TREMORS (1990) – Arrow Video Limited Edition Blu-Ray

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TREMORS (1990)
Directed by Ron Underwood
Arrow Video Limited Edition Boxset in 4K UHD and Blu-Ray

Sick of fixing fences and moving rubbish working as odd job men, Val and Earl dream about leaving the small, dusty town of Perfection for a better life in the larger, neighbouring town full of promise. However, it seems fate has other plans as the day they decide to make a break for it and leave their old lives behind is the day they find themselves and their neighbours being hunted by gigantic dirt worms with insatiable appetites! Nicknamed graboids by local convenience store owner, Walter Chang, the serpentine-like creatures turn Perfection into a living hell as the community fight for survival from these destructive, killer creatures.

TREMORS is a ground-breaking (buh-dum-sssh), modern, comedy-horror monster movie that harks back to the creature features of old in a fresh, intimate way that will have you rooting for the small community as they fight back in a bid for survival.

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward are perfect as the simple-life handymen duo turn action heroes as the minuscule population of Nevada desert town, Perfection, finds itself cut off from the outside world and in fear of their lives. When their neighbours turn up dead in strange and grisly ways, Val (Bacon) and Earl (Ward) are concerned there’s a killer on the loose, not realising that the culprit is a set of gigantic creatures living under the dirt. When they finally come face-to-face with a graboid in the flesh, they rally the community to hatch a plan to defeat the creatures and survive their onslaught, but must put their heads together and use their skills to prevent Perfection’s population from declining further. So much for having the guts to leave town!

There’s lots of comic relief here provided by the rich lineup of characters which compliments the horror element well. The likeable duo of young, enthusiastic Val and the experienced and wiser Earl make this a winner from the start with their bromance banter an endearing quality. We’ve also got the gun-toting survivalist couple, Bert and Heather Gummer, who’s basement is basically an armoury and the threat of extinction is seemingly something they’ve preparing for their entire marriage. Then there’s the addition of research student Rhonda, who may be an outsider but becomes every bit a part of Perfection as she uses her knowledge to help overcome their sandworm problem, joining Val and Earl to become the leading trio of the film. Even Val’s disappointment at the not-so-buxom nor blonde-haired Rhonda begins to wane as he starts to get to know her better, igniting a bit of chemistry in the movie between the two characters but without forcing it down the viewers’ neck.

The small town creates an intimate setting for the characters and the monsters to face-off in. This works much better than say a larger town or city. I mean, imagine if Perfection gets wiped out and then the graboids either move along to the next town or just wipe out anyone who’s travelling through? It’s a terrifying prospect which puts the survival of this community on a precipice as, if they fail, not only will they lose their lives but the creatures could continue to kill beyond Perfection. The desolate landscape, albeit stunning to behold with the mountain backdrop, only adds to the isolation of the characters – they really are on their own in this battle.

What is heart-warming about TREMORS is that here’s a movie that embraces teamwork. There’s no wicked characters here – the only villain is the monsters beneath the ground which is a rarity in cinema as usually there’s at least one bad egg in the group who’s trying to sabotage their pals in order to further their own chances of survival. In Perfection, folk do things differently. This puts us firmly behind Val, Earl, Rhonda and the residents’ quest for survival as they all pitch in together to make it work.

When it comes to creating tension and a monster we can fear, TREMORS seems to have crafted the perfect reveal. The film manages to build up the threat of the Graboids slowly in the first half of the movie by drip-feeding victims before the first full reveal. The battle is finally on in the latter half with some tremendous visual effects that any creature fan will surely adore. From their snapping jaws to their tentacle-like reach grabbing everything they can lay their grasp on, the graboids are a fearsome enemy. Their size and ability to strike from underground at any moment is a scary prospect for anyone watching. What can our heroes do to survive when they can’t walk on the ground and aren’t even safe on their roof?! I’m sure I’m not the only one who pondered what I’d do in their shoes if faced with the same enemy.

An absolute hoot and thrill from start to finish, TREMORS is just one of those movies that you can sit back and enjoy; a feel-good monster movie with classic attributes and a splash of comedy to go with it.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Arrow Video have released a breathtaking 2-disc limited edition boxset of the film, featuring a slick 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Ron Underwood and director of photography Alexander Gruszynski in which the colours absolutely pop and make you feel as though you’re stood in the sweltering desert heat yourself. The film also features restored DTS-HD MA original theatrical 2.0 stereo, 4.0 surround, and remixed 5.1 surround audio options, whilst optional English subtitles are available for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Inside the set, you’ll find a 60-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Kim Newman and Jonathan Melville and selected archive materials, as well as a large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank and a small fold-out double-sided poster featuring new Graboid X-ray art by Matt Frank. It also includes six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards whilst the Limited Edition packaging features a reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank.

 

Both discs of the TREMORS limited edition release from Arrow Video feature an abundance of extras that any Tremors fan will simply adore.

Disc One

Film commentary by director Ron Underwood and writers Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson who share their experiences in creating the film and the ideas behind their choices, everything from the characters to the locations.

Film commentary by Tremors expert Jonathan Melville, who wrote the book Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors and who’s passion for the movie he’s seen countless times truly comes through.

Making Perfection – A new 31 minute documentary by Universal Pictures about the making of the film features new interviews with cast and crew including Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Ariana Richards and more. They discuss what it was like making the low budget film and how a few of the cast were nervous about the film but liked the script enough. They then go on to discuss how the film bombed at the box office before finding itself a cult classic on home video. Kevin Bacon is brutally honest about his career at that point as well as his initial concerns but clearly has a lot of love and good memories about the movie. Of course, being involved in the sequels, Michael Gross has thrown himself 100% into the character of Bert Gummer and the embraced the IP fully. The interviews contain some great snippets of trivia from the film shoot too.

The Truth About Tremors – A newly filmed interview with co-producer Nancy Roberts who discusses the film’s rocky road to success. At 22 minutes long, Nancy talks about how Tremors was subsequently taken on after Short Circuit and spent 6 years being touted before being picked up by Universal due to most people not understanding the film and its blend of genres rather than being a straight comedy or horror. Nothing about Tremors sounds easy but from a passionate group of filmmakers/writers backed by Nancy’s commitment to their talent and ideas, Tremors finally made it to where it is today.

Bad VibrationsDirector of photography Alexander Gruszynski discusses the shooting approach to Tremors in this newly-shot 10 minute interview. Taking inspirations from Westerns, seeing as Tremors is set in the daylight in the desert, the shots had to be thought out, especially as the creature FX were used in real-time on set and after one use would become clogged with dust.

Aftershocks and Other Rumblings – A newly filmed interview with associate producer and second unit producer Ellen Collett. Clocking in at just over 12 minutes, Ellen discusses the struggles with the mechanical effects, as well as giving an overview of her personal career history prior to getting involved with Tremors, a film that resulted in her engagement to Alexander Gruszynski.

Digging in the Dirt: The Visual Effects of TremorsA new, 21 minute featurette about the film’s extensive visual effects with the former crews of Fantasy II Film VFX and 4-Ward Productions VFX shows how they utilised miniature sets and in-camera effects to pull off the ideas that had been present in the storyboard, as well as additional visual effects like bullet hits and dust elements. It’s fascinating to listen to their stories and see the clips of their work bringing the ideas to life.

Music For Graboids – A new 13 minute audio interview/video featurette about the film’s score from composers Ernest Troost and Robert Folk. Having worked on a few films for Roger Corman, Troost was hired for Tremors and discusses how he opted for bluesey rock and cinematic sci-fi for Val and Earl, and the Graboid scenes respectively. Folk discusses how he came onboard to do some other orchestral music for the film, with Troost’s score only being used partially, and was told to ramp the music up somewhat.

The Making of Tremors – A 44 minute documentary from 1996, directed by Laurent Bouzereau, which sees the filmmaking trio, Underwood, Maddock and Wilson, and special effects teams discuss the creation of Tremors, initially dreamt up as Land Sharks.

Creature Featurette –  A 10 minute compilation of on-set camcorder footage to music showing the making of the Graboid creatures. This is a great watch for those curious as to how the mechanical creatures and puppets were put together as well as how they executed certain shots.

Deleted Scenes – Four deleted scenes (5 minutes in total), formerly listed as Outtakes on previous releases, including the original opening scene of the film.

Pardon My French! – A newly assembled, 16 minute compilation of overdubs which were recorded for the network television version of the film. This includes dubbing of some cuss words and taking the Lord’s name vain and a reduction of violence. In this compilation, clips of the theatrical version are shown against the network version so you can see the changes that were made.

Electronic Press Kit – Universal Pictures produced a series of short featurettes to promote the theatrical release of the film, with a profile for Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Reba McEntire. The main featurette, which is an overview, is just under 4 minutes long whilst each of the profiles is just over 2 minutes apiece.

Trailer Gallery –  Two trailers, TV spots, VHS Promo, Radio Spots and Tremors franchise trailers for sequels 2 to 7.

Image Galleries – A variety of image galleries from Tremors including production stills, behind the scenes, laserdisc image gallery, screenplays (scans of draft 6, 1988 and draft 8b, 1989), storyboards and poster & video artwork.

 

Disc Two

Extended Interviews from Making Perfection – this includes selectable interviews with Ron Underwood (director) (48 mins), S.S. Wilson (writer/producer) (1 hour 21 mins), Brent Maddock (writer/producer) (1 hour 3 mins), Nancy Roberts (agent for Ron Underwood, S. S. Wilson and Brent Maddock) (50 mins) and Alec Gillis (creature effects designer and creator) (59 mins). These extensive interviews discuss how each individual got into filmmaking, their influences and then ultimately how they came to Tremors and their involvement in it. Ray Harryhausen’s name pops up a few times as an influence, in particular for Alec Gillis. These insightful interviews give some really great background to the individuals who created Tremors and how it all came together.

ArcLight Hollywood Q&A showcases the Pre-Film Q&A with the cast (26 mins) and the Post-Film Q&A with the crew (45 mins) at the 25th anniversary hosted at the ArcLight in Hollywood in 2015, shot by Tremors expert Jonathan Melville. As this was shot in a cinema auditorium, it’s on the dark side and audio isn’t the clearest but it’s still very decent and doesn’t ruin the experience. It’s great to have such an event recorded with an abundance in cast and crew turning up that they had to have two Q&A’s hence the two separate ones.

Gag Reel – The gag reel comes with a choice of introduction and commentary by S.S. Wilson (11 mins) or using the original audio (10 mins). Some of these are outtakes, slips ups and others just behind-the-scenes bits. I preferred watching S.S. Wilson’s version as he gives background on a lot of the scenes but you can still here much of the original audio too so you’re not missing out. It’s also thanks to S. S. Wilson that this outtake reel made it to home release as special features weren’t a thing back when the film was shot so it was Wilson who put all this together. The quality of the footage isn’t great but it still contains so great bits in it, like Kevin and Fred ad-libbing at the bar about Val’s balls shrivelling up.

Early Short Films – This includes Recorded Live, Dictionary: The Adventure of Words, and Library Report.

Recorded Live (1975) is S. S. Wilson’s horror comedy student film presented by USC School of Cinematic Arts. At 8 minutes long, Recorded Live involves heavy use of stop-motion for a fun, creative short creature feature that will have you glued to the screen, mostly likely with a huge grin across your face as there was on mine. The story involves Mr Aaines (John Goodwin) who receives an invitation to a job interview at a TV station however when he arrives at the station, he finds himself in a fight for survival.

Dictionary: The Adventure of Words is an educational film directed by Brent Maddock, produced by Ron Underwood and features stop motion animation from S. S. Wilson. This 16 minute film is a brilliant way of encouraging kids, and adults too to be honest, into utilising the dictionary to find the spelling of words, meanings, history, pronunciation and synonyms. It focuses on a boy who scores an F on his school report and is told to check his spelling and look up new words. The directory on his bookshelf comes to life and starts to educate the young boy about the joys and benefits of using a dictionary. The stop-motion here is fantastic and I couldn’t help but be drawn into the film, even to the point of wanting to pick up a dictionary myself! If only all educational films were shot this well!

Library Report is another educational film, this time directed by Ron Underwood but also once again featuring the stop-motion animation talents of S. S. Wilson who also takes writing duties. The animated robot character later inspired Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson’s screenplay for Short Circuit. At 24 minutes long, the film focuses on Beverley who has to do a library report for school but is too lazy to do it. With the film set in the future, her house is operated by Kingpin, a supercomputer who controls all the automation in the house as well as a rubbish-collecting bot. She thinks she can simply task Kingpin to write her four-page paper but he quickly informs her that he’s incapable of doing so and instructs and encourages her how to write her own, from deciding on which topic to base it on to researching it, citing sources and organising the structure. Beverley complains and digs her heels in at times, but Kingpin’s words finally get through as she ends up writing the entire paper herself. The cute stop-motion animation of Kingpin and the other robot in the house really engages the viewer with its blend of fun and educational insights. I can definitely see how kids would sit, listen and take on board the recommendations made by Kingpin. Even I began to rethink my approach to writing. You’re never too old to learn and get better!

Without a shadow of a doubt, this is a must-have, comprehensive set for any fan of Tremors with plenty of new features for fans to sink their teeth into.

About Bat 7676 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: Tembo: The Badass Elephant, Yakuza Zero and Payday 2.

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