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Review: Tremors (1990)

Tremors (1990)

Directed by: Ron Underwood

Premise: Giant wormlike creatures prey on the locals of an isolated desert town.

What Works: Tremors is a throwback to the drive-in monster movies of the 1950s but updates the formula for an audience that had seen films like John Carpenter’s The Thing and Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. The film delivers as a monster movie with some original creatures that are convincingly photographed and the special effects generally hold up well in the twenty years since the film was released. The action sequences are well choreographed and build nicely, holding the tension and using the barren desert landscape effectively. But Tremors has two other elements going for it that distinguish the film. First, Tremors is scary but also funny, and in the proper proportions. The film never makes the mistake of turning its scares into jokes but instead carefully shifts tone from scene to scene and within scenes, alleviating tension with a joke or a gag to set the audience up for a new scare. Second, Tremors is full of memorable characters brought to life by solid cast of actors. In the lead roles, Kevin Bacon and Burt Ward play hired hands and their banter gives the film some of its best laughs. In the supporting roles, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire (!) play a pair of survivalists, Victor Wong plays a local shopkeeper, and Finn Carter plays a geologist who lays out most of the exposition. These are fun characters to watch and the actors make them into real people that the audience can care about as the monsters get closer.

What Doesn’t: Tremors has one notable flaw. To secure an PG-13 rating, some harsh language was redubbed with less offensive words but the replacement dialogue sometimes sounds awkward. 

DVD extras: Interviews, behind the scenes footage, outtakes, production photographs, and a documentary.

Bottom Line: Tremors is fun popcorn entertainment. It has plenty of scares interspersed with some good laughs and sits with Jaws and the original Piranha among the upper tier of monster movies. 

Episode: #303 (August 29, 2010)