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Flick takes place in the small desert town of Perfection, Neveda where local handymen Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are contemplating leaving for bigger and better things. What they get is bigger, but certainly not better, as the remote town becomes surrounded by a pack of enormous, hungry, subterranean worm-like creatures, that the besieged locals dub “Graboids.” As they get pulled under and devoured one by one, prospects for escape dwindle as fast as Perfection’s citizenship.
Delightfully entertaining flick is directed by Ron Underwood (City Slickers) from a script and story by he, Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson. It’s light-hearted and fun, but smartly plays it just serious enough, to give the Graboids some serious threat. This way, their attacks are intense and suspenseful and we fear for this likable bunch of stranded characters. There is very little bloodshed, but there is enough death and carnage, so we take these monsters very seriously. Mixing horror and comedy isn’t always easy, but Tremors mixes the intensity and scares with the jokes and humor in just the right increments. It’s a blast of fun and the budget is large enough that the effects portraying the creatures and their activity are very realistic and it helps suspend our disbelief as to such beasts’ existence. The origin of the creatures is kept mostly ambiguous and here it works, as does letting us know exactly how many there are and thus need to be dealt with. There are hints of intelligence, too, though we never know just how smart they are, until it’s too late. The California locations are utilized perfectly to portray the fictional Nevada town and the film is fast paced with only small lulls between the action. The score by Ernest Troost adds to the suspense and the cast is as close to perfect as you can get for a big budget B-movie like this…and at heart, a B-movie this certainly is.
As for that cast…Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have great chemistry as buds and business partners Val and Earl. They work really well together and their bickering only adds to the fun. Some very well written dialog between them, makes these two memorable and reluctantly heroic characters. Too bad they were never brought back together again in any of the sequels. Finn Carter makes for a cute and spunky heroine as geology grad student Rhonda LeBeck, who catches Valentine’s eye. She provides what little scientific exposition we get and proves she can hold her own with the boys. Reba McEntire and Michael Gross are absolutely hilarious as heavily armed survivalists, Heather and Burt Gummer. Another pair that work really well together here. Victor Wong (Egg Shen from Big Trouble in Little China) is also fun as cantankerous and opportunistic general store owner, Walter Chang and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan’s Bibi Besch has a small role as an ill-fated local. A great cast who all get the material perfectly!
This is a really fun and action packed movie that combines the thrills, chills and humor in exactly the right doses. It has a great cast, really cool and well rendered monsters and comes in at a perfectly economical 96 minutes. Tremors was not a big box office hit, but was successful enough on home video to spawn five more direct to video sequels, with a sixth sequel on the way. They all star Michael Gross, the only actor to appear in all the franchise installments, so far.
PERSONAL TRIVIA: A friend and I saw Tremors at a preview screening before it opened. We didn’t know what we were seeing, save that it was a science fiction movie with Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon. We had a blast with it and gave the film high marks when asked to fill out questionnaires at the end of the movie. Nothing got changed when the film was released, so it must have tested well. Not sure why it wasn’t a bigger box office hit, as it had all the ingredients of a great popcorn movie!
Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Graboids.