As a rule, most sequels are just terrible, poorly-written retreads of the original movie.
Thankfully, "Tremors 2" Aftershocks" is a rather different beastie -- especially since it introduces a rather different beastie, rather than just having "frantic townspeople run from graboids... again." It's a rollicking, mildly absurd adventure story that retains the style and comedic horror of the first movie, but throws some new twists (and sidekicks, and love interests) into the mix.
Six years after the graboid attacks, Earl Basset (Fred Ward) is grumpy, embittered, alone, and raising ostriches. He's especially upset because he believes that he got his big chance and blew it.
But when a Mexican oil rep appears asking for his expert help, a dorky taxi driver named Grady (Christopher Gartin) convinces Earl to go graboid-hunting once more (for $50,000 per dead worm), in the oil fields of Mexico. Earl and Grady successfully destroy several graboids using dynamite and little toy trucks, although they end up having to call for the help of BUrt Gummer (Michael Gross) who is depressed about his marriage falling apart. A little wholesale destruction is just what he needs.
Then Earl and Grady encounter a newly transformed breed of graboid -- heat-sensing, two-legged "shriekers," which have destroyed all the cars and communications equipment in the area. Archaeologist Kate Reilly (Helen Shaver) also discovers that the shriekers are capable of reproducing at freakish speed when they eat. And after chowing down on BUrt's survivalist food, the four humans find themselves corner by horrible little beasties that are as tenacious as graboids... but much more mobile.
"Tremors 2: Aftershocks" has something few sequels have: a great balance of old (graboid hunting, Earl Basset) and new (shriekers, Mexico!), with the same kind of humour and orange splattergore that the first movie had. It also has a brilliant idea that keeps the graboids from getting boring -- they split open and reproduce into horrible little two-legged monsters that "see" body heat. Wonderful twist.
At first the movie seems fairly relaxed, with Earl and Grady blowing up worms from under their little girly umbrellas and exchanging one-liners ("Must be sick." "Probably ate someone that didn't agree with it"). Occasionally they get into rather comic trouble, such as when a graboid with a working radio (a giant carnivorous worm with its own country-western theme song!) snags their pickup's chain and drags them halfway across Mexico.
And it gets wonderfully over-the-top when Burt arrives with enough guns and explosives to level a small Middle-Eastern country. Then like the graboids, it mutates. Cue frenetic chases, lots of hiding, clever seat-of-their-pants tactics, and very fun dialogue ("A friend of ours, Walter Chang. He named them... then they ate him"), all without an ounce of pretension.
Though Earl is a bit grumpier this time around, Ward plays him as a good-hearted curmudgeon who's had some bad luck, but unexpectedly gets a chance to turn it around, while Shaver makes an smart, capable love interest who reopens his interest in real life. Gartin is perhaps the only flaw, since his graboid groupie is over-the-top flaky and perky much of the time.
And Michael Gross deserves special shout-outs for the ever gung-ho Burt Gummer, who not only has some of the best lines in the movie ("I am COMPLETELY out of ammo. That's never happened to me before") but makes Burt a real person rather than a gun-toting caricature ("She said I couldn't handle life without the threat of global war... what kind of thing is that to say to a man?").
"Tremors 2: Aftershocks" is a rarity in that it's a solid, fun horror/comedy in its own right, rather than just rerunning the first movie with different actors. Excellent twist.