Tremors (1990) / Horror-Action
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, gore, and language
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Bobby Jacoby (Robert Jayne)
Director: Ron Underwood
Screenplay: S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock
Review published March 14, 2003
In a tiny Nevada town, ironically called Perfection, with its population of only 15 people, there seem to be several more non-human residents appearing. Monsters dwell beneath the ground, borrowing around, listening to the sounds of humans above in order to attack and feed on. The monsters are giant wormlike creatures with sharp teeth, gaping maws, and pendulous appendages that humans can't outrun or out power without some ingenuity. With nowhere to run, and the only places to hide on the roofs of their homes, the residents of Perfection must find a way to eliminate the monstrous threat before they die of starvation, dehydration or carnivorous consumption,
Tremors is a campy and fun monster flick that has enjoyed a cult status over the years for its blend of good comedy, gory horror, solid action, and bits of sci-fi. It's also well-beloved among those that enjoyed drive-in B-movies and late-night TV creature features, seemingly a spoof on the old paranoid monster movies of the 1950s (with a little bit of Jaws and The Birds thrown in for good measure), but with a decidedly modern sensibility. Showcasing much more gore than the movies of old, and surprisingly good effects for such a modest budget (only $11 million), the look and feel of the film is appealing, while the comic overtones keep the proceedings appropriately entertaining.
Perhaps the strongest asset of Tremors is its cast chemistry. Most notable are the main stars of the film, Kevin Bacon (A Few Good Men, Apollo 13) and Fred Ward (Secret Admirer, Short Cuts), whose constant funny banter and competitive nature make them fun to watch, even when there isn't any action going on. Complementing their starring turns are good character actors, with Michael Gross (Mrs. Harris, Big Business), coming straight off of his mild-mannered role as the father in "Family Ties" making for a great paranoid survivalist, while country singer and first-time actress Reba McEntire (One Night at McCool's, Forever Love) is a nice surprise as his equally feisty, but slightly more sensible wife.
First-time feature director Ron Underwood (The Adventures of Pluto Nash, In the Mix) keeps the pace brisk, while the screenwriting team of Wilson and Maddock (Wild Wild West, *batteries not included) serve up an always interesting array of situations and confrontations with which to engage us with some good laughs and good scares, sometimes simultaneously. This isn't a film striving to be a masterpiece; it very much enjoys being a b-movie throwback, with all of the qualities, both good and bad, that such fare would imply. For a film about carnivorous underground monsters, its pleasures figuratively reside strictly on the surface, with nothing in the way of thematic depth or groundbreaking filmmaking to be found. It's just for fun, and quite successful in achieving every modest goal.
-- Followed by three straight-to-video film sequels, Tremors II: Aftershock (1996), Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), and Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004). Also made into a short-lived TV series (13 episodes) in 2003.
©2003 Vince Leo