Just Look Away

Posted on February 11, 2011

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Tremors

“Here it is Monday, and I’m already thinking about Wednesday. It is Monday, isn’t it?”

This 1990 monster movie has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where 62% of respondents reported liking it. It may be the best movie I’ve reviewed so far.

Why Bother?

“We plan ahead so that way we don’t do anything right now. Earl explained it to me.”

First off, this is campy monster fun made with panache. It has canny writing and snappy pacing. So it’s just a good movie.

Second, it has a terrific cast that includes Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Michael Gross, Reba McIntyre, and Victor Wong.

Third, if you still play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, this movie is critical. Fred Ward and Michael Gross have worked with so many people that this movie is a key link in the game.

I watched it

“What kind of fuse is that?” – Earl Bassett

“A cannon fuse.” – Burt Gummer

“What the Hell do you use it for?” – Earl

“My cannon.” – Burt

Valentine “Val” Mckee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are handymen in Perfection, Nevada, a desert town with one road in, and one road out. The movie takes us through a typical morning in their sorry lives, introducing the townsfolk and a grad student studying seismology. The two men pick the wrong day to leave town in search of better employment. One day earlier, and they would have escaped the attack of gigantic, prehistoric worms.

The movie goes through the normal pattern of B-grade monster films without a trace of irony or contempt. Strange deaths and disappearances occur. At first, they blame the deaths on a crazy serial killer. Eventually they realize that something stranger is happening. After they figure out that the monsters are real, and literal, they have to figure out how to stay alive – and how to fight back.

The Verdict

“Everybody knows about them; we just didn’t tell you.”

Movie writers and directors should note two things about this movie. First, notice the characters. The production team hired some fantastic character actors who bring their parts to life with very little screen time. That said, they do get screen time. The writers and director take the time to introduce us to the cast and and to develop their relationships. That carries us through the rest of the film.

Second, it’s very clear that the creators loved their characters and this movie. If you have to be ironic about your subject matter, then you don’t really respect or love it, and the audience will know. Your irony and contempt make your movie worse, perhaps even unwatchable. Work with genuine love for your characters and your audience will forgive a lot.

No movie is perfect, but if you like campy, ‘50s, horror movies then you really ought to see Tremors. If you do, you can skip the sequels. They’re fun enough to watch if they’re on SyFy or some other channel, but I wouldn’t set out to acquire them on purpose.

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