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Friday Film Review: Tremors

Tremors: 1990
Genre: comedy, horror, romance
Grade: B

Hey, if Jaili can do “Slither,” I can do one too. And my entry for comedy B grade monster movie is “Tremors.” I haven’t watched any of the three sequels, and from the reviews of them I’ve read, I think the reviewers wished they hadn’t either, so my advice is stick with the original.

I first saw it shortly after its original release in 1990. A friend and I used to alternate picking movies to watch and one night her choice was “Tremors.” I have to be honest and admit that as I began to watch it my initial thoughts were, “WTF?” But my friend said “trust me” and I did. And I ended up being glad I did then purchasing the DVD a year ago.

Met Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), two handymen in the small, isolated Nevada town of Perfection. They’re just getting by and as the film opens, we see their daily grind of mindless jobs including garbage pickup for the town and pumping out the septic tank. With escape to the big(ger) nearby town of Bixby in mind, they finally decide to head out. Only to run into the evidence of a killer on the loose. Or what they think is a killer.

Only it’s not human, or rather they’re not human. They’re what the terrified townspeople name graboids and they live underground, tracking their prey by vibrations. And as Val yells in frustration, to them the valley is just one long smorgasbord. But as the graboids get smarter about hunting and the options to flee dwindle, do the Perfectionites have a chance? Why yes, if they have a plan.

“Tremors” is sort of an homage to the B grade monster movies of the 1950s. It’s also a great buddy film with wonderful one liners and chemistry between Bacon and Ward. But wait! There’s more, as SB Sarah likes to say. There’s a romance as well between Bacon and “girl next door” Rhonda (Finn Carter) who plays a college PhD student who’s in the valley for the summer to study seismology.

We also get Michael Gross (the father in the old TV series “Family Ties” which launched Michael J. Fox to stardom) and country music star Reba McEntire, in her first acting role, who play a survivalist couple with a rec room that’s loaded for bear, or graboid as the case turns out.

Just stick with the film past the first 10 minutes during which we have the obligatory introduction of the secondary characters. By minute 15 the bodies, or what’s left of them, are piling up in Perfection. The squeamish need not worry as most of the graboid killing is done off screen or underground. What is seen is more like “Jaws,” with implied danger and terror but little actual blood beyond that of the graboids as the townspeople ingeniously come up with ways to off them.

It’s a horror film, it’s a comedy, it’s a romance. It’s everything! And, if you don’t go into it expecting a cinematic masterpiece, it’s a lot of fun too.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

35 Comments

  1. Twitted by eromance
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 04:08:02

    [...] This post was Twitted by eromance [...]

  2. maddie
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 04:52:14

    I love this movie I first watched it on HBO, I’m a sucker for offbeat wacky movies. I love the Reba Michael characters they were out there with their stocked wall of guns in the basement? or where ever they had all their guns.

    Jane have you seen The Hidden? great movie, not sure if you are into Sci-fi movies but I thought it was good.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093185/

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  3. Gina
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 05:02:55

    I saw this with a group of friends on one of our midweek video rental movie nights (video rental was too boring for Friday but not bad for a Wednesday). We snuck a bottle of vodka out of mom’s bar, mixed a batch of fuzzy navels, paired it with some stale chips and had ourselves a ball.

    I think I’ll see if Netflix is offering it and force my kids to watch it…. right now we’re on an ode to John Hughes… they do so love when I roll out “the classics”.

    Thanks for that blast from the past :)

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  4. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 05:07:56

    maddie, I’ve never seen “The Hidden.” I assume you’re talking about the 1987 alien movie? I’ve added it to my Netflix queue along with another movie someone mentioned from a previous Friday Film Review, “Outlander.” We’ll see how they go.

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  5. Maili
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 05:20:22

    One of my favourite watch-when-the-world-seems-dreary films. It has so many hilarious moments and one-liners. It has to be said, it’s riddled with foul language, but the humour takes the edge off it, thanks to Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon’s comic delivery.

    I think people who enjoyed Men in Black would enjoy this. Different setting and premise (and species), but the banter and friendship between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is similar to the one between Kevin Bacon (younger and gung-ho) and Fred Ward (world-weary and deadpan).

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  6. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 05:30:00

    I think people who enjoyed Men in Black would enjoy this. Different setting and premise (and species), but the banter and friendship between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is similar to the one between Kevin Bacon (younger and gung-ho) and Fred Ward (world-weary and deadpan).

    I totally agree with you about the MIB comparison. Tremors doesn’t have the neat special effects of MIB, but the overall feel of the relationship between the lead men is very similar.

    Earl:”Dammit, listen to me. I’m older and I’m wiser.”
    Val:”Well, you’re half right.”

    Earl: Is this a job for an intelligent man?
    Valentine: Well, show me one and I’ll ask him.

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  7. maddie
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 05:45:29

    Yep Jane thats the one, loved it when I first caught it on Cinemax back in the 80′s

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  8. Heather Massey
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 06:26:13

    Great profile! I watched Tremors last year again and enjoyed it even more the second time around. It had surprisingly good tension because of what wasn’t shown, as you noted. Good stuff.

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  9. Lauren
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 06:36:10

    Kevin Bacon has a home in my town, so me and my brother agreed if we ever ran into him we’d say one word and one word only – “Stampede.”

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  10. reader
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 06:39:48

    I am so glad you chose this film. This was an ‘accidental find’ one night at home with my sister when we were in college and home for the holidays. I’ve watched it numerous times since then, and still love it.

    Just a note on “Outlander.” I love that movie, but just a warning, it is a ‘slower’ moving film than most science fiction. So even though it has an outer space setting, don’t expect a lot of action. It’s more of a mystery in space. And a very good one…Sean Connery rocks!

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  11. Shiloh Walker
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 06:53:03

    Man, I haven’t watched this movie in ages.

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  12. Elizabeth
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 07:00:41

    This is one of my favourite B grade movies. The ones that would never win any Oscars, or make any critic’s Top Ten greatest movies list, and didn’t bring in zillions of dollars at the box office, but that I’d always enjoy and would stay up to watch the end of if it started showing at 11pm! Others of that category: The ‘burbs, The Thing, Sneakers.

    The chemistry between the leads is great. I can’t recall who plays the geologist love-interest, but she’s good. Doesn’t have that “I’m a grad student who inexplicably looks like a super-model” quality. I like the characterisation of the survivalist couple. Their way of life isn’t used for cheap laughs, or condemned, nor glamourised as the answer to the problem either. We’re left to make our own judgement on them. I love that! It’s got an excellent supporting cast all around.

    And in how many other movies would the starting up of the compressor on a freezer be such an important plot point? :D

    Fave line “Running’s not a plan! Running’s what you do when the plan fails!” :D

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  13. Lori
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 07:28:16

    I got this movie a couple of weeks ago so my 8year old could see it. I already loved it and she became a huge fan immediately.

    What’s funny was that after seeing the movie, we’ve seen more giant worm homages all over the TV. Now we both nod sagely and say “Tremors” whenever a giant worm shows up.

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  14. tracyleann
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 07:51:11

    I remember really enjoying this movie when I first saw it at a drive-in as a kid (perfect place to experience it, right?!). I will definitely have to seek it out again to see how it holds up :)

    Ooh! I just checked our library catalog, and we have it on video. I know what I’m watching this weekend…

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  15. Kaye
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 07:53:03

    Great choice!

    I was also reluctant to watch this, but was completely surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I love when movies do that.

    I’m also partial to Fred Ward (mostly because of Henry and June) and to any movie that gives me a link in the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

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  16. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 07:58:59

    I love how the movie has held up for me over the years. I’d recorded it off the TV a while back but decided to buy the DVD which has a few deleted scenes and a different opening. Have to say that the producers, or whoever, made good decisions about starting it the way they did, though.

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  17. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 08:00:03

    I love Fred Ward and have since seeing him – way back in the day – in THE RIGHT STUFF.

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  18. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 08:03:08

    Kevin Bacon has a home in my town, so me and my brother agreed if we ever ran into him we'd say one word and one word only – “Stampede.”

    LOL. Say it for me too, Lauren!

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  19. Terisa Wilcox
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 08:29:09

    Wasn’t sure about this movie when I first saw it, but ended up loving it. My kids love it too. I’m going to have to find it and watch it again now lol.

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  20. eva_baby
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 08:33:31

    Tremors! I saw this movie in the theater. I remember a friend and I were actually going to see something like Driving Miss Daisy or something. And we had read the time wrong. So we were at the theater and didn’t want to wait for the next showing of the movie we actually went to see or turn around and leave. Tremors was the next movie starting and we were like, oh what the hell! We loved it! And had such fun watching it and to this day I recommend it as a fun, popcorn movie to watch.

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  21. Jody W.
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 09:12:48

    I love that movie! Made hubby watch it a few years ago and he only LIKED it. We’re still married, though.

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  22. Terry Odell
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 09:13:19

    I saw this with my parents. As I recall, we were on vacation and there wasn’t much else playing. We were all surprised at how much fun it was. It’s one of those movies you can watch more than once (or five times). We might have it on DVD, but they’re all packed up at the moment as we try to sell the house and it’s supposed to look “clutter free.” If not, I’ll probably buy it.

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  23. Patsy L Roberts
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 09:25:59

    I love this movie! My mom and daughter like it so much that once when we were out of town and stuck in a hotel room due to rain, we watched it in spanish on Telemundo. We laughed and laughed because we knew the lines and to hear it in spanish was just so weird! If you want to really enjoy the movie watch it dubbed in spanish and see how much of the dialog you can remember.

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  24. MaryK
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 09:49:02

    Love this movie. And the sequels. There was a very cheesy, short-lived, but entertaining series on SciFi based on the movies. Christopher Lloyd was in it.

    Burt Gummer is my favorite character. He’s hilarious in Tremors 2. “I feel I was denied critical need-to-know information.”

    Oh, and Fred Ward gets a romance in Tremors 2.

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  25. Carrie Lofty
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:02:30

    LOVE it!!

    “What’s a woman like her want with a guy like me? She’s going for her damn PhD!”

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  26. Meljean
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:07:25

    Oh, I love this movie. I’ve seen it far, far too many times — and every time I surf past it on TV, I have to stop and watch it again.

    And usually when I am re-watching a movie, I’ll just re-watch the beginning, or the end, or the middle — whatever worked best for me. This one, it’s the whole thing. They hit every note just right: the buildup, the humor, the ending.

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  27. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:33:50

    There seems to be a common thread here of people who, like me, stumbled on this film and ended up loving it. And watching it dubbed in Spanish would be a hoot! I wonder how you say, “broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, you bastards!” in Spanish?

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  28. Jayne
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:39:16

    “What's a woman like her want with a guy like me? She's going for her damn PhD!”

    Rhonda is a sweetheart. And so different from that awful list that Val keeps of what the woman of his dreams is supposed to look like.

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  29. MaryK
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:53:12

    @Jayne: LOL I’ve seen this so many times on TV that I’m always startled by the language because I memorized the cleaned up quotes. “broke into the wrong gol durn rec room, didn’t ya!”

    You should seriously try watching Tremors 2. I’d be surprised if you didn’t like it. There are two more after Tremors 2 that get progressively less good and are mostly for die-hard fans (Michael Gross makes them watchable), but Tremors 2 is good.

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  30. Karen Wester Newton
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 10:57:54

    I see this as an example of what could have been a purely cheesy movie saved by good writing– snappy dialog and memorable lines. I loved the scene where Reba & Michael finally drive away (or maybe kill) the giant worm, and he says to her, “They picked the wrong rec room to crawl into.”

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  31. Alexandra
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 11:39:36

    My family and I love Tremors. We also like Tremors 2–it’s not as good and Kevin Bacon doesn’t return, but it’s only *slightly* not as good. I still recommend that you try it out, though.

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  32. Sharron McClellan
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 11:40:08

    I love love love B movies and this is one of my favorites. The only thing that would have improved it was if Bruce Campbell (KING of the B movie) was in the cast.

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  33. Moth
    Aug 14, 2009 @ 15:55:00

    My mom loves this movie. I’ve been watching it since I was little and I love it to. :)

    I’ve seen 2 of the sequels and actually Tremors 2 is really good. There’s no Kevin Bacon, of course, but there is a cute little romance, the replacement sidekick is pretty funny and they heavily imply that Val and Rhonda got married which was fun for me. Plus, how can you not love the references to the Nikes commercial and the Graboids video game?

    And so different from that awful list that Val keeps of what the woman of his dreams is supposed to look like.

    Also, me and my mom realized that- in the sequel- Earl basically ends up with a woman who has everything on Val’s list. Except, of course, Earl’s woman is a brilliant academic like Rhonda too.

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  34. Likari
    Aug 15, 2009 @ 00:24:11

    Jayne: I love Fred Ward and have since seeing him – way back in the day – in THE RIGHT STUFF.

    Fkn A!

    He was also wonderfully Fredwardian in The Player.

    I love Tremors. Though I’ve seen it several times, now I want to see it again!

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  35. Michelle tat
    Sep 26, 2009 @ 09:39:24

    For some reason I watched “Tremors” several times. There was something in that movie that I was drawn to.

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