Revisiting Tremors (1990) - A Cheesy (Brilliant) Cult Classic

Revisiting Tremors (1990) - A Cheesy (Brilliant) Cult Classic

Bursting out of the desert sand in 1990, Tremors quickly became a cult favourite thanks to its wacky blend of comedy, horror, and sci-fi. Starring Kevin Bacon , Fred Ward as handymen, alongside Finn Carter battling giant man-eating worms in a remote Nevada town, Tremors joyfully played with genre tropes while scaring up laughs.

Over 30 years later, does this creature feature hold up for modern audiences? Let's unravel Tremors' enduring legacy as a nostalgic and delightfully cheesy B-movie.

An Offbeat Monster Movie Premise

The concept behind Tremors was basically "Jaws meets Frankenstein meets cowboy humour." Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward play Val and Earl, two handymen looking to leave their dull desert town of Perfection, Nevada, behind for bigger opportunities.

But their plans get derailed when mysterious underground monsters start attacking the townsfolk. Val and Earl join forces with a motley crew of fellow survivors to battle the horrific Graboid creatures and avoid becoming worm food.

"Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn't ya, you bastard!" - Burt Gummer

Tremors stood out from standard horror fare thanks to its quirky characters, witty dialogue, and melding of horror with western and sci-fi genres. The Graboids put a fresh spin on monster movie tropes by creating a below-ground threat.

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward

A Cult Following Takes Hold

Upon release in 1990, Tremors was only a modest box office hit. But it quickly gained traction as a cult favourite thanks to cable TV airings and word-of-mouth about its creative creature effects.

The practical effects brought the Graboids to squirming, thrashing life in delightfully gory fashion. And the cast's natural chemistry and comedic sensibilities helped turn the horror premise into an entertaining romp.

Repeat home video rentals and syndicated TV broadcasts throughout the 1990s allowed Tremors to gain more followers. The film eventually spawned a lucrative franchise with several sequels, a prequel, and even a short-lived TV series.

Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward

Why Tremors Became a Cult Hit

So what qualities allowed this oddball creature feature to take hold as a pop culture phenomenon?

  • It played to B-movie tropes in a tongue-in-cheek way while also showing genuine affection for them. The film relished its schlocky premise rather than playing it straight.
  • Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward had an authentic everyman chemistry as Val and Earl that gave the film heart amidst the carnage.
  • The Graboids were creative and terrifying monsters that built tension through a slow reveal and never showing too much.
  • It balanced gruesome horror with plenty of oddball humour to keep things entertaining.
  • A cast of memorable supporting characters, like survivalist Burt Gummer, added quirkiness.
  • The western flair and desert setting gave Tremors an original backdrop compared to most creature features.

Tremors struck a winning balance between a loving send-up and a suspenseful creature feature that made it instantly endearing to genre fans. It felt like a labour of love by creators who relished horror and sci-fi.

The Cast of Tremors

Signature Elements That Defined Tremors

Certain elements of Tremors cemented its status as a cult favorite worth revisiting again and again:

The Graboids

The hideous, worm-like Graboids are the obvious star attraction. Their subterranean attacks, serpentine movement, and penchant for completely devouring victims made them terrifying yet fun. The creature designs were fantastically brought to life through coordinated stunt work and animatronics.

Burt Gummer

Michael Gross goes all in as over-the-top survivalist Burt Gummer, a gun nut obsessed with his arsenal of weapons. He provided much needed comic relief while also being vital to battling the Graboids. Gross' performance was so popular Burt became the only character to appear in every Tremors sequel and series.

Val and Earl's Chemistry

Val and Earl's blue-collar buddy chemistry helps ground the story and gives the ensemble heart. Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward make a great reluctant hero odd couple, trading dry one-liners and bickering like an old married couple. Their acting keeps the premise believable.

The Setting

The Nevada desert makes an evocative backdrop, with the dusty, isolated town of Perfection becoming a supporting character in itself. The Western frontier throwback setting gives Tremors texture.

Practical Effects

The puppetry and prosthetics that bring the Graboids to life are a huge part of the film's appeal. Seeing the creatures thrash and wriggle across the desert floor through analog effects looks far better than any CGI ever could.

Reba McEntire and Michael Gross

Does Tremors Still Deliver Cheesy Fun Today?

For cult movie fans, Tremors endures as a nostalgic and highly rewatchable romp. It lovingly embraces the inherent goofiness of its premise without ever becoming overly ironic or detached.

But how does it hold up today for mainstream audiences less familiar with its charms?

  • The visual effects are quite dated, with the Graboids sometimes seeming like obviously coordinated puppets. But if you embrace the campiness, this can add to the fun.
  • The plot moves at a methodical pace, focusing more on character moments than action. Modern viewers may find it slow compared to today's rapid-cut horror films.
  • The humor retains its quirky appeal rather than feeling too dated or corny. The likeable characters keep things grounded.
  • Once the Graboids start their attacks, the tension and suspense hold up well thanks to tight editing and direction.
  • The western flavor gives Tremors an original personality missing from many modern monster movies.

So while some aspects like the effects show their age, embracing the film's cheeky sensibilities allows Tremors to still provide a wildly entertaining creature feature romp. It remains endearingly odd rather than just schlocky.

Kevin Bacon with the Iconic Nevada backdrop

Why Tremors Retains Its Cult Cred

Revisiting Tremors proves that while certain elements feel dated, its oddball world continues to provide a fun escape 30 years later. Here are some of the key reasons Tremors retains such affection from its cult following:

  • The practical effects add a grimy, analogue charm that CGI can't replicate.
  • Val and Earl remain one of horror's most likeable hero duos.
  • The clever Graboid designs and unique attack style still deliver thrills.
  • An affable ensemble cast that includes memorable oddballs like Burt Gummer.
  • A loving sendup of genre tropes that rides the line between horror and comedy.
  • Drags audiences into its weird world through strong character building before unleashing the monsters.
  • Balancing gore, suspense, and humor at a steady pace that builds investment.
  • Dusty Southwestern setting provides an evocative backdrop that pops off the screen.

Tremors endures because it took a premise that could have been schlocky B-movie fodder and molded it into something packed with heart and character. Its creators' obvious affection for sci-fi and horror shines through to create a creature feature love letter that still delivers escapist fun in all its cheesy glory.

Conclusion: An Endearing Creature Feature Romp

When Tremors hit theaters in 1990, it seemed destined for quick obscurity as just another quirky horror flick. But its potent mix of humor, western flavor, lovable characters, and unique creature designs helped it burst out of the desert sands and into the hearts of genre fans everywhere.

While certain effects and stylistic choices unavoidably date the film, embracing Tremors' eccentricities allows its charms to still shine through for modern audiences. It's a showcase for lovingly crafted practical effects and puppetry that CGI struggles to replicate.

Tremors endures because it tackled its absurd premise with wit, heart and a contagious sense of fun rather than just camp mockery. This balance of scares and laughs within a western monster-hunting setting makes revisiting Tremors a nostalgic joy. Its inherent oddness allows it to remain culturally relevant in ways few B-movies achieve.

So for audiences looking for a creature feature that blends horror, humor and a big heart, Tremors still delivers the goods. It's a classic example of how crafting memorable characters and utilizing practical effects can allow even the most exaggerated premise to become beloved pop culture. Tremors remains the little monster movie that could - chewing up scenery and leaving smiles on viewers' faces with every viewing.