Directed by Ron Underwood
Giant prehistoric predatory worms threaten the small and isolated town of Perfection in this homage to the giant monster films of the past.
The town is filled with the usual quirky locals you would expect from a rural set monster film. We have our heroes Valentine “Val” McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) who are good-natured handymen. There is a survivalist Burt (Michael Gross) and his wife Heather Gummer (Reba McEntire) who are gun nuts to an almost comical extent. There is shady general store owner Walter Chang (Víctor Wong) that is always seeking to make a buck. We even get an artist mom Nancy (Charlotte Stewart) A jerky kid Melvin (Bobby Jacoby). And to top it all all we have a graduate student in seismology named Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter). You can tell in a movie like this which characters will survive because those are the ones that are most distinct. You will figure out at least 90% of the survivors by remembering that rule. It is a standard thing in the genre.
It is weird that Michael Gross became the face of the franchise. I understand for a while he was the only actor willing to come back to the concept, but it is still odd that the dad from Family Ties became the lead. He was an important character to be sure, but he was not central.
Unlike most giant monsters, these are not the byproduct of radiation exposure or the work of some mad scientist. Rather they are a previously undescribed creature. They are a leftover from when the Earth was very young. There is just enough plausibility in the explanation that you buy it if you do not think too hard about it.
This is as much a horror comedy as it is a comedy with horror elements. You almost never laugh out loud, but you do get plenty of mild chuckles. The one genuine laugh I had was when they scream “The grabboid’s got him!” The name had been dismissed as ridiculous a short time before and here they were using it.
What Tremors does is what all good horror movies should do: it barely shows the monster in the beginning. You get a few glimpses of what the monster can do at first that move up to seeing bits and pieces (usually the snake like portion things that come from the mouth) but you never actually see the monster right away. Even after they kill the one and you see it fully exposed, the director wisely goes back to mostly not seen but rather the presence is implied.
These creatures are a genuine threat. They are not some goofy monster that can be dispatched easily. I have a love/hate relationship with monster movies. More often than not the creature in this type of film should be dispatchable by any competent nitwit but somehow the heroes just cannot do it.
How dangerous these things are is first shown when we see the town drunk dead. Val and Earle are on their way out of town and see the town drunk high up on a power line pole. At first they think he has just climbed up there only to realize when they go to get him down that he’s dead. The creatures waited three or four days until he died before they left. That is a serious predator. And the fact that no one can see them coming makes them that much more dangerous. They hunt intelligently and being almost exclusively underground use sound to hunt their prey.
The creatures hunt in packs and are a bit like wolves in that aspect. They work together to lay traps or figure out problems to get their food. The characters words and reactions make the creatures look smarter than they are but when you get down to it as Val correctly surmises, they are not smarter than people. They are just better hunters.
The monsters themselves look more than a bit like the worms from Dune. You know until I wrote that I never really thought about it. Both hunt by sound and both are bigger than anything you would really expect. Many movies borrow from other sources. Just so long as you create something enjoyable what is the big deal?
Tremors is a great and fun monster film. It is filled with entertaining characters and great monsters. You need a good-looking monster and these monsters done back in the day and age before CGI are probably some of the best looking. They have the skin of an elephant and the body of Jabba the Hutt. I love this film and I cannot get enough of it. You need to watch the glory that is Tremors.