PSA: Tremors (1990), or Kevin Bacon’s Finest Hour

14 09 2009

Thanks to Steven and Jenni for requesting this movie! You guys are the best! I always need requests, so don’t be shy, people! Leave a comment!

It was an honor and a privilege to see Tremors again. After having not watched it for so long, especially now that I’m in critic mode, it felt so good to reconnect with this film and my fond memories of it. This was a movie my mother really enjoyed, a movie that would always be on in the periphery of our small home in East Texas. Every day I was with her, in my youth, we would be talking and laughing around the house together, and she would pick from a small handful of films taped from television something to put on in the background while we talked. It would always be either the original Star Wars trilogy, Die hard With A Vengeance, Jaws, Dune, or today’s film, Tremors. It brings to mind a certain nostalgia that will always be with me, and the times that my mother and I shared. And while this probably isn’t the case with you, Tremors still makes me feel small, delicate, and warm in my most passionate of hearts.

Oh, and the movie is good, too, since I’m writing a review and not some stock journalistic memoir of mine! (cue embarrassed trumpet wah-wah).

Tremors starts off with two buddies named Val and Earl, who are stuck in a dead-end town with nowhere else to go. They’re a couple of handymen that have stayed in Perfection, Nevada (Pop. 14) longer than they have cared to, and they decide that it’s finally time to move on to greener, and perhaps more profitable pastures. They tell all the townsfolk goodbye and begin an epic adventure to find some work in rural, ass-end-of-Nowhere Nevada. But before they even get to the neighboring town of Bixby, their journey is stopped dead in its tracks by the discovery of an older resident they find withered and deceased, perched on an electrical pole. They deduce he must have died of exposure, and become frightened of what could keep a man perched up for so long that he’s killed by the elements and dehydration. Shortly after they bring his body back into town, they discover exactly what could keep a man perched up that long; a horrible, gigantic subterranean creature!!!!! It’s a monster of unknown origins, a gigantic worm-like beast with orange blood and snakes for tongues, and it has come from…wherever it comes from to kill all the townsfolk of Perfection and eat them up! Oh no! It’s up to Val and Earl to organize the townsfolk to stand against this terrifying menace who can sense vibrations from the ground and swallow you where you stand. Can they rise up and be heroes, or are they too chicken-shit to handle the pressure?

One of the most original monster movies to come out in the past 30 years, Tremors is more like a comedy than a horror movie. Filled with hilarious one-liners, cheeky characters, and crisp reparteé, as well as enthusiastic creature effects from Amalgamated Dynamics, this ranks among one of the best creature features in the business. Everything about this movie is fresh and energetic, and you can really tell that they wanted this movie to be a lot of fun. Fortunately for us, it sure as hell is.

The cast is what makes this movie shine. Kevin Bacon is still far from his somber older man phase and still has plenty of smiles and jokes for his character, Val. He plays him with a kicked-back Southern smart-ass vibe, and although Bacon usually isn’t my favorite, he makes me grin from ear to ear for the whole 90 minutes in Tremors. But let’s not diminish the extraordinary yang to Bacon’s yin, Fred Ward. The salt-and-pepper gentleman plays the venerable old foil to Val’s smarmy fireplug as Earl, his partner. He also has something about him that screams capriciousness, but in a slightly more grizzled and put-upon way. The real shocker here though is Michael “Family Ties” Grossman, who sheds his hippie persona from television to play a gun-toting psycho named Burt. He’s a total freak, but horror movies tend to have a way of rewarding the infirm survivalists of the world, even if they don’t deserve it, so he ends up being a good guy. You’ll be so charmed by Grossman, though, you won’t even remember that you would never want to meet up with this guy in real life!

The dialog really is effervescent and fun! Some favorite lines, in no particular order:

Earl: Is this a job for an intelligent man?

Val: Well, show me one and I’ll ask him.


Val: That’s how they git ya. They’re under the goddamned ground!!!!


Earl: Rhonda, you ever seen anything like this before?

Val: Oh, sure Earl. Everyone knows about them; we just didn’t tell you.


And my personal favorite:

Walter Chang (Owner of the general store): Earl, here’s some Swiss cheese and some bullets. (!!!!!!!!!!!!)


And a quick note about the creature. The townsfolk call it a “graboid”, cuz it grabs ya from the ground, a-hyuck. In all seriousness, it has to be one of the most interesting subterranean monsters I’ve ever seen. For the one or two people who have yet to see this little gem, I’ll spare you the pictures, but its sheer design, ferociousness, and its kills are pure creativity, and I honestly can’t think of a movie until Cloverfield that caught my imagination so thoroughly. Good job, Amalgamated Dynamics!

If you haven’t seen this yet, wait a day or two and I’m sure it will be on cable (albeit a slightly butchered version). Cable has had as much fascination with this film as I do, especially the old USA and Sci-fi channels, before Sci-fi was Syfy and before USA was totally ass. It’s just a cult classic, an honest-to-goodness monster movie with laughs and chutzpah that will go down in history as one of the most unique and entertaining films of the 90s. I give Tremors a hearty 8 1/2 graboids (a-hyuck!) out of 10. Watch it!

Tomorrow I have a look-see at Brand Upon the Brain! Until then!!!!