The tiny town of Perfection, Nevada (Population: 14) has a problem. To be precise, it has four, and each of them is thirty feet long, travels underground like a shark through water, and is extremely hungry.
For even the casual viewer, Tremors is a delightful film, but for the horror film buff, it is a special taste treat: the plot and set-up are right out of a 1950's black-and-white Universal horror flick. The isolated desert community, the unseen and powerful enemy, the banding together of the seemingly doomed community against the menace - all have been updated with loving care, and a knowing wit that manages to wink at the audience while avoiding the cynicism that would pervade the later Scream movies.
The movie is also aided in no small way by a cadre of likable and solid performers, including Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Victor Wong, Michael Gross (in a survivalist role light years from his Family Ties character) and country singer Reba McEntire in a winning debut.
Tremors is a clever, inventive horror-comedy that does not skimp on the thrills or the suspense, or the laughs... it walks the tightrope exceedingly well. And I now realize that metaphor is closer to the truth than I originally thought - watching this movie for the first time duplicates exactly the experience of watching an acrobatic daredevil: the breathless anticipation, the gasp and the scream that is never too far from the laugh of relief.
The transfer for Tremors is clear and bright - almost *too* clear, as there are a few instances that the picture seems to emphasize critical focus issues; there are times that foreground characters seem slightly fuzzy while the background is in razor-sharp focus. There also seems to be a bit of edge detection going on in details like the plentiful scrub brush, but the movie itself is so bright as to be almost sunburned - there are only two interiors in the entire flick - and this must have proven problematic in the compression stage. The print itself is flawless, and the Surround sound never overpowering, but always appropriate.
My disc bears a copyright date of 1998, and as one of the first of the Universal Collector's Editions, this shows a pretty good start. Universal has honed the special "Making of" featurettes to an art form on the more recent Jaws and Jurassic Park DVDs, and this one, though no less thorough, suffers on several levels. It has the usual interviews with the director, writers, FX men, miniatures gurus (but not producer Gale Anne Hurd, hmmm), and though the information they give is interesting in its own right, few of these men are forceful, entertaining speakers. The later featurettes use behind-the-scene photos and concept art to keep the story moving visually, but there is little of that here; it relies over-much on clips from the movie, and you may find your mind wandering during its 45 minutes. It does, at least, have it's own chapter listings, so you can cut to discussion about any portion of the movie you wish.
Immediately after, however is the "Creature Featurette", a ten-minutes plus assemblage of behind-the-scenes FX and miniature footage, assembled to some original music by John R. Graham. This takes the creatures from initial design tests through building and filming, and provides a satisfying overview of movie magic from the pre-CGI days.
Clicking on "Featurette" will give you one of those short puff pieces used by independent TV stations to fill the hour when movies run short. It's watchable once, but seems insubstantial after the "Making of". "Profiles" for Bacon, Gross and McEntire are similar, shorter pieces, using the same footage. Fred Ward, as usual, gets no respect.
There are also "Production Notes" (a few very sketchy text pages - the nicely designed pack-in booklet is more informative), brief bios on the name stars and director Ron Underwood, some pretty useless "Production Photos", as well as a collection of trailers, both for this flick and its less successful but still entertaining sequel, Tremors 2: Aftershocks.
It's worth noting that this disc has recently been bundled with another rousing Universal action-horror-comedy, The Mummy (1999), in a DVD Value Pack that will provide hours of entertainment at the cost of either of the discs purchased individually. Not that I'm bitter or anything.
Dr. Freex, 1/11/2001