Director: Ron Underwood
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Victor Wong
Watch Tremors online in the UK: Netflix UK
While an argument could be made that the biggest films in cinema at the moment are essentially B-movies given a budget and lick of paint, the true feeling of the B-movie is in the direct-to-VOD arena. One of the mainstays of this market over the last couple of decades has been the Tremors series, currently on its fifth iteration despite not troubling theatres in a good long while. It wasn’t always the case, though: the first Tremors is a genuinely beloved cult classic. In 2015, it’s not hard to see why: it’s a fun, light-hearted (but certainly not squeamish) look at monstrous worms attacking a backwater American town.
The success of the film comes down to two primary factors, the first being a terrific cast. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as our two heroes, Val and Earl, have a lived-in chemistry, which suggests instantly that they’ve been friends and workmates for years, despite what seems to be a fair age difference. There are elements of a father-son dynamic at show, mostly in Fred’s continuing cajoling of Val’s pursuit of Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), but mostly the film leaves this alone and concentrates on them being friends – which, frankly, leads to more satisfying exchanges between them. Ward is a warm and slightly grizzled presence, contrasting nicely with Bacon’s more charismatic good-time Charlie, but the two together just feel right.
Carter is also welcome as the attractive, but not typical, blonde bombshell. She offers enthusiasm and intelligence, managing to be both the occasional exposition machine but also spunky fun. The rest of the cast get less to do, but make enough of a mark, particularly Michael Gross’ survivalist nut, who provides both comic relief and an effective antagonist, whose “shoot first, ask questions later” approach is shown to not be the best way of dealing with the threat.
Speaking of which, the monsters themselves are the other factor that makes Tremors such a winner. The creature effects team, including future Alien man Tom Woodruff Jr, create huge, practical beasts, which have a real weight to them, posing a significant threat throughout, despite the fact that we see them so much, something that can prove to be a sink or swim scenario for creature features. From first appearance to last, despite the laid-back tone of the film, you do feel that they could easily take out the whole cast at pretty much any juncture. Credit is due to the exciting action too, given the fact that it is essentially people running away from some burrowing thing speeding towards them, but their heft, combined with the affection built up for the characters, give real engagement through the pacy 96 minutes. And, when the monsters or the characters are killed, there’s an impressive, squelchy mess left behind.
Tremors is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.