Two men, one with the unlikely name of Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon), do handyman work in a dusty valley somewhere in the western
The other, Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), is the older of the two, but he doesn’t seem to have any more ambition than Valentine – “Val” for short. The two are driving around the valley one day and happen upon a pretty female college student, Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), who is doing some seismological studies in the valley. Earl tries to get Val to ask her out, but she’s not the fantasy woman that he’s been dreaming about. U.S.
They drive to a friend’s place, but find him dead under mysterious circumstances. It looks like he strapped himself up high on a telephone pole and eventually died of thirst. They wonder what the heck he was so scared of. They decide to check with a neighbor of his, but find that neighbor’s entire car has been buried in the ground. Seriously freaked out, they head to the small town in the valley to warn everyone. Their truck is stuck at first, but they finally manage to free it. When they get to town they discover some kind of large snake wrapped around their rear axle.
The town is tiny – maybe a dozen people – and a shopkeeper sees the “snake” as a tourist attraction and offers to buy it. A teenager makes fun of Val and Earl for being scared. A survivalist couple, Bert (Michael Gross) and Heather Gummer (Reba McIntyre), feel they have prepared for anything and are also not worried. (Their license plate reads “UZI 4U”.) When it is discovered that the phone lines are down (kids, this was before widespread cell phone coverage), Val and Earl try to go for help, but find the only road out of the valley is blocked.
They head out on horses, but are attacked and end up on foot. They run for their lives and jump into a concrete drainage ditch just as something massive slams into the wall of it. They discover that the “snake” is just a tentacle coming out of the mouth of a much larger creature. It apparently travels by digging very fast through the sand and earth and can sense the smallest vibrations from people walking on the surface. (The sandworms from Dune had to have been at least a partial inspiration for them.) Rhonda happens on the scene – “Did you two notice anything weird a minute ago?” When they explain, she realizes this creature is the cause of the strange seismic readings she has been getting. She double checks, though, and scares Val and Earl when she lets them know that there is no way this single creature was the cause of all of her readings; there have to be more.
All of a sudden they realize the very ground they stand on is unsafe. They make it to some large rocks just as another creature attacks. They find that it is not only very patient, but also very smart. They manage to finally get off the rocks, to a truck, and away from the immediate area. They get back to town to warn people again, especially about not making any big vibrations. They can’t get Burt and Heather on the radio, though.
Just then they can hear some kind of noise coming from their house. The two are down in their basement “Rec Room” cleaning some casings in a machine that causes a lot of vibration. The others can see the signs of a creature heading for the Gummer’s house. What follows is a scene right out of ever gun nut’s fantasy. Even though I’m not a gun person, it is also my favorite scene in the movie. It is very funny so I won’t spoil it for those that have not seen this movie.
By the way, director Ron Underwood would do the film City Slickers the very next year. Remember the automatic coffee grinder scene? That was probably inspired by this scene from Tremors.
Val and Earl come up with what they hope is a way to get out of the valley. They gather the surviving townsfolk (including a pre-Jurassic Park Ariana Richards) and try to get away. I mentioned that these creatures are very smart, though, and they are not going to let these literal meals on wheels get away that easily.
Bacon and Ward have a breezy camaraderie on screen. It is very easy to believe they are good friends who have been hanging out together for years. Michael Gross didn’t have to wait long to answer the question of what he was going to do now that his long-running TV show Family Ties was ending – he started making this film the very next day. Reba McIntyre was purely a country singer when she did this movie. She had never acted before. Since Tremors she has continued to perform in movies and TV shows and may now be better known to the current generation as an actress rather than a singer.
Tremors didn’t do that well at the box office, but it became a sensation on the rental market. It eventually inspired three direct to video sequels and a short-lived TV show. I have not seen any of those so I can’t comment on how they compare to this film. The original is probably the best, though, and unless you hate any kind of scares at all then I highly recommend this film.
Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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