Tremors Review

The people of Perfection are awesome. They know grad student Rhonda (Finn Carter) should know everything about the underground critters, affectionately dubbed “Graboids.” The genre staple scientist knows all, right?

But she doesn’t. It takes what seems to be a contrivance, the seismologist who just happens to be working the desert when the creatures make their presence known, and flips it upside down. The towns people ask, “Aren’t you supposed to have a theory or something?” They’re right you know, that is her character trait, but Rhonda later replies, “Why do you keep asking me?”

It’s the ’50s sci-fi movie brought into the modern age, quickly dashing hopes of explaining where they came from or why they exist, the slight nod to radiation appreciated. Tremors is just flat out fun, maybe one of the best horror/comedies ever made or at least deserving of the same pedestal as Gremlins. Why not? It does everything right, providing us with enjoyable characters (including an eventual foundation builder), fantastic effects, a unique threat, and plenty of deaths to keep this one moving to its outstanding finale.

There’s a fantastic level of movie trickery on display here, the expansive outdoor set we’re told is Nevada (really California) rattling and warping to signify the movement of the creatures. It’s genius in establishing that fear of nowhere to go, the tremendous strength of these prehistoric (or are they?) creatures taking down station wagons and buildings to find their feast. Seeing Valentine (Kevin Bacon) stuck out in the middle of the desert with the mouth/tentacles seeking any sense of vibration is one of many highlights Tremors is able to produce.

Tremors does nothing wrong really. You can dock it for being “just another creature feature,” but you’re missing out on the ingenious scripting, one-liners, and some of the most well-utilized expletives in the history of cinema. Valentine and Earl (Fred Ward) are a perfect pair, and Tremors is just about a perfect Hollywood summer movie.

Movie ★★★★★ 

Universal carries over their simply atrocious HD DVD master but switches codec from VC-1 to AVC. It hardly matters. About the only visible change is slightly less edge enhancement, but that’s like saying one Graboid is less threatening than another. The mountainous backdrop to Perfection is still a giant magnet for halos, buildings are surrounded by them, and the tower poor ol’ Edgar meets his fate on is surrounded by some of the thickest bright lines this format may ever see at 13:29.

All of that sharpening ruins any shot of distance, that great photography of the desert completely butchered. However, were it only sharpening, maybe this one could have fared well enough. A heapin’ helpin’ layer of DNR has been splattered across this thing, rendering any detail a moot point. Complex scenes of rocks flicker incessantly as the camera passes by, plants might as well be mud, and people… Ha! These aren’t people; they’re blobs.

Those views of the townsfolk sitting on the rock formations trying to wait out the creatures render the actors unidentifiable. They have literally become one with the background. In close, smearing becomes evident with subtle movements, and ridges along the nose or the shirt line cause massive ringing. There is no definition here, or at least nothing that matches what the dictionary states that should mean. Any grain left can barely be called such, frozen in the backgrounds like a non-moving mass of tiny insects.

Flesh tones seem to have been elevated to compensate for something the DNR did, giving the characters a glow rather than a natural tint. A nighttime scene with Dr. Jim (Conrad Bachman) suffers from overwhelming black crush. The daytime scenes are fine although the overwhelming processing eliminates any chance of producing legitimate dimensionality. This never should have happened.

Video ★☆☆☆☆ 

A DTS-HD track doesn’t benefit the muddled audio much. There’s a serious lack of range here, the bass stuck inside what sounds like a hollow pipe, and highs flat. The audio highlight should come as one of the creatures breaks into the basement of survivalist Burt (Michael Gross), and not only from the sheer destruction by the myriad of weaponry. Guns are flat, and the massive elephant rifle barely registers anything on the low-end. Even Graboid movement underground barely causes a ruckus.

The same goes for the use of bombs late in the film, their explosive force hardly creating the tour de force they should. The surrounds activate with some aggression, splashing tossed up dirt into the rears or any scattered debris. The stereos offer the most effective use of positional audio, from Earl passing by on a bulldozer to the interior of the station wagon as it’s being drug under. The radio that is accidentally turned on passes around slightly as the camera switches positions.

Dialogue is faded, lacking in fidelity and clarity. Conversations inside the truck between Earl and Valentine are terrible, in need of significant clean-up. If Universal didn’t care about the video, they certainly didn’t care about the audio either.

Audio ★★☆☆☆ 

A making-of runs almost an hour, split into 10 parts. It’s been around for a while but is still a great watch. Outtakes are deleted scenes, not what you might be thinking, but still interesting. A series of four featurettes, one a general four-minute making of and the other three passed off as “profiles” on the actors were clearly made for promo purposes. Trailers, D-Box support, and BD-Live support remain.

Extras ★★☆☆☆