Tremors – review

Written by author, Ruth Merriam

“Be advised there are two more, repeat, two more motherhumpers.”

It was with both eagerness and wariness that I considered my offer to review Tremors. I’d seen it when it was released in 1990 and loved it, and I’d managed to catch it a few times on TV . . . but it had been at least a decade since my last viewing of it. Would it hold up after the intervening years and the introduction of so many other horror-comedies?

Oh yes. Yes it did. Pardon me while I gush.

Within the first two minutes of the film I was in love all over again. This isn’t really a monster movie; it’s a buddy film. In this case, the buddies just happen to be two mostly useless and easy-going handymen, Earl and Valentine (played by Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon, respectively), who decide they’ve finally had enough of living in the thriving metropolis of Perfection, Nevada (population 14).

Most of their decisions involve a game of rock-paper-scissors.

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Most of their decisions are poor ones. These are anti-heroes if ever we saw them.

They don’t get very far. We get a little taste earlier in the film that something is going on when a geology grad student, Rhonda (played by Finn Carter), asks them about unusual seismograph readings. When they happen upon one of the townsfolk up in a power line tower (most sincerely dead), then find another situation that doesn’t make any sense, they know something is very, very wrong.

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Valentine muses,

“What the sh*t?”

Indeed.

But let me tell you why I love this movie since I’m failing miserably at trying to write up a synopsis. Perhaps it’s because I’ve driven through this kind of high desert countryside and it really is that empty and wide open and little settlements really are that isolated. Maybe it’s because I’ve known guys just like Earl and Val.

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Maybe it’s because the dialogue is crisp and natural, the ensemble energy is great, the effects are good without being overly or gratuitously gory, or because there are a few genuine jump-in-your-seat moments.

Yeah, I could see myself scrambling up a rock while a giant subterranean worm tried to eat me.

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Earl, Val, and Rhonda hit the rocks.

All of the action in the film takes place in this valley. With only a few exceptions (short screen time = wormfood), the characters are the townspeople. This is a small community of misfits and it would have been easy to have made them stereotypes or oddballs for the sake of oddity. No, you get what you’d expect out here in the backside of nowhere: an assortment of people just living life on their own terms and relying on each other. Even the conspiracy theory survivalists are utterly believable.

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“Broke into the wrong goddam rec room, didn’t you, you bastard?”

I know people like this, people who have small personal arsenals, who discuss the merits of various bullet types like you’d discuss the weather. This is why the film works – it’s believable. None of the characters are closet geniuses or covert operatives. No one is a former Special Ops officer, a whiz kid, or a specialist at anything at all. The characters are people you can imagine having met and the monsters in their midst don’t turn any of them into superheroes.

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They’re just working out a way to kill off the worms and get out of the valley. I guess you just never know if this kind thing is lurking under your feet along with the scorpions and snakes.

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So . . . yeah. I love this film. I’m right there with them while they’re quibbling and scrambling onto the roofs and I share their elation when they figure out how to kill the worms.

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Colours really are more vibrant in the desert!

Did I mention romance? Humorous dialogue that just *works*? Good cinematography? Well framed shots? Great model work? A big dose of fun to go along with the few thrills? A really great cast? All there.

Some movies you watch again and again because they’re cheesy or just plain awful. We call those “popcorn movies.” Some movies you watch again and again because of nostalgia or sentimental reasons. This movie I’ll watch again because it’s just so damned likable. In fact, I’m going to watch it again tonight with my husband since he’s never seen it.

I think I’ll make the bacon-flavoured popcorn to go along with it. Hold the cheese.

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1 Comment

Filed under Film, Monster Awareness Month, Review

One response to “Tremors – review

  1. One of the best things about Tremors is that the sequels are nearly as good (okay, so the grabboid evolutions are a little… unnecessary). They could be awkward cash ins, but instead they retain the sense of humour and small-town feeling of the original. I think it’s the second one that ends with one of my favourite ‘outrunning an exploision’ moments I’ve seen.

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