Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Graboid Week: Tremors (1990)

That's right, folks. It's the marathon you've all been waiting for - THE TREMORS MARATHON. You better be ready for this.

Tremors is a dearly beloved little creature feature that has been a favorite of mine, and probably MILLIONS of others, for years. Whenever it was on TV (and it played a lot on USA for a while back there), my sister or I would only have to yell through the house "Tremors is on!!!" and the other would come running. A few years ago, I got the Tremors "Attack Pack" DVD with all four movies in it (quick go out and buy it now) so they're all at my disposal.

The Graboid filled plot: An impossibly small and isolated desert town called Perfection is infested by huge, man-eating, worm-like creatures that travel underground. Two buddy handymen, a visiting seismologist, and a couple who collects every gun known to man are amongst the people who must rid their town of these monsters.

Oh, Tremors, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways and junk. As I sit here thinking about how to give a fair review, which to me includes also talking about any flaws in a film, I honestly cannot come up with anything that doesn't work, at least for me, in Tremors. Aside from one small shot where the effects are not as well done, Tremors is actually so well done that I can't think of hardly any nitpicks. The comedy, the creature effects, the acting, the logical actions of the characters, the characters themselves - they are all truly awesome.

Very much similar to Animals Run Amok, Creature Features are high on my list of horror movie awesomeness. And I think we've got possibly the best of best right here. Is it exaggerating to call Tremors a masterpiece of B movies? Methinks no.

And the movie actually almost moves out of the realm of B movie simply because of how good it is. The creature effects are so good, it's ridiculous. Amazing old-fashioned mechanical effects as opposed to obvious CGI help the film's believability and effectiveness. The graboids are really there acting with the actors and they look real - you know, if graboids were actually real in the first place.

Like I've said before, horror comedies always walk that fine line between genuine smart wit and cheesiness while having to still be great in the horror sense. In both of these aspects, Tremors excels. I'd say that's probably the best thing about the film overall, is how seriously it takes itself. There's none of those annoying fights about how this couldn't be possible, that creatures like this couldn't exist, whatever.  The characters all take what is happening at face value, mostly with the help of the requisite expert in the field, Rhonda the seismology student, and do whatever they can to fight these monsters.

The action is well placed and exciting with lots of changes in location and methods by the characers of how to deal with the situation. There's improvised pole-vaulting (who knew that THAT would be such a handy skill to have), sneak attacks with Burt's homemade bombs, and one of the best scenes where a graboid busts through the wall of Burt and Heather's rec room and they shoot the shit out of it with their scary collection of guns. They manage to kill all the graboids in a different way - and in smart ways. The characters are represented as sort of hicks who live in the shittiest little town (seriously, with a population of about 10, can you even call it a town?) but they are resourceful and smart and you want them all to survive this. Except maybe Melvin. With a name like that anyway, it'd be a favor to him if he got eatted up by a graboid.

Sorry. That was harsh. You're okay, Melvin. Just a little annoying.

The awesomest thing about Tremors is of course what I believe Andre at the Horror Digest referred to as the bromance between Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl ( Fred Ward). These two actors work perfectly off each other and have such a funny but still lovable relationship. Their moments together are some of the funniest in the movie. Their little games of rock-paper-scissors? Cute. So cute. However, survivalist Burt Gummer runs a very close second to being the best thing about the movie, and he is the only character aside from the graboids to appear in all four movies. Thank you, Mr. Gummer. Without you, some of those sequels just wouldn't work.

If you look at my Facebook page, one of my quotes is from this movie. It's when Val and Earl take the horses to Bixbie and as they're gearing up, Walter comes up and says, "Earl, here's some Swiss cheese and some bullets." Nonsequitor? Yup. Funny? Oh, yeah! But there are SO MANY other hilarious highlights that it's a wonder Tremors isn't quoted more:

"Damn, Burt, what's in those things?" (asking about the bombs)
"A few household chemicals in the proper proportions."

"Yeah, well, I guess when I'm your age, I'll forget what I eat too."

"You see, we plan ahead that way we don't do anything right now. Earl explained it to me."

"Stay on those residual boulders!"

If you still haven't seen Tremors, you are doing yourself a serious disservice. A wonderful comedy, and still an exciting monster movie at the same time, it is truly one of the best of its kind. And if you don't fall in love with Val and Earl, well then you're just weird. 

Sidenote: Never liked how the poster shows the Graboid as having teeth like an alligator. Where did that come from?


  1. I adore Tremors - such a good old-fashioned monster movie that is both funny and pretty suspenseful at times. And it's got Kevin Bacon in it! I'm not (too) ashamed to admit that when I was younger it really scared me. Then again I was a pretty wimpy kid.

  2. Tremors as a series is awesome, but it goes way downhill as you go further away from the original, i've seen them all...sadly

  3. Oh, I have been waiting for this. Excellent!

  4. @James - I've seen it so many times now that I can't remember if it ever truly scared me, but my 6 year old nephew saw it recently and was admittedly a little freaked out but he still loved it.

    @Jorge - Yup, I've sadly seen them all too and have to watch them again for my marathon. 1 - 3 are okay, but I'm not looking forward to 4.

    @Jinx - It's all for you, girlfriend! Hope you enjoy.

  5. super-excellent classic and definitely one of the 90s' absolute best genre movies. Part 2 is also extremely great

  6. Son of a beach! I never noticed the teeth. Now it will bug me too.

    Awesome write-up. I love me some graboids. (Yet, I haven't seen the sequels and or show...yet. Will be admiring silently the rest of the week!)

  7. Well now that I'm looking at the poster, it seems like that is the head of one of the tentacles, instead of the graboid itself. But the tentacle heads didn't have teeth like that either so it's still weird.

  8. Tremors rocks! Although scary it has so much humor packed into it, and on top of that it has Kevin Bacon in it, which as we know Kevin Bacon is his own greatest fan. I can barely find the words to explain why this movie worked as well as it did, but it did. The cast meshed so well you thought that they had all been living there together for years. Compared to the following Tremors movies, this was leaps ahead of them, as they went down the eventual cheese road. Even the second movie was rather odd. I was rummaging through DISH online yesterday on the Cinemax page when I came across Tremors, and had to watch it, I still laughed like it was the first time I had seen the movie, which speaks loads for the movie itself. Even the movie geek I work with at DISH laughed hysterically when we were talking about the movie.