As July rolls along we have officially entered the dog days of summer. The days are long and hot and what better way to accommodate the times than looking at a creature feature set in a hot western town, filled with Kevin Bacon and four real nasty graboids. This is my Sunday with…”Tremors.”
Release Date: January 19, 1990
Run Time: 96 minutes
Starring: Kevin Bacon
Director: Ron Underwood
“I can’t believe we said no to free beer!”-Val
Tremors introduce us to Val and Earl, two handymen that live and work in Perfection, Nevada. Growing ever so tired of their odd jobs and little to no pay they decide to pack up and head over to Bixby, which so happens to be the next town over. On their way they come across Rhonda, who is a college student tasked with monitoring the seismic activity of the area. She notices a spike in activity and doesn’t know what is causing it. As the boys reach the town limits they notice a man, dead on the electric tower. It is later discovered that he died of dehydration which means he was terrified to come down to the ground. That isn’t the only strange thing happening in Perfection, as not too much later old farmer Fred and his flock of livestock is killed by an unseen force. Val and Earl discover Fred’s head in the dirt and venture back to town to warn everyone. As everyone is gathered at the local store the unseen forces are making a bee line for the town of Perfection, but is the killer a maniac like the boys fear, and what is causing the increase in seismic activity in the area? Tremors was written by Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson, and Ron Underwood, and was directed by Underwood.
At their heart, most monster movies deal with a deeper issue that plagues us as a society. The monsters are vessels in these films to deliver the film makers ultimate message, for example King Kong. Tremors is one of those rare monster flicks that is exactly as it is presented. There is no ulterior motive that the director is trying to convey to us; this is strictly a film about four bad graboids and the people who are being terrorized by them, and that is why this film succeeds so much. It does not try to make a statement about anything, it brings us back to what movies were originally intended to do, and that is to provide an escape and immerse us in an absurd storyline that we can enjoy. There is nothing else to think about except for what is presented in front of us, and in that regards this film is a rarity that deserves to be enjoyed!
Tremors is a fun film, filled with likeable characters. Every one of us can look at Val and Earl and be reminded of the closeness that we have with our own best friend. The characters are successful because they are real people; they are working class folks just trying to get by. Aside from the characters, this film works because of the humor. On paper, the premise of four sandworm like creatures devouring a town of people is pretty laughable, and if they would have went in a serious direction with this film it most likely would have fallen flat on its face. The writers and film makers have to be applauded for not only realizing the humor in the story, but also running with it. The real success in this film comes from the writing and in a few lines we understand the characters back story; the humor infused in those lines enables us to enjoy and cheer for them. As successful as the writing was it can also be viewed as a fault in the sense that with the colorful characters and jokes, we forget that this is a monster horror movie. While the film is scattered with deaths we are fairly certain that the main characters will walk away just fine, which some could consider poorly. I however, find no problem with this as it fits the overall tone of the film. The balance of humor and horror is so well worked in this movie, that it never feels as if we are seeing a parodied version of the film maker’s initial idea. Watching this I always get the feeling that I am seeing and hearing exactly what the film maker wanted and that is a fun monster flick.
Aside from the humor and the characters, let’s get down to the main attraction, which is of course the graboids. If I had to describe them they look like big worms with snake tongues. If the sand worms in Beetlejuice and the aliens in Starship Troopers had a baby, it would be the graboids. With that being said the creature itself is an original look and once again takes the ridiculous concept of a man eating worm and not only makes it intimidating, but it also makes it scary. Amalgamated Dynamics were tasked with creating the creature and they did a stellar job incorporating many different things into one cohesive and formidable monster
Tremors sports an ensemble cast led by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward who portrayed Val and Earl. The chemistry between these two was contagious as it felt that these two have been friends forever. Finn Carter plays Rhonda, and it is fun to see her transformation from college student to foul mouthed survivor. Reba McEntire and Michael Gross play the ass kicking Gummers. And much to my enjoyment Egg Shen (Big Trouble in Little China) himself, Victor Wong plays Walter Chang, owner of the only store in town and unfortunate casualty of the graboids. The score, by Ernest Troost was given a western feel which perfectly captures the small town Nevada feel the film was aiming for.
Tremors is a solid enjoyable film. It doesn’t take itself too seriously but at the same time doesn’t discredit itself. It perfectly walks the line between parody and serious. This movie is not perfect, however I don’t think it ever intended to be, but it sure is a hell of a lot of fun! Tremors has spawned four direct to video sequels as well as a 13 episode miniseries that aired in 2003. It has garnered mostly positive reviews and has become a cult classic, definitely worth the watch if you haven’t seen it.