This goofy monster comedy B movie from 1990 has a special place in our bleak, cold hearts.
Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Finn Carter, it’s a true cult classic and makes us think of the early 1990s and being too stupid to know any better about anything.
Living in the small and isolated town of Perfection in Nevada, we have two handymen Valentine “Val” McKee (Fred Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward—ridiculously handsome, why isn’t that out there?).
Loveable but downtrodden, the two friends discuss their luck and decide to leg it out of there for a new life somewhere else.
As they leave they come across the dead body of local resident Edgar Deems, who’s stuck way up an electricity pylon. It turns out he died of dehydration, too scared of something to get off the thing.
Val and Earl also stumble across the severed head of local farmer Old Fred. His sheep are also decimated. Thinking a serial killer is about, they warn the other residents of the town and then plan their escape.
But they find more carnage and their van is attacked by something. Val thinks the car is stuck on rocks and floors it, but on returning home the locals find a disturbing worm tentacle attached to his vehicle.
They borrow horses to go and get help, but are attacked by an enormous worm creature that chases after them.
Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) happens upon them, a graduate student studying the seismic activity of the region.
She’s able to determine there must be three other giant worms in the region and they detect prey by going after noises they detect. That makes it imperative to not walk around on the ground like an idiot.
This leaves the three stranded as one giant worm hunts around LeBeck’s equipment and they appear to be trapped on some rocks. But they then come up with a way to get out of there.
After that the movie descends into survival horror mode, with the giant worms (which shop owner Walter calls graboids, before being eaten by one) homing in on the town of Perfection.
Gun loving freeloader Burt (Michael Gross) and Heather Gummer (Reba McEntire) enter the fray, with their love of shooting stuff coming in very handy on this occasion.
The finale builds up with the surviving residents using bulldozers to try and escape the vicinity.
They all end up trapped again and have too utilise Burt’s TNT to blow the remaining worms to smithereens, leading to a satisfying and gory conclusion.
Well, there you go. The film is daft but loveable, made with a good sense of fun and self-awareness of what it is.
Bacon and Ward have great chemistry and come across as genuine mates, which helps the film massively seeing as we spend a lot of time with them.
Finn Carter also offers an understated but great performance as the level-headed LeBeck.
Scenes such as the pole vaulting escape are clever and the three characters, who we as the audience like a great deal, make for surprisingly life-affirming and joyous cinema.
But it’s all about the graboids, really, and those bad boys are mean and lean. The practical effects are great fun and you’ll enjoy the bouts of gore and B movie comedy/horror.
Overall, a daft cult classic we think a lot of people can get behind. Was it really 1990 when this came out? Cripes! Those years ticked on by.
Production & Aftermath
Filming took place in 1989 in Darwin and Lone Pine of California. Above is footage of the cast and crew on set, seemingly taken by a member of the crew.
Look at the world in 1989, there! You can see a 29 year old Finn Carter there with a glob of suncream on her nose.
Directed by Ron Underwood on a budget of $11 million, the film was a flop at the box offie. It only made back just over $16 million.
Anyway, a quick note on the excellent special effects in Tremors. As a monter movie you want your big worms to look the part and this really delivers.
Amalgamated Dynamics created the graboids. It was pretty much the first project for the company, but it went on to work across the likes of Jumanji, Alien 3, the 2011 remake of The Thing, and largely disastrous The Predator (2018).
At the time, Kevin Bacon considered the whole thing a failure and refused to sign up for the 1995 sequel.
However, what saved the film was the surge of interest in home movie watching. VHS was booming and Tremors took off with home rental fans, catapulting the film into a cult classic.
But Bacon’s involvement back in 1989 wasn’t one he relished. As he explains in the below interview snippet.
After that he starred in hits such as River Wild, before his career really took off with Apollo 13 and various other big blockbusters.
After Tremors Finn Carter didn’t star in many more films. Watching this as young ones back in the early 1990s, we had a massive crush on her.
And it’s interesting Tremors doesn’t portray her as the stereotypical buxom blonde. She’s smart and capable and pretty much saves the lives of Earl and Valentine.
Her last film credit was 2005, but she reappeared in the news this July for all the wrong reasons. We won’t comment on that any further.
Fred Ward and his classic strong good looks is now 76! He’s had a long career but no major role to make him a household name. His last acting credit is from 2015 in True Detective.
Aftershocks and Other Sequels
In 1996 a sequel follower, with Kevin Bacon declining the role. He hadn’t realised the film had taken off with a cult following.
Fred West did return for Tremors 2: Aftershocks and it was a pretty good effort with an inventive development of the story.
However, we can’t say the same about the many, many B movie schlock sequels that followed. Many of this see Michael Gross reprise his role as trigger happy Burt Gummer.
There have been too many crap sequels to bother mentioning here, plus an adequate TV series from 2003.
However, the big news recently was Kevin Bacon heading a TV series set for 2019! Here’s the official trailer.
Naturally, this sent the film’s fans into overdrive and there was much excitement about it all.
Despite filming the pilot, Kevin Bacon announced recently on his Instragram account that the network won’t be picking up the rest of the series. So that seems to be that.
The Tremors Love
But! There’s a worryingly beautiful documentary from 2020 with cast and crew members discussing the film.
That launched for free on YouTube. Kevin Bacon (of course, given the gent he obviously is) got involved and is there for the chat.
We seriously can’t remember anything like this before. The reverential tones and all that—it’s wonderful to hear them discuss the film.
Just the fact it was in the late 1980s, almost everyone involved was worried about their career, and then it bombed at the box office.
VHS. Then that thing turned up. And it saved the film. Not only that, but word of mouth did make it something else—a classic.
In the documentary, the crew’s discussions of what everyone did in 1989 to transform certain regions of obscure America… well, it makes us delight this small budget thing became a big deal.
It also delights us that so many people across the world revel in a silly, but great fun, movie like this.
We were so young when we watched it, but we’ll never forget. Tremors are there, but memories are the experience. Tremors? Awesome.