Tremors (1990)
Tremors (1990)

Genre: Horror Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 36 min.

Release Date: January 19th, 1990 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Ron Underwood Actors: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Ariana Richards, Bibi Besch, Victor Wong

 


 

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alentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bass (Fred Ward) are hired hands doing odd jobs on a massive desert ranch outside the city of Perfection (Population: 14). They while away their days fixing fences, picking up trash, or pumping septic tanks. Just as they finally make definitive plans to leave the miserable little town for good, they stumble upon the body of old Edgar Deems, who apparently died of dehydration atop an electrical tower. Moments after the local doctor examines the man, more residents of the valley begin to fall victim to a mysterious killer.

The townsfolk are cut off from help by the extreme isolation of the Nevada mountains. It’s decided that Val and Earl are to take a couple of horses and ride to Bixby, about 40 miles away. En route, they’re ambushed by an underground monstrosity that tunnels its way rapidly through the sand. Even after one of the snakelike behemoths kills itself by burrowing straight into a concrete wall, they realize that there are more of them, confirmed by college student Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), who is studying to be a seismologist and has been monitoring activity in the area. It’s not long before everyone in the town is fighting for their lives, foremostly by reaching higher ground to avoid the terror from below.

Upbeat music gives the survivors’ ordeal a rather comical tone. This is heightened by the lighthearted back-and-forth banter and the obvious tongue-in-cheek attitudes of Val and Earl. Fortunately, the excitement doesn’t let up, with one attack after another keeping the momentum consistent. The fodder isn’t all that interesting, however, with a young prankster kid (Bobby Jacoby) causing frequent annoyances, an oriental convenience store owner, a heavily armed, gun crazy survivalist couple (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire), and a smattering of other forgettable denizens (far too many of whom survive).

The special effects are actually quite impressive, using the displacement of dirt, concrete, and asphalt as tricks to conceal the tangible monsters for as long as possible. It’s not unlike Spielberg’s strategy (successful though unintentional) of keeping the shark out of sight in “Jaws.” Director Ron Underwood (who would go on to do comedies “City Slickers” and “Speechless”) is also careful to reveal the aftermath of massacres first, followed by a tentacle, before unveiling the entire creature. Dubbed “graboids,” their size and intelligence are formidable, despite resembling the sandworms from “Dune,” and the use of practical effects makes them much more realistic and disgusting (brimming with orange, gooey innards and bubbling viscera). Although there isn’t much substance to the plot of basic escape/survival and, ultimately, confrontations with the desert leviathans, the mixture of unexceptional heroes, monster movie violence, and tame comedy – all unraveling in a desolate, arid landscape – is certainly unique. The tone feels at odds with the subject matter, but it remains surprisingly consistent.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10