Tremors (1990 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Underwood
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Brent Maddock
  • S. S. Wilson
  • Ron Underwood
Produced by
  • Brent Maddock
  • S. S. Wilson
CinematographyAlexander Gruszynski
Edited byO. Nicholas Brown
Music byErnest Troost
Distributed byUniversal Pictures[1]
Release date
  • January 19, 1990 (1990-01-19)
Running time
96 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.4–10 million[3][4]
Box office$16.7 million (US)[5]

Tremors is a 1990 American monster comedy horror film directed by Ron Underwood, produced by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson, written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood and starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire.

In the film, handymen Val McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Ward) wish to leave the small desert town of Perfection, Nevada, as they are 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.

Released by Universal Pictures, the film is the first installment of the Tremors franchise[6] 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.[7] 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.


Valentine "Val" McKee and Earl Bassett are handymen working in Perfection, Nevada, an isolated 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 rifle. Jim Wallace, the town's doctor, determines that Edgar died of dehydration, apparently having been too afraid to climb down.

Later on, an unseen creature kills shepherd Fred and his flock of sheep. Val and Earl discover his severed head and believe that a serial killer is on the loose. 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 find help after warning the residents, but find the phone lines are dead and that the rock slide has blocked the only road out of town. Out of sight, a snake-like creature wraps itself around their truck's rear axle, but is torn apart when Val stomps on the accelerator and drives away, and is discovered when they return to town.

Val and Earl borrow horses to ride to Bixby for help. They come upon Wallace and his wife's buried station wagon near their trailer, but the couple is missing (having been killed the previous night). As they press on, an enormous burrowing worm-like monster suddenly erupts out of the ground, revealing the snake-like creature to be one of the worm's many tentacled "tongues". Thrown from their horses, the men flee with the monster 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 readings that three other worms are in the area. Rhonda, Val, and Earl become trapped overnight atop a cluster of boulders near one of the worms, and surmise that the creatures hunt their prey by detecting seismic vibrations. The trio then find some discarded poles and use them to pole vault over to nearby boulders and eventually reach Rhonda's truck, narrowly escaping the creature.

After the three return to town, the worms attack and kill general store owner Walter Chang, forcing everyone to hide on the town's various rooftops. Meanwhile, survivalist couple Burt and Heather Gummer manage to kill one of the creatures after unwittingly luring it to their basement armory. In town, the two remaining worms attack the building foundations, knocking over a trailer belonging to Nestor before dragging him under and devouring him. Realizing they cannot stay in the town any longer, Earl, Rhonda, and Miguel distract the monsters while Val commandeers a track loader and chains a semi-trailer to the rear; the survivors use it to try to escape to a nearby mountain range. En route, both worms create a sinkhole trap that disables the track loader, and the survivors flee to some nearby boulders for safety. Earl then has an idea to lure in the worms and trick them into swallowing Burt's homemade pipe bombs. The strategy successfully kills one worm, but the last one spits a bomb back towards the survivors, forcing them to disperse as the explosion destroys all but one of the remaining bombs.

Val lures the final worm into chasing him to the edge of a cliff and then explodes the remaining bomb behind it, frightening the worm into charging through the cliff face, where it plummets to its 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.


  • 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 is tired 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, a construction worker killed along with his co-worker Carmine by the Graboids
  • John Pappas as Carmine, a construction worker who attracts the attention of the Graboids whilst working a jackhammer and killed shortly after along with his co-worker Howard


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".[8] 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.[9]


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 similitaries to the fictional town of Perfection, Nevada. The town, which was entirely a set, was built near Olancha, California.[10] The mountains in the distance are the Sierra Nevada, and Owens Lake is visible in the background during the film's climax.[11]

An illustration of a Graboid's anatomy by artist Matt Frank


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.[12]

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.[13][14]


Composer Ernest Troost's musical score for the film was atmospheric and suspenseful. The studio wanted the action scenes to have a larger feel, hiring composer Robert Folk to write a few new pieces of score that would give the action greater heft.[15] 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.[16] 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.[16]

Release and reception[edit]

Box office[edit]

Tremors opened on January 19, 1990, in 1,457 theaters against no new releases and debuted at number 5 at the US box office, 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.[17] It dropped to sixth in its second week but would stay in the top 10 for four weeks before finally dropping to eleventh in its fifth week.[18] Despite its $6.4 million budget, Tremors underperformed at the box office, grossing only $16,667,084, far below projected numbers. In 2019, Kevin Bacon hinted that Tremors only made "a fifth of what the charts at Universal said it would."[19] 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.[20][21]

Critical reception[edit]

Tremors was hailed by critics for its diverse cast and humor. The film holds a rating of 88% at the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews and an average score of 7.20/10. The critics consensus reads: "An affectionate throwback to 1950s creature features, Tremors reinvigorates its genre tropes with a finely balanced combination of horror and humor."[22]

James Berardinelli praised Tremors with a three out of four 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".[23] Roger Ebert gave the film three and a half out of four, admitting he was "embarrassed" he enjoyed it so much, saying "[Tremors] succeeds in the fact that it puts its focus on fun characters instead of the creatures attacking them" and called it "a goofy, dumb, fun movie".[24] Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly gave Tremors a B+, saying: "Tremors is the Slacker of monster movies: bemused, improvisatory, willfully low-key".[25] Richard Harrington of The Washington Post called the film "a delightful throwback" that "evokes the populist spirit of '50s B-movies".[26] Jeffery Anderson of the San Francisco Examiner gave the film a glowing four and a half out of five 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".[27]

[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, [28]

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."[29] Gene Siskel initially gave the film a negative review, stating: "A little of it goes an awfully long way... There are just so many tricks, though, that you can do with the worms. Tremors would make a cute short subject, it doesn't sustain itself for an entire film".[24] However, in a rare change of heart of Siskel, he later reevaluated the film two years later, saying, "This picture has grown on me... I think it is worth a second viewing. There is a spirit of good fun there" and "Tremors is one of the B-movies to get the formula right. I highly recommend it".[30]

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.[31] Because of this, it has gained a very large cult following over the years.[32]

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,[33] and again on September 17, 2013, as part of the Tremors: Attack Pack for region 1 (U.S. and Canada).[34] 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.[35] It was released on 4K UHD Blu-ray and Blu-ray by Arrow Video on December 15, 2020, based on a 4K restoration.[36]


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.[20] For promotional purposes, the album was released as a limited edition CD.[20][21] 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.[37]

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,[38] but no further episodes of this show were ever filmed.

In popular culture[edit]

  • "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.[39][40]
  • Tremors is one of several monster films referred to 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.[41]
  • 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.[42]
  • "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.[43]

See also[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. ^ Gale Ann Hurd [@gunnergale] (March 29, 2024). "$6.4 million!" (Tweet). Retrieved March 29, 2024 – via Twitter.
  4. ^ "Tremors (1990)". The Numbers. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  5. ^ "Tremors (1990)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 10, 2020.
  6. ^ Vincent Canby (January 19, 1990). "Underground Creatures and Dread Events". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Tremors: The Series DVD Art Rumbles Your Home Video Collection". Dread Central. July 6, 2012. Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Tremors Script". IMSDb.
  10. ^ "Tremors filming locations". December 2, 2014.
  11. ^ Maddock, Brent; Wilson, SS (June 5, 2000). "Exclusive Tremors Interview Part 3" (Interview). Interviewed by MJ Simpson. Retrieved January 4, 2014.
  12. ^ "Tremors Full Scale Graboid On Set".
  13. ^ 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),
  14. ^ 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)
  15. ^ "Tremors FAQ". Stampede Entertainment.
  16. ^ a b "Tremors FAQ". Stampede Entertainment.
  17. ^ "Tremors opening weekend stats". Box Office Mojo.
  18. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for February 9-11, 1990 - Box Office Mojo".
  19. ^ "Kevin Bacon screens Tremors at the Austin Film Festival". Bloody-Disgusting. April 23, 2019.
  20. ^ a b c "Ernest Troost – Tremors / Bloodrush (Original Motion Picture Score)". Discogs. Retrieved April 11, 2014.
  21. ^ a b "TREMORS soundtrack". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  22. ^ "Tremors". Rotten Tomatoes. January 19, 1990. Retrieved September 12, 2022.
  23. ^ Berardinelli, James (June 10, 2008). "Tremors (United States, 1990)". Reelviews. Retrieved July 6, 2020.
  24. ^ a b "Tremors, Ski Patrol, Internal Affairs, The Plot Against Harry, 1990 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews".
  25. ^ "Ty Burr of Entertainment Weekly: Tremors 1 & 2". Entertainment Weekly.
  26. ^ "'Tremors' (PG-13)". The Washington Post.
  27. ^ [2][dead link]
  28. ^ "Tremors: Review". TV Guide. Archived from the original on January 17, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2013.
  29. ^ "Tremors - Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes.
  30. ^ "Guilty Pleasures, 1992 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews".
  31. ^ "VIDEO RENTALS : 'Internal Affairs' Has Appeal". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 13, 2012.
  32. ^ "Why Monster Movie 'Tremors' Is Still A Cult Classic". Sabotage Times. November 25, 2015. Retrieved January 5, 2017.
  33. ^ "Tremors Blu-ray Announced". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  34. ^ "Tremors: Attack Pack Blu-ray". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  35. ^ "Tremors Sequels Heading to Blu-ray". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  36. ^ "Tremors - Limited Edition 4K Ultra HD".
  37. ^ "Tremors: Limited Edition".
  38. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (August 23, 2017). "'Tremors': Vincenzo Natali To Direct Syfy-Blumhouse Reboot Starring Kevin Bacon".
  39. ^ "SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 2, Episode 20: Sandy, SpongeBob, and the Worm / Squid on Strike". Retrieved May 1, 2016.
  40. ^ Rhode, Jason (May 13, 2015). "25 Years of digging on Tremors". Cryptic Rock. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  41. ^ "The Tremors Reference You Missed in Slither". May 7, 2021.
  42. ^ "Shaken and awakened in Wisconsin". Retrieved October 26, 2014.
  43. ^ Liu, Ed (May 28, 2013). "ToonZone Interviews Christian Jacobs on "The Aquabats! Super Show!"". ToonZone.

External links[edit]