Halloween Scene: Tremors (1990)

This past Halloween season I took advantage of a few different sales and ended the year with a stack of brand new movies to go through. One I couldn’t help but buy was a DVD four pack of Slither, Sssssss, Tremors and Tremors 2. It was under $10 and I already knew I liked the first and third flicks, so I rolled the dice. In an effort to go through said stack, I popped this disc in and gave Tremors another view.

I say another not because I watched this film recently, but because it was probably the first monster/horror movie I watched with any frequency as a kid because it was on cable all the time! In fact, I realized as I began the film, I hadn’t seen it in probably 15 years. And yet, a lot of the scenes and beats still lived in my brain, though so many that I found myself bored.

Oh are you unfamiliar with Tremors? Let me fill you in! Way out in the incredibly small town of Perfection, Nevada two of the 13 citizens decided to leave. Those two people happen to be Valentine (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) who also notice that some weird stuff’s going on in the surrounding area like a man dying of dehydration up on a power tower and another man’s face in a hole on his land.

Luckily a scientist by the name of Rhonda (Finn Carter) happens to be around to help as are gun aficionados Burt and Heather Gummer, played by Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. They all work together to figure out how to first avoid and then kill the threat: giant underground worms with tentacles coming out of the mouths called Graboids.

Sure, this movie could be dismissed as “Jaws in the desert” — and I do appreciate the nods to that classic film, which is one of my favorites — but the character dynamics, performances and special effects make it something altogether different to my mind.

First off, I just love the relationship between friends and co-workers Valentine and Earl. They’re fun guys who you want to be around, but there’s also a real relatability for me there because they’ve finally decided to make a huge scary change (pull up stakes) and do something new with their lives, but ultimately don’t when a neighbor throws them a bone. The rest of the people in the town all have nice beats and quirks, putting their fingerprints on the film. You can also feel the unique relationships they have given their town’s incredibly small population. And Carter, while not the best actress on screen, certainly pulls her weight and also happened to remind me of more than a few science majors from college!

And, golly, do the Graboids look amazing! There’s a great design and feel to how they move through the ground and then, once you finally see them, you’re not disappointed. I’d imagine those snake-like protrusions from the mouth are not found in nature anywhere, but that’s what makes them so cool looking! We have no idea what they are or where they come from, topics I’m sure are explored to some extent in the sequels, which I’m actually interested in watching for the first time ever.

I really enjoyed watching this film again. First off, it had serious doses of nostalgia for me. Then, I got into the elements I wrote about above. And finally, I was just glad at how well it held up. Sometimes you come out of these kinds of kids-loved films shaking your head a bit, wondering why you even thought about challenging those beloved memories, but this one was so solid that I’m hoping my kids show some interest in monster movies so I can show them this one when they’re a bit older.

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