Time to revisit another classic creature feature that I enjoyed so much, herein 2020, it’s now celebrating 30-years and spawned countless sequels, and even a spin-off, but not much in the merchandise market for the fans, hence species of Tremors (aka: Graboids) the fearful underground dwelling beast. It had the ability to sense vibrations on the surface and then swallow it whole, it does sound a tad similar like that of Blood Beach (1980), but this idea originated with S.S. Wilson who worked for the U.S. Navy in California. He was working on a project in the desert, he rested on a rock and thoughts about the game of the ground is lava, or in his case what if something wouldn’t let him leave the safety of the rock. This later led to him to team with Brent Maddock and called the project Land Shark, however witnessing an SNL (Saturday Night Live) skit that reference the title they dumped it, and actually shelved the wacky concept. It was after their success with the Short Circuit script that they returned to this project and heavily altered the entire story, characters and the title, which was acquired by Universal Studios, the rest is Tremors franchise history. However the focus of this review is to start at the beginning, with director Ron Underwood, making his debut and only feature to date, he was long ago the assistant director of the classic horror flick Tourist Trap (1979) and assisted on the script, although the movie earned $16.6 million, it costs ran $11-million hence not making a killing at the box office, it was the home video market, constant rentals that accelerated the profit margin three times the original gross amount. WOW, one can’t underestimate those small screen sales and rentals.
Tremors, truly clicked the small screen audience it has terrorizing monsters, that surfaced for unknown reasons, and given some humorous moments, it feels as if a story that harkens back to the 1950s, especially flicks that centered in the isolated landscape of the desert. Numerous movies of the decades used this backdrop for their creations from It Came from Outer Space (1953) to Them! (1954) and more recently It Came From the Desert (2017) it used outdoors to capture the vastness of nothingness, showed the characters geographical trap situation.
I am going out on a limb and think most have seen this wonderful little film, but shall try to omit some details in case you haven’t it’s only fair. Strange things start happening in small desert community of Perfection, Nevada, former mining town, two handymen Valentine ‘Val’ (Kevin Bacon (Friday the 13th )) & Earl (Fred Ward (Cardiac Arrest ), have had enough of this life and decide it’s time to leave for a brighter and bigger things. Before getting out of town they find the dead dehydrated body of the town drunk Edgar sitting on top of an electrical tower, then later stumbling upon Old Fred’s sheepherder homestead, which we learn has had mysterious turmoil. Soon the film takes the logical steps of cutting off escape routes and reaction of fear factor, if you haven’ seen it I don’t want to ruin too much for your fun. Along the way we meet a great ensemble of a cast, among them starring in her first film country music legend Reba McEntire, and then at the time family dad of the hit television show Family Ties, Michael Gross, who played a pacifist, against guns and war on that show and the next day a gun-toting and loving survivalist known as Burt, whose truck plate read UZI 4U. In fact what made his career even better, he shot the final episode and only day later did this film. As is always customary in a monster movie, there needs to some sort of scientist, here the writers included that character, seismologist Rhonda, studying for her PhD (Finn Carter) but with a twist, she didn’t know everything and when she did speak it was technical jargon. It’s Rhonda who starts piecing together how the monsters movie, but it becomes a collective discovery with Val and Earl. One must not overlook Perfection’s general store, Mr. Walter Chang, portrayed by the wonderfully fun actor Victor Wong (Prince of Darkness ) who coins the name ‘graboids’ for the creatures, so they won’t be upset.
Thanks Walter, Thanks!
There’s not too much to complain or even fault with the film, the production values still hold well thirty-years later, the script works great, fitting little quips, innuendos, perfect for family fun, but it’s the location that keeps everything humming along with a wonderful cast everyone treated equally with the roles whether major or minor. Cinematographer Alexander Gruszynski (The Craft ) does a fantastic job of capturing the beauty of the terrain and yet showing how they feel as if millions of miles away from any help, and in this manner they rely solely on their own ingenuity and wits. While many fans often note the similarities between the tremor monsters and those in Dune (1984), and one can’t disagree both film worms live underground, seek out vibrations, and struggle against rocks. However, I always thought of the ‘graboids’ as reminder of the trap door spider trip one of the webbing lines and it snatches its prey for tasty meal. In addition, the monsters’ creation makes it very reimbursement of the old school techniques with mechanical and hand puppets, etc. The monster team deploy for them, was headed by Tom Woodruff Jr. (Leviathan ) and Alec Gillis (Aliens ), and backed-up by over 50 special and visual effect artists – WOW! So what is the monster, as one learns from watching the continuing storyline in the franchise, they come from eggs, and stay dormant for about 300 million years, coming up to the surface to feed, grow, mature and have offspring before return beneath the soil, growing popularity of the films likely gave way to horrible creation Mongolian Death Worm (2010) a television film. An interesting piece of trivial before actually filming Bacon was in torment of where is acting career lead to a film about giant worms his words, however after the completion, he changed his mind admitting it was lots of fun on set, something he missed for a while.
I think it’s obvious I enjoyed this movie, it came out 10-years after Kevin Bacon starred in Friday the 13th and 10-years before Hollow Man, yep, I am a fan of his work both in and out of the horror genre. It’s a movie that earned a great reputation thanks to his loyal fan-base, and sometimes that’s what happens to sleeper hits. In today’s world, it’s harder and harder for a sleeper hit to get hot before it vanishes into the landscape of other productions, but the film provides timeless reflection back to small budgeted creature features, and fun enough for a family to enjoy.
- The monster movie that breaks new ground.
- They say there’s nothing new under the sun. But under the ground…
- The ultimate underground movie. It will leave you legless!
IMDb Rating 7.1/10
Baron’s Rating: 8.0/10
Tremors II: Aftershocks (1996) (Video)
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001) (Video)
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004) (Video)
Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015) (Video)
Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018) (Video)
Tremors (2018) (TV Movie) A TV reboot of the film.