What has lots of humor, giant man-eating worms, blatant sexual tension AND stars Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire? I know, right? You’re thinking, too good to be true. But in case you weren’t big on films in the early 90s, you missed out on one of the greatest, now-cult-classic films of all time: Tremors.
As I said to my roommate the last time I watched it, it’s kind of like Jaws but it’s about bigass, wormlike creatures under the ground. Just when you thought it was safe to walk around outside…. Even the movie poster looks reminiscent of Jaws, see? For the record, they don’t have giant, nasty teeth like that. But it sure is scary looking.
Some of you might be thinking, are you kidding? But I’m not. I have probably seen this film anywhere from 40-100 times. Somewhere in there. It’s a lot. I can recite dialogue easily. That’s why writing this post will be so facile and enjoyable. It’s straight from the heart and my memory.
If it weren’t for the sarcastic jokes among the characters about what a fucked up situation they have found themselves in, this movie would take itself too seriously and it would have failed miserably. However, the constant banter between Valentine McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) drives the movie forward with more force than the actual plotline of giant graboids trying to stubbornly get at and swallow each and every one of them.
The other character that simply cannot be missed is that of Michael Gross’s Burt Gummer, an anti-government, warloving, gun toting survivalist (and probably conspiracy theorist). Gross throws himself into his character with a gusto that almost overshadows Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward – almost. But the duo manages to keep the spotlight on them as the main protagonists and thus the audience in stitches.
Then, if you go ahead and watch Tremors II (I cannot in good conscience put my endorsement behind III or IV), you will discover that they expounded on the fact that these creatures are “smart” and they evolve quickly. So it would make sense if the Graboids (dubbed so by Walter Chang, right before he’s eaten alive in his own store) would go where there was slightly more population, even if it was just invading a giant cattle ranch. We can’t really understand why they’d prefer the laborious chase of going after people over less intelligent animals. Perhaps it’s the ultimate thrill for them and they feel deserving of their meal after they’ve managed to suck down a human. We can’t really be sure.
And it begs to be asked after you’ve seen the movie as many times as I have, but: why don’t the graboids move on to another town instead of just waiting out the deaths of 14 people? The town of Perfection, Nevada shows its population to be 14 at the beginning but it easily loses a handful up front before we get to the main crew desperately trying to stay alive.
We just know that the graboids are dumb enough to get killed (spoiler alert!) by running full speed into a concrete aqueduct and taking the bait of a lit homemade bomb. The other one gets shot up by Burt and his wife (McEntire), since their entire rec room is one big wall of guns and ammo. It’s not to be missed. And the last, most “intelligent” graboid, who manages to avoid getting shot or blown up? They trick it into careening through a cliff wall and falling to its death where the filmmakers give us the glorious money shot of its guts and blood exploding out of its gigantic, carnivorous body. The movie is not for those who can’t stand a little gore, I’ll be honest. It’s all in good fun. This movie just had to be as fun to make as it is to watch and take it all in.
There is an entire plot synopsis on Wikipedia if you click here. If you really want the blow by blow without having to watch the movie, then knock yourselves out. But I have yet to meet a person who doesn’t enjoy the film on some level, even if it’s just to shake his or her head and say, “This is retarded.”
My favorite character aspects are the incessant cigarette smoking (this was before the film industry started cracking down on how much influence this has on today’s youth), Kevin Bacon’s southern/hick twang, the constant swearing (“Son of a goddamn bitch…”), the long looks between Val and Rhonda (the Plain Jane love interest who catches Val’s eye eventually) and Val and Earl playing Rock/Paper/Scissors every so often to see who has to take on an unwanted task.
While the entire script is genius, here are some of the best, hand-picked lines from the entire film:
Here comes the starvation. I know what I’m doin’. I’m gonna take one of these, walk right out there with the fuse lit and let ’em take me down. Boom.
We’re sure as hell not gonna pole-vault outta here.
I never thought I’d have to shoot through dirt.
I wish they’d stampede up your ass.
Val: What the hell’s in those things?
Burt: A few household chemicals in the proper proportion.
Oh sure, Earl. Everyone knows about ’em, we just didn’t tell you.
Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room didn’t you, you bastard?
You didn’t get penetration even with the elephant gun.
…and then we run like goddamn bastards.
Earl: Must be long gone.
Val: Yeah, must be. Why don’t you take a little walk and find out?
Val: We could get in People Magazine.
Earl: People? Hell. National Geographic.
Even my father loves this film and now owns it on DVD and he’s a very old-fashioned, classic guy. If it gets a Zoe’s Dad seal of approval, then it must have innate value. Seeeeeeeeeeee it.
Lastly, as a goof, I found this brilliant, two minute “preview” for Brokeback Tremors, with the editor capitalizing on the cowboy look in the film with the music from Brokeback Mountain. Holla if you love Tremors as much as I do!