Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tremors (USA, 1990)

(Trailer.) A modern classic that has brought two straight-to-video sequels and one prequel in its wake, all of which are entertaining in their own derivative way but none of which ever reach the same level of fun and originality that Tremors does. And while all the films have their own supporters and detractors, the original film alone seems to find universal acceptance as one fun film. Rightly so, for Tremors is probably one of the best B-films of its time, a fine homage to and modernization of the classic Jack Arnold monster movies of the ‘50s and ‘60s. (Hard to believe that director Ron Underwood went on to direct such uninteresting crap as City Slickers (1991/trailer) and the remake of Mighty Joe Young (1998).) Like the Arnold films of yesteryear, and befitting the film’s PG-13 rating, the body count in Tremors is surprisingly low – roughly ten deaths, including all the road workers – and both the blood flow and vocabulary surprisingly light.
Infused with some great dialog and entertaining stereotypes, the story development in Tremors starts early and speeds along at a nifty pace, its 95 minute running time being quickly over. The film is not particularly scary, but it does have more than its share of suspense and the worms are surprisingly realistic. Tremors is likewise ably assisted by some great acting, especially from Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon as the two local loser handymen that first discover the worms, and from Michael Gross and Reba McEntire as Burt and Heather Gummer, the local survivalists with a basement arsenal and personalized license plates reading “UZI 4U”. (Are all the characters in Tremors stereotypes? Well, yes they are – but face it, in real life, a town like Perfection would be inhabited only by stereotypes anyway.) As good as Gross and McEntire are, Bacon and Ward steal the film, for they play so well off each other that their friendship seems as real as it is believable.
Perfection is a wisp of a desert town with a population of 14 and declining. Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are two locals that survive doing odd jobs. Feeling that life is passing them by, they decide the time has come to leave but before they get very far they come to realize that a mad killer must be on the loose. With the only road out of town blocked, telephone lines dead and surrounded by mountains that make radio communication impossible they try to get out of town on horses and soon discover that there are 30-foot-long man-eating worms on the scene. Along with Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), the mandatory female interest, they barely manage to make it back to Perfection, and soon afterwards whole town ends up stranded on the roofs of their buildings when the worms invite themselves for lunch. Blind, the creatures are attracted to vibrations and have undying patience, not to mention a certain amount of intelligence. When the worms begin to purposely weaken the foundations of the buildings, a desperate escape is undertaken…

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