fox who goes commando with no underpants in the arctic. Then there’s Jamie-Lee Money, just on the cusp of her career, plays Valerie McKee, the offspring of “Tremors'” Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter). Money looks the part, but the character is severely downplayed and lifeless that mistreats the legacy of Val who was spontaneous, inventive, and naively charming. Other characters come off goofy, oddball, and arbitrary or insignificantly used played by Greg Kriek (“Lake Placid: Legacy”), Stephanie Schildknecht (“Accident”), and Kiroshan Naidoo.
The entire Tremors franchise has been through a wringer of changes over the last 27-years that has really stretched the incredible substratum monster thinner and thinner. Reducing the physical formidability down to a visual effects monstrosity that still preserves a somewhat tongue-and-cheek campiness, “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell” doesn’t quite have the “Tremors” flavor. Perhaps it’s the arctic setting. Perhaps it’s the inane special effects. Perhaps it both, but one thing is certain and that is Michael Gross being solidified as the unwavering face of the franchise, but even with that constant variable, this sixth installment attempts to lure back in the original fan base by referencing the original film in numerous instances, such as with Valentine’s daughter, Valerie, or even with Burt’s famous one-liner when he shot-to-death the basement crashing Graboid from the first film, but instead of saying “rec room,” he yells “airplane hangar” as the Graboid explodes in a gush of orange blood as it rams into an underground electrical barrier. It’s a bit of a farce. Yet, there’s still an immense amount of enjoy-ability, energy, and Graboid fun to be had.
Universal releases the PG-13 “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell” on the home video, 1440 Entertainment label, with a combo Blu-ray + DVD + Digital disc. The 1080p High Definition Blu-ray was viewed for this review which is presented in a widescreen 178:1 aspect ratio and the image quality is deep with details. The terrains absolutely come alive to the screen and, at the same time, expose the visual effects work. No matter how much the visual effects team tries to create an Canadian arctic atmosphere, the sands of the South African landscape couldn’t be optically opaqued. Nonetheless, facial features, character attire, and even the explosions, cascading, and orange Graboid blood gooing is sharp with precision definition. As far as audio, the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound caters to every audible fissure with an attractive ambiance track (ass)blasting with baritone and ripping semi-automatic fire cues. Dialogue comes over clean and the soundtrack has healthy bones, aside from it’s generic, low-budget assortment. Extras include a making of “Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell” that’s broken down into multiple, short chapters, the anatomy of a scene, and inside Walter Chang’s kitschy market. Since the breaking news that SyFy will not longer move forward with the anticipating Tremors television series with Kevin Bacon, “”Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell” signifies that the withering franchise will not stray from Burt Gummer’s one-man show anytime soon; still, the sixth installment provides a healthy amounts of witty banter and a swimming pool full of Graboid gore, two foundational motifs still vibrant in the Tremors universe.
In the dystopian America of 2050, commercialism presides over the middle and lower classes in the constructed wasteland that is United Corporation of States led by an impeccable and blood thirsty Chairman. A popular, carnage-laden sport known as the high octane Death Race has become beloved by all Americans, giving them an escape from their mundane and pitiful existence. The Death Race is simple: war-modified cars trek across the United Corporation of States in a 3-day race to score points by running down citizens of an overpopulated nation as an encouraged way of resetting the out of control producing rate and racers can also seek glory to reach the finish line with best time. Four-time champion, Frankenstein, is the returning crowd favorite and seeks to win a fifth crown, unless the powerful and conniving Chairman decides otherwise.
Under Universal Studio’s filmic sequel and reboot sublabel, Universal 1440 Entertainment’s “Death Race 2050” is a rip-roaring start toward 2017’s best intense action cinema and despite being pre-labeled as just another diluted and benign remake of the Roger Corman produced, Paul Bartel directed “Death Race 2000” from 1975, the modern day G.J. Echternkamp directed and co-directed film with Matt Tamashita honorably doesn’t lose the rich, yet full of cheap thrills, heritage that makes the original “Death Race” so fun, so entertaining, and so campy keeping the pandemonium on four high-performance, face-shearing tires. Even though Death Race has been quiet for over thirty years since 1975, the last decade has been riddled with Death Race films produced by the legendary low-budget filmmaker Roger Corman and all have been complimentary exclusive in their charm, mayhem, and versions of the lead character Frankenstein to thrill audiences, but it’s “Death Race 2050” that revs in true remake fashion of similar plot structure that changes all but one character.
New Zealander Manu Bennet carries the torch in portraying the original character Frankenstein, a four time champion with a leather covered body that’s been ravaged and cybernetically repaired from previous race crashes. Manu’s charisma and rugged image will win over audiences as he perfectly embodies a conflicted champion on the brink of doing what’s right; a tone very similar in all “Death Race” films. Manu is paired with actress Marci Miller, as Frankenstein’s passenger proxy, who dishes out the good girl sex appeal with a self-reliant rind. Beyond these two characters, even with a moniker like Frankenstein, the remaining characters make Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” a college course of rocket science! Deliveries were timely, actions were precise, and performances couldn’t have been more meticulous in scenes with Jed Perfectus, the genetically engineered and ambiguous pretty boy played by Burt Grinstead, Minerva Jefferson, the wealthy ghetto rapper forged to life by Folake Olowofoyeku, and with Tammy the Terrorist, a cult leader with a celebrity high power portrayed by 2007’s “The Signal’s” Anessa Ramsey. The relatively unknown cast is whole-heartedly glued together by the flamboyant performance of “Clockwork Orange’s” and “31’s” Malcolm McDowell as the Chairman.
One could take a good stab in the dark on what the quality of the effects would be like for any Roger Corman produced film. In this instance, “Death Race 2050” channels much of Corman’s style with Echternkamp and his visual effects supervisor Anthony J. Rickert-Epstein (“Sharktopus vs. Whalewolf”) supplying rotoscope blood and dismemberments that pin-pricks a visual stimulate into the vein of the snobbiest of film aficionados and can be on an everlasting high. The simple, but effect, gasoline based pyrotechnics attest to the dedication of the crew and to the stunt work to know that if they miss their spot, they’re literally toast. However, the sometimes choppy, rapid editing drains some of the juice from the kills that attempt to piece coherent death sequences with humor and action. In fact, “Death Race 2050” redlines just like the modified, manslaughter vehicles used to rundown babies and the elderly to score points by quickly jumping to the next segment in order to sustain all the gory story’s girth.
“Death Race 2050” is adrenaline flowing wildly adjacent with gasoline, exploding with gore, and is terrifically enjoyable. Echternkamp’s script bares no sense with the sensitivities, secreting American wealth, greed, and stupidity in an environmentally degraded America filled with large high fructose corn syrup soda, an addictive cheese whiz byproduct, and borders that are named after corporate conglomerate of brands such as Walmart or Texaco. Universal’s R rated Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD release of the New Horizon film is an 1080p of the 1.78:1 widescreen presentation that makes the film look cheap due it’s hi-def attributes. The image quality is sleek and vibrant with a wide range of rainbow hues and the definition doesn’t ever thrown in the towel. The three option audio selection that consists of an English DTS-HD Master Audio has a lossless appetite that delectable distinguishes the channels where explosions are bombastically LFE and the gory parts are viscerally squishy. The dialogue is surprisingly clear through the amount of chaos. Bonus features include “The Making of Roger Corman’s Death Race 2050,” “The Look of 2050″ featurette,” a closer look at the cars in a segment entitled “Cars! Cars! Cars!,” a cast car tour, and deleted scenes. Even if the story’s timing is a spastic, “Death Race 2050’s” a guilty pleasure from start to finish line under the caustic cinematic eye of Roger Corman!