Tremors DVD Review

I'm not sure why people choose to live in small towns. Don't they know that eventually a monster is going to come in and ruin everything? Sure, the big cities have their own set of creatures to deal with, but at least they have an army to defend themselves with. The again, the folks over in Perfection seemed to have everything under control in 1990's "Tremors."

Two handymen, Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), decide to leave their humble life in the small town of Perfection, Nevada. On the way out, they discover a few mutilated bodies and that the only road out of town has been blocked off. It doesn't take long for the group (along with a Geologist played by Finn Carter) to figure out the problems have been caused by huge subterranean worms looking for a meal. With no communication and no way out, the town has no choice but to fend off an enemy they can barely even see.

Yes, "Tremors" uses every tired clichÈ this genre is known for, but it sort of feeds off of them instead of wearing them out. Where as other movies would constantly remind you of the problems (cut phone lines, no way out, etc.) the script here sets it up and moves on. Besides, you already know how everything it going to go down, so there's no reason for the characters to sit there worrying about something other than the main threat.

Normally you could tear an unoriginal movie like this apart, but "Tremors" is just so much fun, so fast paced, and so well written, it doesn't matter. This is a movie that does right what so other movies like it do wrong. There's ample screen time for the monsters, the body count is satisfactory, and the mix of both horror and comedy blend flawlessly.

Ron Underwood directs here and shows his love for the classics in every aspect. In fact, you could almost say he takes the same formula, but actually improves it, which is not an easy task. A great cast helps him along, including the two lead players, Bacon and Ward. These guys just work so well together, you couldn't imagine the movie without them. Michael Gross would go on to star in each of the three sequels, but he never works better than he does here.

Of course you can talk about the "real" stars all you want. It's the worms everyone is here to see. Though not completely original, they make a worthy adversary for the small town and the small rule set (don't make a single movement) is never broken. There is a mix of miniature (Bart's in his basement), puppetry, and animatronics. The first reveal is great after the tease early on. These things, "Graboids" if you will, are smart too unlike the generally mindless predators of old.

This is one the unrecognized classics in Universal's long line of monsters. In fact, you could say this is the best giant underground worm movie with Reba McEntire ever made. Seriously, this really is one of the greatest creature-features of all time, blending everything together perfectly which makes it appeal to more than just the usual fan base. This one will be recognized for what it really is eventually: A masterpiece of a monster movie. (***** out of *****)

Unfortunately, the movie gets absolutely no respect in the visual department. This 1.85:1 transfer is a mess, and it's a shame too because the print used is pretty clean. Edge enhancement is all over the place, whether be indoors or out. Compression is constantly a problem, though it does disappear for brief periods. Grain is nasty and never dissipates. Flesh tones are off and seem tinted far too red at times while in the next shot they look fine. Some scenes almost look like they lose resolution, giving the transfer an ugly blurry side. You might as well be watching this on a laserdisc. (**)

Audio is pretty meager as well. Presented in Dolby Surround, there are a few instances where the audio doesn't sound overly scratchy and washed out. The subwoofer never gets a chance a shine even though Bart shoots more weapons than the entire cast of "Saving Private Ryan." The rear speaker is left out for most of the movie even though there are plenty of opportunities for it. It's time for a remix Universal. (**)

Most of the extras here have been brought over from the pricey laserdisc edition, but that's a good thing. "The Making of Tremors" is a wonderful look at how the movie came together and it has plenty of time to tell the story. Clocking in at just under an hour, it covers just about everything you could possibly need to know including the original (and better) ending. The final 10-minutes or so looks at the creature effects, but there is no dialogue, only music. You even get some chapter stops.

There is a fairly useless (after the above feature of course) featurette that runs for four minutes. It's promotional in nature and hardly provides any useful information. There are five minutes of deleted scenes including an alternate opening, which does a better job of setting the film up like a standard monster movie. Trailers for both this and "Tremors 2" along with some production photos and cast information round off a surprisingly good set of features. (****)

The film would haul in $16 million before the theatrical run was over. It was popular, but enough for the sequel to make it anywhere but home video. Now the series (on it's fourth installment) has garnered a cult following and even received a TV show on the Sci-Fi Channel. If that doesn't signify a classic, I don't know what does.

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