'Tremors' -- Blu-ray Review


Ron Underwood's Tremors remains as charming, as amusing, and as "safely" creepy as it was back in 1990. The director, working from a script by his pals Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson, was able to tap into that indefinable "afternoon matinee" charm that so many filmmakers covet, but so few pull of as well. When you discuss the topic of "completely fun cable flicks," Tremors will come up. If you're talking about PG-13 (or family friendly) horror films, same thing. When you contemplate the very few films that are able to balance comedy and horror in admirably equal measure, yep, Tremors again. Since its release in January of 1990 (when it grossed an underwhelming $17 million), Tremors has been earning loyal fans due to a few simple ingredients that just happened to cook up nice and tasty. If THEM! is considered a classic of the monster movie sub-genre (and it is, deservedly so), then a flick like Tremors deserves high praise for keeping the theme alive in an era of sci-fi spectacle and considerably fancier franchises.

And while certainly not a "tentpole" on Universal's side of the bank book, Tremors was no low-budget knock-off seat-filler. The production design, the cast, the score, the practical effects ... these components are what you need for a "studio-backed horror comedy." (And even then your goose is probably cooked; Universal also banked on Slither, which is damn cool, and that flick sunk like a stone -- only to earn a loyal fan base (and some cash) further down the road.) Tonally, the film is tongue-in-cheek without being snarky or disrespectful to the genre, which is fairly essential when you're trying to appeal to good-natured horror fans, it boasts some unexpectedly excellent chemistry between its two leads, it devises some very clever ways to play with its monsters, and it moves like a shot and gets to the end credits in a nice little hurry.

The plot is admirably simple: the tiny desert town of Perfection is about to be attacked by a handful of gigantic, monstrous sand worms. The only ones who can save the day are two lunkheaded handymen and one adorable seismologist who just happened to be in the middle of nowhere at the exact right (or wrong) time. Toss in several broad but very appealing side characters, some creature effects that strike a fine balance between nasty and playful, and several extremely novel attack sequences -- it's just fun stuff across the board, period.

All in all, a very fine genre film, and one that deserves the new fans it seems to keep bringing in. (Part of the appeal may be that the three video sequels (and TV series), while not nearly as polished or clever, are actually halfway entertaining, which leads folks back to the original.) As a simple but very well-mounted monster movie, Tremors works more than well enough. It's the chemistry between Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward that elevate the flick beyond simple genre fare, but Tremors still stands as a shining example of great, old-school monster movie mania. Frankly I think there should be a lot more movies like Tremors out there, and no I don't mean more sequels.

The great news:

This well-admired horror comedy arrives on blu-ray looking (and sounding) as good as ever, especially when the ensemble (unwisely) wanders outdoors; the cinematography is really quite lovely, doubly so if you consider Tremors just "a mere horror flick." Like I do not.

The (slightly) bad news:

No new extras. Nary a one. (I don't mess around with "BD-LIVE" stuff.) It's a given that any Tremors fans already has the one-disc standard edition or (more likely) the four-flick "attack pack" (which is awesome), which means they probably already have access to the following extras:

The Making of Tremors (53 minutes) is actually a very solid piece on everything from the writing to casting to monster effects; if you've not seen it before, congrats, you have something "new" on this blu-ray to enjoy.

There's also a handful of outtakes, an old on-set featurette, and some actor profiles that are pretty much useless to anyone who owns a computer.

The disc also offers D-Box capability, which I'm not touching, and a bunch of little ads from Universal that flit right across the Tremors menu screen. Sort of annoying.

The bottom line:

I'd be happy to own this very colorful monster movie in blu-ray regardless of what lurked behind the "special features" menu. The flick looks great, sounds even better, and feels very comfortable in my blu-ray collection.

I just can't help but wish someone had tossed an audio commentary on there. Heck, I would have done one for free!