Tremors (film)

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Tremors official theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Underwood
Produced byGale Anne Hurd
Brent Maddock
S. S. Wilson
Screenplay byBrent Maddock
S. S. Wilson
Story byBrent Maddock
S. S. Wilson
Ron Underwood
Music byErnest Troost
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • January 19, 1990 (1990-01-19)
Running time
96 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$11 million
Box office$16 million

Tremors is a 1990 American monster comedy film directed by Ron Underwood, produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, and written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. Tremors was released by Universal Pictures and stars Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire.

In the film, tired of their dull lives in the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, repairmen Val McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) try to skip town. However, they happen upon a series of mysterious deaths and a concerned seismologist Rhonda (Carter) studying unnatural readings below the ground. With the help of an eccentric survivalist couple Burt and Heather Gummer (Gross and McEntire), the group fights for survival against giant, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh.

The film is the first installment of the Tremors franchise,[2] and was followed by four direct-to-video sequels: Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996), Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015) and Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018) and a direct-to-video prequel, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004). A television series titled Tremors: The Series, aired from March through August 2003.[3]


Valentine "Val" McKee and Earl Bassett are handymen working in Perfection, Nevada, an isolated ex-mining settlement in the high desert east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They eventually get tired of their jobs and leave for Bixby, the nearest town. As they leave, they discover the dead body of another resident, Edgar Deems, perched atop an electrical tower, still grasping the tower's crossbeams and his .30-30 Winchester rifle. Jim Wallace, the town's doctor, determines that Edgar died of dehydration, apparently afraid for some reason to climb down.

Later on, an unknown creature kills shepherd "Old Fred" and his flock of sheep. After discovering his severed head buried in the sand, Val and Earl become convinced that a serial killer is on the loose; they head back to town to warn the other residents. Two construction workers ignore Val and Earl's warning and are killed by the same creature, causing a rock slide. Val and Earl try to get help, but find the phone lines are dead, and the only road out of town is completely blocked by the rock slide. Out of sight, a snake-like creature wraps itself around their truck's rear axle. The creature is however torn apart when Val stomps on the accelerator and drives away, where they find it later when they return to town.

Val and Earl return to Perfection and borrow horses. They come upon Wallace and his wife's buried station wagon near their trailer, but the couple is missing (they were killed the previous night). As they press on, an enormous burrowing worm-like creature (later named a "graboid" by general store owner Walter Chang), suddenly erupts out of the ground, revealing the snake-like creature to be one of the worm creature's tentacled "tongues": thrown from their horses, the men flee with the monster following them in pursuit. The chase ends when the eyeless creature crashes through the concrete wall of an aqueduct, dying from the impact. Rhonda LeBeck, a graduate student conducting seismology tests in the area, stumbles onto the scene; she deduces from previous soundings that three other graboids are in the area. Rhonda, Val, and Earl become trapped overnight atop a cluster of boulders near one of the creatures, named Stumpy. Rhonda has a brainstorm and grabs one of several left-behind fence poles of a nearby fence; the three of them repeatedly pole vault to residual boulders to get to her truck, finally making their getaway.

After the three return to town, the graboids start attacking, eventually one of them killing Walter and forcing the other citizens to the town's rooftops. Meanwhile, nearby survivalist couple Burt and Heather Gummer manage to kill another one of the creatures after unknowingly luring it to their basement armory. In town, the two remaining graboids attack the building foundations, knocking over a trailer belonging to Nestor before dragging him under and devouring him.

Val and Earl are stuck on a roof with Miguel. Realizing they cannot stay in the town any longer, Earl, Rhonda, and Miguel distract the monsters while Val commandeers a CAT Track-Loader and chains a partial truck trailer to the rear; the survivors use it to try to escape to a nearby mountain range. On the way there, both graboids create a sinkhole trap that disables the track-loader, forcing the survivors to flee to safety on large boulders. Earl has an idea to lure in the Graboids, then trick them into swallowing Burt's homemade bombs. While this works on one graboid, the other one, Stumpy, regurgitates it back towards the survivors, forcing Val, Earl, and Rhonda to vacate the rock quickly to avoid the explosion.

With one last bomb, Val lures Stumpy to chase him to the edge of a cliff and then explodes the bomb behind him, frightening the graboid into charging through the cliff face, where he plummets to his death onto the rocks below. The group returns to town, where they call in the authorities to begin an investigation while Earl encourages Val to pursue a romantic relationship with Rhonda.



The concept of Tremors was originally conceived in the early 1980s, when writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock were working for the United States Navy as filmmakers in charge of creating educational safety videos. While getting footage, the two climbed a large desert boulder and asked the question "what if there was something that wouldn't let us off of this rock?" causing the two to later come up with an idea dubbed 'Land Sharks'.[4] They shared their idea to friend Ron Underwood, who was working with National Geographic as a documentary director, and used his knowledge of zoology to better develop the "land sharks" into creatures that could realistically exist.[citation needed]

After their script for Short Circuit became a major box office hit, Wilson and Maddock quickly began shopping around their idea for Tremors. The name 'Land Sharks' was changed due to a then-popular Saturday Night Live sketch featuring a character of the same name. The original screenplay, titled 'Beneath Perfection', was finished in June 1988.[5]


Filming began in early 1989 over the course of 50 days. Principal photography took place around Lone Pine, California and the isolated community of Darwin, California, which the crew liked due to its uncanny similitaries to the fictional town of Perfection, Nevada. The town, which was entirely a set, was built near Olancha, California.[6] The mountains in the distance are the Sierra Nevada, and Owens Lake can be seen in the background during the film's climax.[7]


The creature for Tremors was designed by Amalgamated Dynamics. The full-scale graboid seen after being dug up by Val was cast in lightweight foam. It was placed in a trench, then buried, and dug up again to achieve the desired "used" effect.[8]

Burt's elephant gun, an 8-gauge Darne shotgun, was rented from a private collector for use in the film. It "fired" dummy cartridges custom made from solid brass rod stock.[9][10]


Composer Ernest Troost's musical score for the film went mostly unused. The studio thought it was "too goofy" and cut most of it, later hiring composer Robert Folk to write a new score that was more "serious and action-y".[11] Despite his contributions, Folk ultimately went uncredited.

Tremors was set for a November 1989 release. However, the MPAA gave the film an R-rating due to language, and the creators decided at the last minute to make the film more commercially viable. Over 20 or so uses of the word "fuck" were either cut or redubbed with softer words; examples include "can you fly, you sucker?" and "we killed that motherhumper", among several others.[12] The film was pushed back to allow more time for editing, and the film was eventually released in January 1990 with a PG-13 rating. Wilson and Maddock later stated they were happy with the decision to make Tremors appeal to a family audience.[12]

Release & Reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Tremors opened on January 19, 1990 in 1,457 theaters against no new releases and debuted at the #5 spot, behind Born on the Fourth of July, Tango & Cash, The War Of The Roses, and Internal Affairs, grossing $3,731,520 in its opening weekend.[13] It dropped to #6 on its second week but would stay in the top 10 for four weeks before finally dropping to #11 in week 5.[14] Tremors ended up grossing $16,667,084 at the domestic box office, though being a financial success over its $11 million budget enough to make a small profit, was still far below projected numbers. In 2019, Kevin Bacon hinted that Tremors only made "a fifth of what the charts at Universal said it would."[15] Its creators blamed the subpar theatrical performance on its marketing campaign; S.S. Wilson felt that the film was not well promoted once its release date was delayed, while Brent Maddock stated the theatrical trailer was "cringeworthy" and likely deterred audiences.[16][17]

Critical reception[edit]

Tremors was hailed by critics for its diverse cast and humor. As of February 2020 the film holds a "certified fresh" rating of 88% at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 41 reviews and an average score of 7.25 out of 10, with the consensus: "An affectionate throwback to 1950s creature features, Tremors reinvigorates its genre tropes with a finely balanced combination of horror and humor.[18] Roger Ebert awarded the film with a 3.5/4 rating for its character writing and emphasis on story development, saying "Tremors is one of the few monsters movies that truly understands how to reel us in and keep us invested" and James Berardinelli praised Tremors with a 3/4 star rating, feeling that "horror/comedies often tread too far to one side or the other of that fine line; Tremors walks it like a tightrope".[19] Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave Tremors a B+, saying "Tremors is the Slacker of monster movies: bemused, improvisatory, willfully low-key...most of its errors can be overlooked and forgiven, which is rare for its genre."[20] Richard Harrington of the Washington Post called the film "a delightful throwback to such '50s and '60s films", and Jeffery Anderson of the San Francisco Examiner gave the film a glowing 4.5/5 star review, calling Tremors "effectively terrifying when it needs to be, effectively exciting when it needs to be, and effectively hilarious when it needs to be, Tremors may very well be the best horror film, the best action flick, and the best comedy of the year".[21]

[Tremors] is very well cast, with [Fred] Ward and [Kevin] Bacon proving affable and enjoyable comedy leads [...] The special effects are first-rate [...] It may not top anyone's 10-best list, but Tremors is nevertheless solid entertainment.

— TV Guide, [22]

In some less enthusiastic reviews, Vincent Canby for the New York Times remarked that the film "was clearly more fun to make than it is for us to watch", and Variety gave the film a C- on the basis that Tremors "...has a few clever twists and characters but ultimately can't decide on what it wants to be: flat-out funny, which it's usually not, or a scarefest, which it's usually not either."[23] Gene Siskel initially gave the film a negative review, stating "most of the secondary characters aren't compelling and its horror conventions are lame...Tremors could make a cute short subject but it doesn't sustain itself as an entire film", but later gave the film a positive review in his book Cinema: Year by Year 1894-2001, saying "Tremors was one of the few monster movies to get the formula right."[24]

Home releases[edit]

While only a modest hit at the box office, Tremors went on to become a massive hit on home video purchases, rentals, and on television, becoming one of the most rented films of 1990.[25] Because of this, it has gained a very large cult following over the years.[26]

Tremors debuted on VHS on April 1, 1990, on Laserdisc on April 16, 1996, and on DVD on April 28, 1998.[citation needed] The film was released on Blu-Ray on November 9, 2010[27] and again on September 17, 2013, as part of the Tremors: Attack Pack for region 1 (U.S. and Canada).[28] In the United Kingdom, the Attack Pack was not released on Blu-ray; instead, the second, third, and fourth films were released on Blu-ray separately on August 5, 2013.[29]


Tremors / Bloodrush
Film score by
Ernest Troost
GenreElectronic, Stage & Screen
LabelIntrada – ETCD 1000

The soundtrack for Tremors was composed by Ernest Troost and released in 2000. The album contained nine tracks from the film, as well as four additional tracks, also composed by Troost, from Bloodrush.[16] For promotional purposes, the album was released as a limited edition CD.[16][17]

Sequels & Spin-Offs[edit]

A sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks, was released in 1996. A second sequel, Tremors 3: Back to Perfection, was released in 2001, followed by a prequel, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins in 2004. These three sequels were all made with direct involvement from S.S. Wilson, Brent Maddock, and Ron Underwood at Stampede Entertainment. Following an 11 year gap, Tremors 5: Bloodlines was released in 2015, with the franchise's sixth inclusion, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, in 2018. These two films were made by Universal 1440 Entertainment without any involvement from Stampede Entertainment. All Tremors sequels thus far have been released direct-to-video without a theatrical release, though Tremors 2: Aftershocks did receive a brief limited theatrical run. A TV-movie titled Tremors: Island Fury is set to be released in 2020.

In 2003, the franchise spawned a television show titled Tremors: The Series. The show aired in 2003 on the Syfy Channel but was canceled after one season. A 60-minute pilot for a second television series also titled Tremors was filmed in 2017.[30] However, no further episodes of this show were ever filmed.

In popular culture[edit]

  • On March 21, 2012, the NBC Nightly News story "Shaken and awakened in Wisconsin" jokingly blamed the filming of a "Tremors remake" as the cause for unidentified loud booming noises.[31]
  • "Bad Apple!", a 2013 episode of the superhero comedy series The Aquabats! Super Show!, features a scene of a giant underground worm attacking a desert farm which series co-creator Christian Jacobs noted was an homage to Tremors, with some shots mirroring those in the original film.[32]
  • "Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm", an episode of the second season of the animated television series SpongeBob SquarePants, features a large worm known as the "Alaskan bull worm"; the worm is defeated when it tumbles off a cliff, similar to the death of the final graboid in Tremors.[33][34]


  1. ^ "TREMORS (15)". United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  2. ^ Vincent Canby (January 19, 1990). "Underground Creatures and Dread Events". The New York Times.
  3. ^ "Tremors: The Series DVD Art Rumbles Your Home Video Collection". Dread Central. July 6, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Tremors Script at IMSDb".
  6. ^ "Tremors filming locations". December 2, 2014.
  7. ^ Maddock, Brent; Wilson, SS (June 5, 2000). "Exclusive Tremors Interview Part 3". (Interview). Interviewed by MJ Simpson. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  8. ^ "Tremors Full Scale Graboid On Set".
  9. ^ The Ultimate Tremors FAQ, Questions about Tremors: What is that dang elephant gun Burt uses to kill the Graboid in his basement?. Written by S. S. Wilson (writer/director of Tremors)
  10. ^ The Ultimate Tremors FAQ, Questions about Tremors: What happened to the 8 gauge elephant gun (actually a Darne shotgun) Burt used to kill the Graboid in his basement?. Written by S. S. Wilson (writer/director of Tremors)
  11. ^ "Tremors FAQ | Stampede Entertainment".
  12. ^ a b "Tremors FAQ - Stampede Entertainment".
  13. ^ "Tremors opening weekend stats". Box Office Mojo.
  14. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 9-11, 1990 - Box Office Mojo".
  15. ^ "Kevin Bacon screens Tremors at the Austin Film Festival". Bloody-Disgusting.
  16. ^ a b c "Ernest Troost – Tremors / Bloodrush (Original Motion Picture Score)". Discogs. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  17. ^ a b "TREMORS soundtrack". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  18. ^ "Tremors". [[2]]. January 19, 1990. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  19. ^ "Tremors - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes.
  20. ^ "Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly: Tremors 1 & 2". Entertainment Weekly.
  21. ^ [3][dead link]
  22. ^ "Tremors: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  23. ^ "Tremors - Movie Reviews".
  24. ^ "Siskel & Ebert review Tremors".
  25. ^ "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Internal Affairs' Has Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  26. ^ "Why Monster Movie 'Tremors' Is Still A Cult Classic". Sabotage Times. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  27. ^ "Tremors Blu-ray Announced". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  28. ^ "Tremors: Attack Pack Blu-ray". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  29. ^ "Tremors Sequels Heading to Blu-ray". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  30. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  31. ^ "Shaken and awakened in Wisconsin". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  32. ^ Liu, Ed (May 28, 2013). "ToonZone Interviews Christian Jacobs on "The Aquabats! Super Show!"". ToonZone.
  33. ^ "SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 2, Episode 20: Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm / Squid on Strike". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  34. ^ Rhode, Jason (May 13, 2015). "25 Years of digging on Tremors". Cryptic Rock. Retrieved May 2, 2016.

External links[edit]