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Posted on the 28 October 2019 by Christopher Saunders
TremorsRon Underwood's Tremors (1990) enjoys a large and well-deserved cult following. Far better than any movie about killer worms has any right to be, it's an affectionate throwback to the days of Roger Corman and Bert I. Gordon, only with a far smarter script (and far more convincing effects) than those maestros of schlock ever managed.
Handymen Val McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) dream of making enough money to escape Perfection, a flyspeck Nevada town with a population of 14. Their plans are curtailed, however, by a mysterious series of disappearances and deaths. After several close scrapes, they're attacked by a giant, tentacled worm they dub Grabboids. Along with young geologist Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) and an assortment of locals, they determine to fight back by any means necessary.
At heart, Tremors is basically a Gen X spin on the old '50s B Movies about giant mutated whatsits wreaking havoc. Underwood and screenwriters Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson dutifully revisit tropes that marked the genre since Them!: the blue collar heroes, the loquacious lady scientist who keeps them grounded, the mysterious attacks building to a killer reveal. Then again, the movie sends up said tropes at the same time it employs them. There's no explanation about the Grabboids' origin, nor is there a third act appearance by soldiers to bomb the worm into oblivion; all our heroes have are their wits, and some creative mixtures of household chemicals.
The Grabboids make a memorably nasty critter, both silly and scary at once. Initially introduced as hissing, eel-like tentacles capable of dragging people, cows and even cars underground, they're soon mated to a massive worm with an insatiable appetite and an ability to learn. Admittedly, they're only as smart as the plot demands: they're clever enough to dig a trap for the heroes' bulldozer, but dumb enough to miss Val when he's standing on top of them. But the gruesome killings and the incredible creature designs (a mixture of foam casts and animatronics) more than compensate for the rough edges. 
In parts, Tremors resembles a disaster movie, with its grab bag of mismatched heroes. Val and Earl spend most of the film engaging in crude but playful banter, while Rhonda spouts semi-helpful exposition and makes goo-goo eyes at Val. The others are types, but engaging ones: Walter (Victor Wong), a store owner who tries to make a buck out of Perfection's newfound pests; Melvin (Bobby Jacoby), the requisite cocky teen; Miguel (Tony Genaro), the friendly Mexican farmer; and the Gummers (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire), a pair of survivalists who relish the opportunity to expend their arsenal on a worm that crashes into their basement.
The movie is briskly paced, though the opening scenes with Val and Earl feel a bit rambling. The action and suspense scenes are creative and varied, as our heroes cycle through various schemes, Wile E. Coyote-style, to bring the Grabboids to heel, from pole vaulting across rocks to escape detection, to feeding them homemade bombs. The cast mostly coasts by on charm (Kevin Bacon, supposedly, bemoaned that this as a sign his career was doomed!), though Michael Gross (the meek hippie dad on Family Ties) and Reba McEntire's kooky militiamen are a blast.
I've loved Tremors since I was a kid and I'm glad to say that it's still a blast today. The movie inspired a seemingly endless cycle of direct-to-video sequels and television spin-offs, some of which are watchable, some of which...aren't. But there's no beating the original for joyous, tongue-in-cheek horror.

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