(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Tremors
Where You Can Stream It: Netflix
The Pitch: Working-class guys Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are bored with life in their small Nevada town, but that boredom won’t last. Why? Because giant subterranean monsters have come to town, and they’re picking people off one by one.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: The people in Tremors find themselves stuck in one place – or they risk running afoul of those hungry monsters, dubbed graboids. The sheltering-in-place element of the movie means Tremors has never been more relatable! Also: this movie owns, as the kids say.
Tremors is a B-movie classic that everyone knows about these days. How could they not? The film used to play on TV all the time, and it also spawned approximately ten thousand sequels. But it took a while for the cult of Tremors to form. When the film burrowed into theaters in 1990, it ended up making a meager $16 million at the box office. Since Tremors was a relatively low-budget affair – it cost about $11 million to make – that wasn’t that bad. But it wasn’t exactly an out-of-this-world smash.
Over time, however, VHS rentals and constant TV reruns helped establish the film as the cult hit we all know it as now. And you know what? It still holds up. Sure, it’s a very ’90s movie – but that’s part of the charm. Also part of the charm: watching Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward have a blast as two average guys stuck in an unlikely situation. The film also takes the time to develop the other quirky townsfolk, most notably Michael Gross and Reba McEntire playing gun-toting survivalists (Gross would go on to appear in all of the sequels, because he’s committed to the bit).
And for a meager-budgeted film, the special effects on display here are better than the type we see in most modern blockbusters. It’s sad to think that if there was ever a Tremors remake, the graboids would probably all be 100% CGI. But in the original, they’re the real deal – practical effects created by Amalgamated Dynamics. The design is simple yet effective – it’s like a giant worm with a beak-like mouth. It’s an inspired creature, because director Ron Underwood does a wonderful job of making the monster tangible, and believable. We can easily buy into the presence of the creatures as they go tunneling about the desert. It’s just the right level of scary, mixed with a touch of the disgusting (the monsters are pretty slimy).
I’m sure someone out there is rabid about the Tremors franchise as a whole, and will defend all the direct-to-video sequels with their lives. But for my money, none of the follow-ups ever come close to recapturing the B-movie magic of the original. So grow your hair out, put on those acid wash jeans, and get ready for some monster mayhem.
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