What would a film world without B movies be like? A bummer, that’s what. No Them! No Tarantula. No The Blob. No The Thing From Another World. Not a film world that I would want to live in, I’ll tell ya’ that.
It would be like a real world without soft serve ice cream. Without flamin’ hot Cheetos, funnel cake or Krystals (the southern equivalent of White Castle sliders).
Some folks would be fine with that. Some might even think it would be a better place without these things. Not me. I’m a most–not all, but most— things in moderation person.
And that’s exactly why I like director Ron Underwood’s Tremors so much. It’s a straight up creature feature, a ‘Katy bar the door’ B movie and a comedy to boot–one that actually makes me laugh. And that’s a win, win, WIN in my book.
Tremors begins irreverently and, under the circumstances, perfectly with Val (Kevin Bacon) relieving himself off a cliff into a canyon’s abyss. It’s funny. It shows us, in a tiny capsule, who Val is and what we are in store for.
While Val zips up, his older, chiseled pal Earl (Fred Ware) snores inside a sleeping bag in the back of his pickup. He shares the back of his pick up with lawn tools and junk. This shows us a lot about who Earl is.
From their boots and rugged but perfectly fitting Wrangler jeans, we gather that Val and Earl are cowboys–and they are. On good days. On most days they are handymen in a spot in the desert town of Perfection, Nevada.
Perfection is anything but perfection. And it’s not a town either. It’s a forlorn village (population 14) with not a single tree in sight, deteriorating trailers–not mobile homes–and a sprinkling of shotgun shacks. The center of town is Chang’s general store.
Understandably, Val and Earl long to leave Perfection for the greener pastures of Bixby, (Ahem…) a town some thirty miles down the road with roads that are actually paved, only every time they gather enough gumption they are waylaid by a local yokel with a chore, a fifty dollar bill and a twelve pack of beer. And so it goes until one day a very unpleasant encounter with a septic tank inspires them. They throw their belongings in Earl’s truck with plans to get the heck out of…Perfection.
On their way to Bixby they pass a transmission tower and notice ‘ole’ Fred, the village drunk, perched atop of it. Thinking ‘ole’ Fred must be on a hardcore bender, they play rock, paper, scissors to determine who will climb the tower and bring him down. Val looses and climbs, only to discover that ‘ole’ Fred isn’t on a bender after all. He’s dead.
They take Fred to the village doctor (yeah, I know, a town with pop. 14 that has a homeless drunk and a doctor… Ahem…). He tells them that Fred died of dehydration and most likely had been on the tower for about three days.
Something must have chased ‘ole’ Fred up the tower and kept him up there they surmise, but what? It doesn’t matter cause Val and Earl are still leaving. If anything, they are even more determined. But their escape is foiled when they are waylaid yet again at a sheep herder’s shack after discovering a pen full of mutilated sheep and the severed head of the herder in what looks to be a giant doodlebug hole.
Val and Earl may be beautiful losers, but they do have morals. Thinking a maniacal serial killer is on the loose, they put Bixby on the back burner and hightail it back to Perfection. On the way they stop to warn a road crew and in a panic–it appears–Val hangs up the back bumper of the truck, spinning the tires like crazy before he finally breaks free. This pisses Earl off.
Back at Perfection they round up the residents and hold an emergency town meeting at Chang’s. While the townsfolk are sorting out what to do, Melvin, the resident smart alec teenager, (Bobby Jacoby) discovers what appears to be a huge prehistoric snake attached to the axle of Earl’s truck. It has been pulled apart–that’s what caused the spinning tires–and it stinks to high heaven.
Obviously, it is also what has made waste of at least two of Perfection’s residents and several of its sheep–or so it seems. Only it’s worse.The huge prehistoric snake thing is just an appendage (one of three said appendages, actually) that flicks out of the mouth of a ginormous prehistoric earth worm thing that kind of resembles the flesh eating plant from Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors.
But wait…It get’s worse. There are four of these ginormous prehistoric earth worms counting the one who lost an appendage on Earl’s axle. It’s still alive and Earl admiringly, if not begrudgingly, nicknames it Stubby.
Stubby and his cohorts have knocked down telephone lines and because of the geography, Val, Earl and company are incommunicado with the outside world even with CB radios. (Before you go Ahem… remember it’s the early 90s.)
Tremors is a profoundly, unabashedly 100% pure B movie. And like any good B movie–or otherwise–it has it’s fair share of bloopers and blunders, e.g., exposed wires, cables and boom mics and visible crew members. There are also liberal continuity mistakes like the sky going from cloudy to cloudless in what is supposed to be an uninterrupted film sequence. According to http://www.moviemistakes.com there are a whopping 46 such errors in the film.
But hey, Tremors is an ambitious, special effect dependent project on a very modest budget. As such, director Ron Underwood relies on a great cast (Fred Ward is his usual, gruff, terrific self, Kevin Bacon wears his Wrangler’s really, really well and Michael Gross is wonderful as a lovable right wing gun nut) pulling off an affectionate, charming homage to the creature feature of yesteryear–and bodacious directors who do more than they should with more than they have. If that’s not Hollywood and the future of filmmaking, i.e., YouTube, I don’t know what is.