Finding a monster movie that’s as fun as Tremors without being so poorly made its laughable isn’t the easiest of tasks. It’s been a basic cable staple for years and I dare you to run across it while channel surfing and not stick around for at least one worm-feeding. The first film was undoubtedly recorded from TV to VHS a countless number of times had just the right combination of gore and laughs and a premise that lent itself nicely to numerous sequels.
Tremors’ story about a small Nevada town coming to terms with the realization that they’re a buffet for giant carnivorous earthworm creatures feels like it could have been written 50 years ago. The phones are dead, the roads are blocked and the towns people must fend for their lives! It’s got all the workings of its monster movie forefathers, only with an unmistakable 90s vibe.
The 1990 movie starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as the two bickering, but still bros for life repairmen who first discover the monsters — or graboids as they dub them for lack of a better name — is celebrating its 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion and pay tribute to the only movie with Reba McEntire I’ll admit to watching, I’ve decided to take a closer look at the highs and lows of the Tremors franchise.
Tremors (1990) — This is exactly what a good B monster movie is supposed to be. The mystery of the monsters doesn’t last more than a half hour before playing out with your standard monster movie chaos of running, screaming, and arguing on top of rocks about how to escape. But its main stars, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward, have a great Odd Couple-ish rapport that adds some humor to the gory mayhem, and first-time director Ron Underwood allows the tension to build in the movie’s climax with the group pole-vaulting from rock to rock. Like nearly any monster movie pre-CGI days, it has its production faults — that cannon wall the worm blows out of looks an awful lot like cardboard — but scenes like Reba McEntire and Robert Gross breaking into a personal artillery that would make Ted Nugent cream his pants go a long way in elevating the movie’s fun factor.
Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996) Tremors 2 never made it to theaters, instead opting for the straight-to-video. Kevin Bacon’s character doesn’t return because he’s run off with Rhonda, like any guy would do when there’s only one single woman in your town and you’ve bonded over surviving a man-eating worm disaster. Earl is back though, and headed down Mexico to kill some graboids with gun-happy Burt and geologist Kate Reilly — who we find out is a Playboy centerfold, because in the Tremors universe all geologists are smoking hot. The movie’s story offers much of the same shtick as the first film, but now the worms are having monster babies that live on the land called, shriekers. And in case you were wondering how they got their name…
Tremors 3: Back to Perfection (2001) — I’ve only seen bits and pieces of it, though, based on the cover art, you know exactly what to expect. At this point in the series, nearly all of the original cast has moved on, but Burt Gummer is now a full-fledged monster worm trophy hunter and returns to Perfection, Nevada to do what he does best — blow the sh*t out of some graboids. Besides Burt being swallowed alive by a graboid and then cutting his way out of the belly like the badass he is, the most important thing to note about the third movie is the introduction of what may be the most porn-centric name for a monster ever: the ass blasters. While “ass blasters” might sound like the title of a movie that should have a double digit numeral after it, they’re part the sand worm evolution.
Tremors: The Series (2003) — Sci-Fi channel pretty much buried this series from the start (and oh man, was that pun ever intended). The episodes were aired out of order before the channel ditched the series completely and handed off the single season to be played on G4. The show picked up where Tremors 3 left off and centers on Burt butting heads with government officials who want to study the worms in episodes with perfect names like, “Shriek and Destroy” and “Graboid Rights.” While the series never lasted long and didn’t break whole lot of new ground — unless you count Burt using a stockpile of Civil War muskets to kill the worms — it did have a pre-Breaking Bad Dean Norris and Christopher Lloyd as a mad scientist, which couldn’t be more perfect casting.
Tremors 4: The Legend Begins (2004) — Yes, this is Tremors 4(!), but the producers want you to know the legend is just beginning. Those other three movies 14 years prior were just build up. The fourth film mirrors the previous entries in the franchise except for that it takes place in the Old West, because producers wanted a hook to make the film feel “wacky.” The movie tells the story of the founders of Perfection and how they were too stupid to leave their dirt town in the 1800s when they first encountered the monsters — now called dirt devils. Michael Gross returns yet again, but this time he’s using old timey guns to kill the mutant worms because naturally, he plays Burt’s great-grandfather, Hiram Gummer.
This is also the last Tremors movie to date, but the monster problem persists as the legend drags on with Tremors 5 later this year. No Kevin Bacon cameos, but Jamie Kennedy will be in it — he plays worm chum.
Dirt Dragons (2004) — Tremors was supposed to have a proper console game for Xbox and Playstation 2, but the project was abandoned by Rock Solid Studios. Instead, Tremors 4 had a flash game as part of its promotion that kind of amazingly is still around and actually sorta fun.