By Casey Campbell
Kicking off What’s Streaming? is a personal favorite, and one that I’m sure many have already seen. Tremors is the kind of movie that is arguably perfect for what it is and yet, like many genre movies, a glut of sequels works toward blighting the series as a whole. Forget Tremors 2-6. I certainly try to and I haven’t even seen them. Maybe one day. But until then, the first Tremors is an absolute delight and a standout in both 90’s movies and monster movies in general. That being said, Tremors is currently available on Netflix US, and you should either check it out for the first time, or revisit it if it’s been a while.
I was introduced to Tremors as a kid and probably caught it on Sci-Fi (now SYFY for some reason) and the elements that stuck with me were the dry and dusty setting, Kevin Bacon (because I guess even as a child I could recognize him by name), and the super gross worm things that ate people. These elements still stick out, because obviously, but with fresh eyes the movie has taken on new significance for me.
Take, for instance, the impeccable script by S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock. And that’s not even hyperbole. The script is basically perfect. We’re introduced to the incredibly charismatic team of Val and Earl, played by Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward respectively, where we learn they’re handymen for the tiny secluded town of Perfection, Nevada, but that they have dreams of leaving and finally doing something with their lives. Along the way, they meet graduate student Rhonda (Finn Carter) who is studying the seismological phenomena of the area.
While I personally, even as a kid, thought of Kevin Bacon being the star of this movie, it’s clearer now that it’s a group effort. Every supporting character is fleshed out and given motivations, which is only helped by engaging performances across the board. Hell, one of the townspeople went on to star in every successive sequel (it’s gun nut Burt Gummer, played by Michael Gross, by the way – spoilers I guess).
Fun things to note are the little character details that later come into play. It’s simply Chekhov’s Gun, which goes towards making this a lean script with barely any fat. But again, this is a simple monster movie, so the script being so well written and carefully constructed adds so much to the overall film.
By the time the main threat of the movie rears it’s ugly eyeless head, we’ve already been given reason to care about the survival of Perfection and it’s very imperfect inhabitants. Now, this worked wonders for Jaws with the Brody family, as well as it’s famously ominous score, so that when the shark only shows up for a few minutes (thanks to a hellish amount of technical difficulties with the mechanical beast) it’s still entertaining and threatening. Thankfully for all involved with Tremors, the script and characters are bolstered by some still incredible special effects.
Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. of Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. did the monster effects in Tremors—they’re basically the team that makes things that you either thought were computer generated monsters, or live animals. Check out this short video for more info on them, because they’re insanely bad ass.
With such tangible monsters and human characters, Tremors is a monster movie that goes the extra step of being a genuinely great film. As for the sequels, I may just have to check them out to see what good ol’ Burt is up to. I’m known for ingesting some foul film, so I can’t imagine they’ll be too bad.