Tremors (1990)

“We plan ahead, that way we don’t do anything right now. Earl explained it to me.”

Justin’s rating: Finally, a movie that will graboid you and won’t let you go!

Justin’s review: In the wide field of monster horror movies, Tremors stands out of the pack for quite a few reasons. It encapsulates that perfect mix of horror and comedy, for starters. It mostly takes place in stark daylight, for another. And it opens with a grand view of Kevin Bacon taking a whiz on prime Nevada real estate.

Tremors seems to be a movie which came from the mind of a Star Wars-obsessed scriptwriter who thought that it’d be a good idea to take the sarlaac from Return of the Jedi and give him the gobbling habits of Jaws. Just, you know, in the middle of the desert. The weird thing is — it totally works. It’s a strange premise to have the main threat be a mostly unseen underground tunneling worm, but Tremors works awfully hard to make the creature into a legitimate threat with its own behavior and rules that believably isolates our cast of desert dwellers.

The sun and the quips beam down in equal measure over this movie, in which handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) become the unintentional lead investigators of a mysterious series of incidences nearby the small town of Perfection, NV. By the time that the two and the few hermits, shopkeepers, and scientists of the area come to grips with the fact that there’s something really nasty out there that is attracted to sound, the Perfectionites come under siege and are unable to escape a town cut off from the outside world.

Of course, they’re not completely helpless. While the creature — dubbed a “graboid” for its propensity to snare its pray with snake-like tongues — is quite powerful, the townfolk have humor, seat-of-their-pants ingenuity, science, and a Texas county’s worth of guns on their side. Also, they’re pretty good at climbing up on top of things to keep out of harm’s way.

While Tremors might not be as gory or legitimately scary as some horror fans might like, I find its approach a whole lot more enjoyable. There’s great cast chemistry all around, especially between Val and Earl, and I can’t think of many other scary movies where the people are so likable that you don’t want any of them to die. Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer absolutely steals several scenes here as a survivalist, and I can completely understand why he got promoted to a lead character for many of the sequels.

It’s also surprisingly effective to keep the graboid mostly hidden for a bulk of the movie, revving up our imagination and constantly prodding us as if to say, “What would you do if you were in this situation?”

Tremors is still a movie that, in 2021, makes me laugh and rivets my attention to the screen. It’s one of the best cult movies of the 1990s and perfect for people who don’t want their scary movies giving them nightmares for days afterward.

Andie’s rating: So I go to Nevada and fear getting eaten by gigantic worm monsters just to spend time with out in the middle of nowhere with Kevin Bacon? Hmmmmm…….

Andie’s review: Tremors has been a favorite of mine since I was about 12. My brother and I taped it off of TV one night and watched it constantly. It became a staple in our movie-watching lives along with Top Gun and Back to the Future. Even now that we’re 20 and 17, respectively, we still swap lines of dialogue from it. Like I’ll go, “Now listen to me, I’m older and I’m wiser.” and he’ll answer, “Yeah, well you’re half right.” and then we laugh like hyenas because this little exchange is hilarious to us.

What I’m trying to say is that Tremors is just one of those movies that struck the right chord with us. We went back and watched my DVD of it the other night and laughed just as much as we did the first time we saw it. We’ve also seen it enough times that we kept pointing things out that are different on the rental version than the edited-for-TV version. We’re kind of nerds.

Anyway, the premise is that Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) live in this little hole-in-the-wall town in Nevada called Perfection, Pop. 14. They’re the resident handymen; they get stuck doing all these crappy jobs for the people of Perfection and one day they decide to leave for Bixby. But between the town and the end of the valley they discover a dead body, part of a dead body, lots of parts of dead sheep and a buried station wagon. While trying to get to Bixby on horseback to get some help, they’re attacked and figure out that what’s been killing everything. There are these gigantic worms under the ground that have tentacles that shoot right out of their mouths and grab you and pull you in. It makes for a really fun movie in the tradition of classic 1950s B-movies, like Them! or Ants! or The Twinkie that Swallowed L.A.!

The reason this movie works so well is that it takes itself seriously enough to have a funny script and likeable characters and decent special effects, yet it doesn’t take itself so seriously that it loses its campy, tongue-in-cheek feel. Plus, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have some of the best onscreen chemistry of anybody I’ve seen. They’re witty exchanges are the best part of the entire movie. They’re so wry and sarcastic and they slam on each other left and right. I also love the way they solve everything: Rock, Paper, Scissors. It really is hilarious.

The supporting cast is okay; Rhonda the love interest is nice because she’s not some blonde-haired, big-boobed girl who runs around and screams so much she has you hoping the monsters will grab her with their tentacles and chow down. Instead, she’s a cute brunette graduate student and makes a nice foil to Kevin Bacon’s cowboy/handyman character.

Michael Gross and Reba McIntyre play Burt and Heather Gummer, these survivalist types who are always packing heat and have a plan for everything: World War III, the next Nazi Invasion, invading Canada, whatever. They’re hysterical. And my other favorite cast member is Miguel, just because he has a Mexican accent and that makes his lines really funny. There are some other people, like this really obnoxious teenage boy and a moron hick guy and the girl from Jurassic Park. You know who I’m talking about. The “Is he gonna eat the goat?” girl. They’re okay. Overall, the casting is good. The script is even better, they have a lot of funny lines and they deliver them right on target.

So anyway, Tremors is well-worth checking out, I think it should be a favorite Popcorn Movie of everyone’s because it’s just so funny. You’ll fall in love with it right away, I guarantee it.

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