Tremors (1990) – Ron Underwood

The work of producer Gale Anne Hurd is my next port of call in the Sci-Fi Chronicles book, I’ve previously covered her work with James Cameron, so that left some of her other films to take a look at, and I loved that I got to start with Tremors.

This fun, creature feature that hearkens back to the monster movies of the 50s is sheer joy for me. I remember the first time I saw it, and just loved it. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward star as Valentine and Earl, a couple of handy-men labourers working in the small, nothing ever happens around here, town of Perfection.

Things get exciting for Valentine when a new seismologist, Rhonda (Finn Carter) shows up in the desert town, to study the land. It gets exciting for everyone else, when Rhonda detects tremors preceding a strange series of attacks.

It seems there are giant worms tunnelling through the earth, drawn by the vibrations of movement, and they are trying to pick off the inhabitants, including Michael Gross and Reba McEntire, of Perfection one by one.

Can the unlikely trio stop the Graboids and save the town? Will Velentine get the girl? How often can he lose rock-paper-scissors anyway? And who has the lighter? Tremors is a great ride.

I love the sense of history that Ward and Bacon bring to their relationship, and they have some great chemistry on screen together, pulling off the buddy aspect of the film very nicely.

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The Graboids are nicely realised and the actors seem to be having a great time as they race across the desert trying to stop giving off vibrations and attracting the dangerous, previously unseen creatures.

Played more for laughs and tension than horror and scares, Tremors proves itself a wonderful throwback, and a nice little homage to the creature features of yesteryear while having fun with characters and action beats.

Gross and McEntire’s doomsday weekend warrior types are a lot of fun, and a nice commentary, even, or especially, now considering the state of our friends to the south. But Bacon and Ward are perfect as the hard toiling, working on a plan handy men who decide to leave town one day too late.

Carter’s Rhonda makes a nice addition to the duo and Val has to come to terms with the fact that not every woman he meets is going to fall into a carefully cultivated image that he is looking for.

Funny and entertaining, the film spawned four sequels, each of lesser and lesser quality, and while both Michael Gross and Fred Ward are solid actors it is the chemistry added by Bacon and Ward’s onscreen friendship that really made the film work. Something the sequels were lacking. There was also a short-lived 13 episode television series that picked up after the events of the third film.

Stick to the first film, don’t bother with the rest, and simply enjoy the experience.

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