Tremors (1990 film)

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Tremors
Tremors official theatrical poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Underwood
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Brent Maddock
  • S. S. Wilson
  • Ron Underwood
Produced by
  • Brent Maddock
  • S. S. Wilson
Starring
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Music byErnest Troost
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • January 19, 1990 (1990-01-19)
Running time
96 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$10 million[3]
Box office$16.7 million (US)[4]

Tremors is a 1990 American western-themed monster horror comedy film directed by Ron Underwood, produced by 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, handymen Val McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) try to skip the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, tired of their dull lives. 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 eccentric survivalist couple Burt and Heather Gummer (Gross and McEntire), the group fights for survival against giant, prehistoric, worm-like monsters hungry for human flesh.

The film is the first installment of the Tremors franchise[5] and was followed by five direct-to-video sequels and one prequel: Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996), Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001), Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004), Tremors 5: Bloodlines (2015), Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell (2018), and Tremors: Shrieker Island (2020). A television series titled Tremors: The Series aired from March through August 2003.[6] A second television series was set to air in 2018 after a pilot had been shot with Bacon reprising his role for the first time since the original film, but multiple networks including Syfy passed on the series.

Plot[edit]

Val McKee and Earl Bassett are handymen in the small Nevada town of Perfection. The two tire of scraping by and decide to pack their things and move to the larger town of Bixby. On their way out of town they find local resident Edgar sitting atop an electrical tower. Thinking Edgar is drunk, Val climbs up to help him down only to find that he's dead. Upon examination, Doctor Wallace concludes that Edgar died of dehydration.

On their second attempt to leave town, Val and Earl find local shepherd Fred and his entire flock of sheep dead. On the way back to Perfection, Val and Earl warn some utility workers that a killer is on the loose. As Val and Earl drive away the workers are attacked and killed by an underground creature. Val and Earl tell the townspeople about Fred and attempt to call the police but the phone lines are down. The pair again set out for Bixby to notify the police, but they are stopped by a rockslide blocking the only road out of town. They find the dead utility workers and try to flee back to Perfection, but their truck becomes stuck and Val nearly breaks an axle freeing it. Back in town, Burt discovers that the truck has a snake-like creature attached to it and removes it.

Val and Earl decide to ride to Bixby on horses to get help. They stop to warn Dr. Wallace and his wife about the creatures but they arrive too late and find both dead. They again set out on horseback but soon their horses get spooked and throw them. A massive wormlike monster erupts from the ground and attacks them, revealing that the snake creatures are actually tongues. The creature chases Val and Earl as they run but is killed instantly when it slams into a concrete aqueduct. The men are startled by Rhonda LeBeck, a college student conducting seismology tests in the area. She determines from her seismographs that there are three more creatures in Perfection. The trio become trapped when another creature chases them onto some boulders. They manage to use some discarded wood to pole vault back to Rhonda's truck, narrowly escaping the creature.

They return to town to warn everyone when the creatures, now named Graboids by Walter, attack the townspeople. Walter is killed and everyone else is forced onto the roofs of local buildings. They determine that the Graboids hunt by sound and vibration and they try to keep quiet. Val grabs Walter's CB radio and warns Burt and Heather about the Graboids, but Heather attracts one to their compound by running a tumbler. The Graboid bursts through the basement wall and attacks Burt and Heather, but they are able to kill it using their stockpile of weapons. The remaining two Graboids once again attack the store, attempting to knock the foundation out and collapse it. They also attack the others on their roofs, and Nestor is killed when the Graboids overturn his mobile home. A Graboid disables Burt's truck, leaving him trapped on his roof as well. Val and Earl decide to use the town dump’s CAT track loader, hitch it to an old semi-trailer and ride it to the mountains to escape. Miguel distracts the Graboids by starting a tractor and letting it roll away while Val runs for the loader. Val makes it to the loader and picks up the townspeople before rescuing Burt and Heather, who bring along some explosives they made. They nearly make it to the mountain range, but the Graboids dig a trap and the loader falls into it. This forces everyone to use Burt's bombs as a distraction to reach some nearby boulders.

The group begins to lose hope of escape until Earl gets the idea to trick the Graboids into swallowing Burt's bombs. They kill one Graboid, but the remaining Graboid spits the bomb back at them. Val, Earl, and Rhonda are trapped in the open with one bomb left. Val lures the Graboid into chasing him to the edge of a cliff and uses the last bomb to scare the Graboid into plummeting to its death. Back in town, Val and Earl prepare to leave for Bixby and Val ends up kissing Rhonda rather than saying goodbye to her.

Cast[edit]

  • Kevin Bacon as Valentine "Val" McKee, a handyman and jack-of-all-trades who does odd jobs around town with his partner Earl to make money.
  • Fred Ward as Earl Bassett, Val's partner in the handyman business. He tires of the quiet life in Perfection and tries to convince Val to move with him to a larger town.
  • Finn Carter as Rhonda LeBeck, a graduate student in geology who is spending a semester operating seismographs around Perfection. The townspeople continually turn to her for answers about the Graboids because they consider her educated.
  • Michael Gross as Burt Gummer, a conspiracy theorist and prepper who lives in a compound on the outskirts of town with his wife Heather.
  • Reba McEntire as Heather Gummer, Burt's wife and a fellow prepper. She is just as proficient as Burt with weapons but is calmer and more rational.
  • Bobby Jacoby as Melvin Plug, a local boy who constantly irritates people with his pranks.
  • Charlotte Stewart as Nancy Sterngood, an artist living in Perfection with her daughter.
  • Ariana Richards as Mindy Sterngood, Nancy's daughter.
  • Tony Genaro as Miguel, a local resident.
  • Richard Marcus as Nestor Cunningham, a local resident.
  • Víctor Wong as Walter Chang, owner of the local market in Perfection. His place serves as a store, post office, and local meeting spot.
  • Bibi Besch as Megan Wallace, the local doctor's wife.
  • Conrad Bachmann as Dr. Jim Wallace, the town's doctor. He and his wife are building their own home in Perfection.
  • Sunshine Parker as Edgar Deems, a local resident and the first person in town killed by the Graboids.
  • Michael Dan Wagner as Old Fred, a local farmer whose entire flock of sheep along with him are killed by Graboids.
  • John Goodwin as Howard
  • John Pappas as Carmine

Production[edit]

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?" This inspired the two to start brainstorming ideas for a monster movie, which was eventually dubbed "Land Sharks".[7] They shared their idea to their 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 spawned a major box office hit, Wilson and Maddock quickly began shopping around their idea for Tremors. The name "Land Sharks" was changed owing 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.[8]

Filming[edit]

Filming began in early 1989 and lasted over 50 days. Principal photography took place around Lone Pine, California, and the isolated community of Darwin, California, which the crew liked because of its uncanny similitaries to the fictional town of Perfection, Nevada. The town, which was entirely a set, was built near Olancha, California, at 36°12′34.1″N 117°56′09.9″W / 36.209472°N 117.936083°W / 36.209472; -117.936083 (Perfection).[9] The mountains in the distance are the Sierra Nevada, and Owens Lake is visible in the background during the film's climax.[10]

Props[edit]

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 and buried and dug up again to achieve the desired "used" effect.[11]

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.[12][13]

Post-production[edit]

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".[14] Despite his contributions, Folk ultimately went uncredited.

Tremors was set for a November 1989 release. However, the MPAA gave the film an R rating owing to language, and the creators decided at the last minute to make the film more commercially available. 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.[15] 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 very happy with the decision to make Tremors appeal to a more family-friendly audience rather than an adult-oriented audience.[15]

Release and 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.[16] 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.[17] Tremors had a budget of $10 million and ended up grossing $16,667,084 at the domestic box office, which made it financially successful, though far below projected numbers. In 2019, Kevin Bacon hinted that Tremors only made "a fifth of what the charts at Universal said it would."[18] 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.[19][20]

Critical reception[edit]

Tremors was hailed by critics for its diverse cast and humor. As of May 2022, the film holds a "certified fresh" rating of 87% at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 45 reviews and an average score of 7.1 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.[21]

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".[22] Roger Ebert gave the film a 3.5/4 rating and wrote: "Most shlocky creature features seem oblivious to character development... but Tremors is smart enough to realize that the characters are the driving force of a great story, not the monsters or the violence." 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."[23] 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".[24]

[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, [25]

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."[26] Gene Siskel initially gave the film a negative review, stating: "[M]ost 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 he later gave the film a positive review in his book Cinema: Year by Year 1894-2001, saying: "If you want to see a good B-movie, watch Tremors; it was one of the few monster movies to get the formula right."[27]

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 television, becoming one of the most rented films of 1990.[28] Because of this, it has gained a very large cult following over the years.[29]

Tremors debuted on VHS on April 1, 1990, on Laserdisc on April 16, 1996, and on DVD on April 28, 1998.[citation needed] It was released on VHS by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment on June 2, 2000. The film was released on Blu-ray on November 9, 2010,[30] and again on September 17, 2013, as part of the Tremors: Attack Pack for region 1 (U.S. and Canada).[31] 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.[32] It was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray by Arrow Video on December 15, 2020.[33]

Soundtrack[edit]

Tremors / Bloodrush
Film score by
Ernest Troost
Released2000
GenreElectronic, Stage & Screen
Length49:51
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.[19] For promotional purposes, the album was released as a limited edition CD.[19][20] In 2020, La-La Land Records gave the score its first commercial release as a 2-CD set; CD 1 featured Troost's music, with CD 2 containing Robert Folk's additional music.[34]

Sequels and 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. Another direct-to-video sequel, Tremors: Shrieker Island, was released in October 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,[35] but no further episodes of this show were ever filmed.

In popular culture[edit]

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent's water monster enemy called the Kaernk (or Lurky among developer Frictional Games' employees) was slightly inspired by the creature in Tremors, as revealed in the developer commentary for the game, Tremors was Frictional Games employee Thomas Grip's favorite film when he was a child.
  • 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.[36]
  • "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.[37]
  • "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.[38][39]
  • Tremors is one of several monster films referenced in James Gunn's 2006 horror-comedy Slither, as the high school depicted in the movie is named the "Earl Bassett Community School", a nod to Fred Ward's character from the first two Tremors entries.[40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Tremors (1990)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  2. ^ "TREMORS (15)". United International Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved July 18, 2014.
  3. ^ "Tremors (1990)". The Numbers. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  4. ^ "Tremors (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  5. ^ Vincent Canby (January 19, 1990). "Underground Creatures and Dread Events". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Tremors: The Series DVD Art Rumbles Your Home Video Collection". Dread Central. July 6, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  7. ^ [1][dead link]
  8. ^ "Tremors Script". IMSDb.
  9. ^ "Tremors filming locations". December 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Maddock, Brent; Wilson, SS (June 5, 2000). "Exclusive Tremors Interview Part 3" (Interview). Interviewed by MJ Simpson. angelfire.com. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  11. ^ "Tremors Full Scale Graboid On Set". stampede-entertainment.com.
  12. ^ 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), stampede-entertainment.com
  13. ^ 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) stampede-entertainment.com
  14. ^ "Tremors FAQ". Stampede Entertainment.
  15. ^ a b "Tremors FAQ". Stampede Entertainment.
  16. ^ "Tremors opening weekend stats". Box Office Mojo.
  17. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 9-11, 1990 - Box Office Mojo". www.boxofficemojo.com.
  18. ^ "Kevin Bacon screens Tremors at the Austin Film Festival". Bloody-Disgusting. April 23, 2019.
  19. ^ a b c "Ernest Troost – Tremors / Bloodrush (Original Motion Picture Score)". Discogs. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  20. ^ a b "TREMORS soundtrack". stampede-entertainment.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  21. ^ "Tremors". Rotten Tomatoes. January 19, 1990. Retrieved May 16, 2022.
  22. ^ Berardinelli, James (June 10, 2008). "Tremors (United States, 1990)". Reelviews. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  23. ^ "Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly: Tremors 1 & 2". Entertainment Weekly.
  24. ^ [2][dead link]
  25. ^ "Tremors: Review". TV Guide. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  26. ^ "Tremors - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes.
  27. ^ "Tremors, Ski Patrol, Internal Affairs, The Plot Against Harry, 1990 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews". siskelebert.org.
  28. ^ "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Internal Affairs' Has Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  29. ^ "Why Monster Movie 'Tremors' Is Still A Cult Classic". Sabotage Times. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  30. ^ "Tremors Blu-ray Announced". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  31. ^ "Tremors: Attack Pack Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  32. ^ "Tremors Sequels Heading to Blu-ray". Blu-ray.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  33. ^ "Tremors - Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD".
  34. ^ "Tremors: Limited Edition".
  35. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 23, 2017). "'Tremors': Vincenzo Natali To Direct Syfy-Blumhouse Reboot Starring Kevin Bacon".
  36. ^ "Shaken and awakened in Wisconsin". NBCNews.com. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  37. ^ Liu, Ed (May 28, 2013). "ToonZone Interviews Christian Jacobs on "The Aquabats! Super Show!"". ToonZone.
  38. ^ "SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 2, Episode 20: Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm / Squid on Strike". TV.com. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  39. ^ Rhode, Jason (May 13, 2015). "25 Years of digging on Tremors". Cryptic Rock. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  40. ^ "The Tremors Reference You Missed in Slither". May 7, 2021.

External links[edit]