Viking Night: Tremors
By Bruce Hall
November 27, 2012
Tremors is unsophisticated in a good natured way - like a party crasher who shows up with a five pack of warm beer and half a bag of stale pretzels. It means well but it can't grow up because it doesn't know how, leaving you unsure whether to love it, hate it, or simply tolerate it. In the end you can't help but forgive what it does wrong, because when it finally does something right it feels so sincere, so heartfelt. Tremors really, really wants you to like it, and it tries so hard that even when it IS bad you almost feel obligated to love it anyway. Just like your friendly neighborhood party crasher.
He just wants his life to mean something. Is that so wrong?
So it is with Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward), who have spent years scraping by on odd jobs in the small town of Perfection, Nevada. They lay barbed wire, they clear land, and they pump septic tanks. They're handymen - which is a polite way of saying they've got little to do and even less to show for it. Each is dying for a fresh start, but they make too much money to starve, and not quite enough to get out of town. There’s no point to their existence, and there’s never going to be unless something big happens.
It begins in the form of Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), a chatty graduate student stuck testing seismology equipment out in the desert. Rhonda’s getting some interesting readings, Val is secretly looking for someone to settle down with and Earl seems to have some kind of voyeurism fetish. So it's only natural they should team up when some of the locals and their livestock turn up dead in a series of gruesome, Chupacabra style drive-by-dinings. Something has decided to drop by Perfection for lunch, and it isn't going to leave until someone kills it, or it runs out of things to snack on.
There are only a dozen or so people in town, and the mysterious creatures turn out to be a little smarter than their prey. The townsfolk find themselves cut off from civilization, forced to wait it out, fight it out, or just die with dignity. Val, Earl and Rhonda are joined in the standoff by a truly multicultural assortment of characters including a Hispanic man, the wisecracking Asian bus driver from Big Trouble in Little China, a very Aryan mother and daughter and two Red State gun nuts played by the dad from Family Ties and Reba McEntire.
That's right. It's got all this, AND Kevin Bacon. On paper it sounds like the coolest monster movie ever made, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.
But there's something about Tremors that won't allow you to hate it. Director Ron Underwood is also known for City Slickers and Pluto Nash - one of which is pleasantly pedestrian, while the other is Pluto Nash. Tremors falls somewhere in between the majesty of Billy Crystal covered with cow placenta and...well...whatever the hell Pluto Nash was supposed to be. One minute you're reluctantly enjoying yourself, and the next you want to close your eyes and think about how much more fun you could have had spraying your palms with Rogaine, or eating a pound of cheddar cheese.