There are films that can can really challenge you, that can force you to reconsider your prejudices and make you look at the world differently. And then there are films about sand-worms in Nevada.
Tremors is a film that knows exactly what it wants to be and exactly what it is. It’s a film that knows exactly what it’s audience wants, and it manages to meet and then exceed all expectations.
The plot revolves around Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward), a pair of odd-job men living and working in and around the desert town of Perfection. Inevitably enough, when they finally manage to pull together the motivation to leave their dead-end lives and head for the city, corpses start to crop up here, there and everywhere.
Of course, they head back to warn the town’s population that there is a murderer on the loose. Then discover that they are no longer able to leave…
Tremors is generally described as a comedy-horror, which is not entirely true. It is very much a horror film, in which a small population finds themselves stranded an facing an unseen menace. It is also, however, a very self-aware film and it’s this self-awareness allows for humorous touches to be included without totally ruining the atmosphere.
At heart, Tremors is an homage to the monster movies of the 1950s. It’s funny, frightening and superbly suspenseful and, unlike many homages, it manages to avoid slipping into parody and, if anything, this film improves on those films that inspired it.
Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are superbly sympathetic as the none too bright handymen, and this true of the whole cast. The screenwriters have clearly made an effort to ensure that all of the characters — even the survivalist couple — are both well-rounded and sympathetic.
As for the monsters themselves, these are superbly realised and their underground nature gives them the same sense of pervasive menace that Spielberg achieved so effectively in Jaws.
Tremors is a cheerfully scary monster movie, one that relies on characterisation and suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, and it’s a film that is well worth revisiting.