johnlink ranks TREMORS (1990)

As a young kid, the sandworm from BEETLEJUICE always freaked me the hell out. Because the premise of TREMORS has to do with a bunch of sandworms attacking Kevin Bacon, I kind of avoided this during my formative years before it fell off my radar completely. I happened across it last night, and figured I’d give it a run as I have managed, in my growing wisdom, to conquer my irrational fear of sand worms.

I watched TREMORS (1990) on 3.29.12. It was my first viewing of the film.

One blurb I read called this a throwback to the monster movies of the ’50s. It’s hard to really call it that, since those movies usually took themselves seriously, and TREMORS does not. But this is, by no means, a spoof of those films either. While the characters are colorful and fun, they take the danger seriously, even while the film has a fun feel to to it. The worms are sightless beasts which sense vibrations in the ground to attack. They certainly have some similarities to some old monsters from 50s sci-fi, however this movie is all its own.

TREMORS does not work because of the worms. They are decent enough. I love the practical effects. If this were remade today they would use CGI and the danger would be gone, even if some of the stills might look better. The worms are effective as a source of danger. But they don’t make this flick move.

The success of this movie is based on the chemistry of handy-man partners Kevin Bacon as Val and Fred Ward as Earl. Long before the worms show up, these two guys have already made this a wacky and enjoyable buddy comedy. I could watch these two guys in a non-monster movie and be perfectly happy. In fact, the entire movie has surprising dedication to its characters. Yes, the periphery characters are mostly archetypes. But the actors commit to what they are doing, and the script remembers to throw them enough curves to make it all seem dangerous to them, resulting in great fun for the audience.

I always talk about a movie ‘knowing what it is’. After seeing TREMORS, I may just change that phrase to giving something a ‘successful TREMORS factor’. More than any movie I can recall in any genre, TREMORS knows what it is, and is all the better for it. Director Ron Underwood (who directed a favorite of mine, CITY SLICKERS) even manages in to thrown in some clever crane shots, some decent gore effects, and plenty of homage to the moving shots of EVIL DEAD. However, this isn’t a ‘film’ in any sort of artsy sense, it is merely a fun ride through a Nevada town being overrun by gigantic, intelligent, man-eating worms.

But again, none of this matters if Bacon and Ward don’t drive the bus (and later the bulldozer) with such great effect. I can’t understate how good their chemistry is, and I’d put the pairing up there with the great action-comedy pairs of the past several decades (even if this is more horror-comedy). I don’t say that lightly at all, these guys are genuinely great together.

I’m not about to run out and see all the sequels. Bacon-less TREMORS movies aren’t as appealing, even if most of the rest of the cast appears. But I am, surprisingly, really glad that I finally saw this. I would watch it again in a minute.





~ by johnlink00 on March 30, 2012.

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