Universal // 1990 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 6th, 2007
"Can you fly?!!"
One of my favorite all-time creature features tunnels to the high-def era and this judge couldn't be happier.
Best friends and business partners Val (Kevin Bacon, The Woodsman) and Earl (Fred Ward) are looking to finally bolt the jerkwater town of Perfection, Nevada and seek a new life in greener pastures when they fin themselves embroiled in a bizarre series of attacks on the residents.
A mysterious creature ahs been ravaging livestock and killing people, and Val and Earl, good sports they are, poke around. They are stunned to discover that the source of all the mayhem is a never-before-seen species of carnivorous, subterranean prehistoric worms.
With the help of a know-it-all researcher (Finn Carter) and a pair of paranoid, gun-lovers (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire), Val and Earl declare war on these lethal worms, and set out to prove which species will earn the right to survive in the godforsaken wasteland that is rural Nevada.
Who doesn't love Tremors? Actually, don't answer that. I don't want to know in case I ever meet that person and feel compelled to punch him in the kidneys. This 1990 scifi/comedy/light-horror mini-epic is such a great little feature and ceaselessly entertaining no matter how many times I catch it on TV (and that's a lot of times).
What's great about Tremors is the way the filmmakers have taken their off-beat premise of creatures that attack from under the ground, and squeezed every conceivable gag and concept out of it, enough to generate a series of situations that are varied and awesome. How many ways can you kill a "graboid?" Well, there are a few ways actually, and each time one of the signature monsters shuffles loose the mortal coil it's in entertaining fashion. Getting to that point is a challenge, though, and likewise, the characters are put into a number of predicaments where they'll have to play by the graboid rules -- they're blind, they have an acute sense of hearing, they can't burrow through solid rock -- to emerge victorious. When the monsters finally do lay siege to Perfection all of these rules will be put into play, and lead to great sequences involving a riding lawnmower distraction, Kevin Bacon doing the Texas two-step with a tentacle, going fishing with explosives, a desperate escape plan with a bulldozer, and a kick-ass shootout with an elephant gun. And much, much more.
Add to all those good times a witty script, quirky characters powered by actors totally invested in the quirkiness and giving it their all, great -- and practical! -- special effects and a plot that picks up steam steadily as it moves forward, culminating in a relentless third act, and there is no surprise why some (okay, me) consider Tremors a masterpiece. Of course, the less said about the atrocious sequels, the better, but whatever.
In its HD debut, the film looks fantastic. A few scenes are jumpy, but by and large this is a killer transfer. Picture quality is sharp throughout and between the earthy tones of the desert setting and the bright red graboid blood, the color palette is vivid and rendered with great spunk. In short, this is one of Universal's sharper catalog releases for HD-DVD and should be pure eye candy for any fan of the film. TrueHD and Digital Plus 5.1 mixes push the sound, and both sound great, active and clean and well put-together for a movie that boasts some great audio work. A solid technical offering on both ends for Universal.
The extras are the same bits from the DVD release -- outtakes, a lengthy making-of, interview-heavy feature, the original promotional featurette, profiles on the stars -- and are nice and all, but a film with this kind of cult following would be perfect for spiffier interactive HD supplementals. Alas.
Tremors rules and has never looked or sounded sweeter than its HD incarnation. If only we got some upgraded bonus material as well...
Not guilty. Hand me the elephant gun.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (Widescreen)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Making-of Documentary
* Promotional Feature
* Star Profiles