TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: TREMORS (1990)

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TREMORS (1990)

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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!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) Graboids.

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: GRABBERS (2012)

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Grabbers

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GRABBERS (2012)

If you took Shaun Of The Dead and put it in a blender with the 1990 classic Tremors you’d get Grabbers, a fun British horror/comedy about the citizens of a remote island off the cost of Ireland pitted against slimy, tentacled space monsters. The story begins with a fishing vessel witnessing a meteorite crashing in the sea. A short while later, the crew is killed by something big and tentacled while off the coast of the Irish island of Erin. Meanwhile on Erin, Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle), the local Garda (the national police of the Republic of Ireland), is dealing with a new temporary partner, the by-the-book Lisa Nolan (cutie Ruth Bradley) who doesn’t approve of O’Shea’s drinking problem. The two have bigger issues to deal with, though as dead whales wash up on shore, a mysterious creature is captured by a local fisherman and citizens start disappearing. Soon they realize that their peaceful little island is under siege by mysterious tentacled creatures who are laying eggs all over the place and are protected by a massive and very vicious alpha male. The island is a perfect habitat for the monsters, though they do have a very interesting weakness, considering this is Ireland after all. Now can these two lone cops somehow keep the villagers safe and survive the evening long enough to realize that they have fallen for each other despite their differences?

The answer to that is a lot of fun finding out as director Jon Wright (no relation to Edgar as far as I can tell) has a good time with Kevin Lehane’s derivative but fun script. And that’s the key… we recognize the obvious inspirations and have seen it all before, but we cut it some slack as it’s a lot of fun. One of the reasons is the film is populated with a lot of colorful characters brought to life by a fine Irish cast. Coyle and Bradley have a nice chemistry and work well together and to be honest, they make a cute couple. The eccentric characters around them also blend very well such as local drunk Paddy (Lalor Roddy) and resident scientist, the stuffy Dr. Smith (a homage to Lost In Space’s infamous doctor perhaps?). Another reason is we get some well executed and effectively slimy critters in our CGI Grabbers. They are basically all tentacles and teeth and those are two combinations that effectively chill when it comes to a movie beastie and their level of menace helps propel the story as does some decent but not overdone gore. Wright also gets the tone for this kind of thing down perfectly. He never takes his subject too seriously, but never lets it get too silly, so as not to make a joke out of it. There are proper amounts of humor and horror blended evenly, much like the two previously mentioned films it evokes. That is the way to making a film like this work. If you are going to evoke the work of others, lay your homages out in the open and have a good time with it. The audience will have fun and let you slide that you are presenting them with a mash-up of stuff they’ve seen before.

Grabbers is a fun, fast paced movie with a charming cast and a nice mix of laughs and thrills. Nothing original, but it’s not trying to be… it just wants to recreate the fun of it’s influences and on that level, it works. Entertaining and unlike the recently reviewed Cockneys vs Zombies, Grabbers isn’t an imitation, but a cinematic hug to the movies that entertained it’s makers, in it’s own style. And that’s the difference between homage and rip-off.

3 tentacled Grabbers!

grabbers rating

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