We all have movies we love. Movies we respect without question because of either tradition, childhood love, or because they’ve always been classics. However, as time keeps ticking, do those classics still hold up? So…the point of this here column is whether of not a film stands the test of time. I’m not gonna question whether it’s still a good flick, but if the thing holds up for a modern audience.
Director: Ron Underwood
Starring: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, and Reba McEntire
We here at The Test of Time and The F*ckin Black Sheep (well, me @rdoom) have had a thing for creatures and monsters lately with the impending invasion of Godzilla mania. Monster features are one of the few times the horror genre truly becomes mainstream. Everyone flocks to get all kinds of scared because monsters possess that universal quality to frighten folks equally. Simple as that. So far, we’ve examined all kinds of creatures, but mostly they’ve been the traditional variety of mutated lizards, gators, and apes.
This time, however, we’re going west, and diving beneath the ground in an entirely new setting: the small desert town of Pleasant. What’s different? The stars and characters emerge just as big as the monster for once. Sure, Raymond Burr, Jeff Bridges, and others were all stars, but each played second banana to the mutated villain of the day. Not this time.
Instead, with duo of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, for once the cast overshadows the monster. Now back in 1990, Tremors flat lined at the box office (earning around $16 million) but it ended up one of those rare cases that became a cult hit via VHS buys and rentals. However, after 24 years and multiple sequels, does it still hold up under The Test of Time?
Under the examination: Tremors.
Dumb and Dumberer.
THE STORY: A pair of handymen (Bacon and Ward) along with a seismologist (Finn Carter) and the townsfolk of Pleasant (McEntire, Victor Wong, Michael Gross among others) encounter mysteriously massive creatures who happen to live underground. They start to pick off folks one by one, acting like a mutated, pissed off groundhog. The people don’t know what it is or how to stop it, but all they can do is try to make a plan to survive.
WHAT STILL HOLDS UP: Bacon and Ward. From their first on-screen appearance, they are what really works about Tremors (even as the rest of the cast bring A-game material despite the B-movie nature). They have a great redneck mentor/protégé chemistry going on even though both aren’t especially bright by doing a lot of dumb things. (Bacon seems like a leftover character from Raising Arizona). But that’s the fun of the entire movie. Stuck in town together, they try to stop something that none of them understand, killing off half the town while they're at it..
Always look beneath your vehicle.
Obviously, Tremors belongs in the monster genre, and it smartly toys with the conventions of it. As soon as they find a creature body part, Egg Shen himself (Victor Wong) buys a piece of it and immediately tries to make money off from it (take a photo with the smoke monster for three bucks). It’s the American way, right? The characters all play into generic stereotypes, but they're exaggerated versions, all given a moment to ham things up. Probably best the scenee happens when the creature tries to knock off the gun loving couple of McEntire and Gross. When it bursts through their basement walls, they unload about every weapon known to man at it, and it’s pretty damn entertaining.
The movie also keeps a hell of a pace, never wasting a scene or trying too hard to pad for time. Instead, we get victim after victim, attack after attack as the beasts create chaos by being smarter than they appear.
WHAT BLOWS NOW: If anything blows about Tremors it’s a bit too damn goofy and “cute” at times. The whole pole vaulting across the rocks ends up feeling like a kid’s movie, but even worse is the score. It wants to sound Raising Arizona goofy at times, but shit just gets annoying after never finding a definitive sound.
Somehow I kept thinking Beetlejuice watching this.
THE VERDICT:.Tremors won’t ever be confused with a gore fest or something balls out terrifying, but it’s a perfect homage to the old school B monster movies from back in the day. Consider it a neo-Western fused within a 50’s monster movie. Oh, and then there's Bacon’s “Fff*ckkk you!!!”
Looks real even behind the scenes.