Tremors opens up with Kevin Bacon finishing up a bout of morning urination. As he does this, his credit pops up next to him, alerting us to the fact that, yes, this is Kevin Bacon, at the height of his fame, starting off a movie by emptying his bladder.
This may explain why he didn’t show up for any of the sequels.
At any rate, Kevin’s character is called Valentine, and his partner is called Earl, and they have slept out under the stars in the back of a pickup.
The movie lopes along for a few minutes, trying to get us to love these two lunkheads, who do odd jobs for bits of cash. They argue over who’s cooking breakfast, and settle the decision with a round of rock/paper/scissors. They put up some fencing.
Then they drive along discussing the fact that Valentine never thinks ahead. This goes on for another 30 seconds or so, when the boys spot the new grad student, who Val remembers is supposed to be a girl.
They drive over to meet her while Val rattles off an impressively pig-headed list of fantasy body parts he wants the grad student to have. But, of course, it turns out that she’s pretty normal looking.
If you live in Hollywood. Which should have a sign at the airport reading, “Welcome to Hollywood. You are now a six.”
The new grad student is named Rhonda, and she studies seismographs. It seems she’s been getting some strange readings. Val and Earl say they’ll ask around in town.
Then they head off to town.
In town (population 14, according to the sign), we meet:
Burt: A survivalist.
Burt’s wife, Heather: A survivalist’s wife.
Chang: Local shopkeeper, Asian.
Melvin: Sullen, basketball-tossing teenager.
Since all these people have names and personality traits, I guess we can safely assume most of them will survive.
Now we pop over to Rhonda, who buries a seismograph in the ground, then fails to notice when the little ticker that says, “Hey, dude! Activity!” goes off. We also get the first shot of creature-cam.
Funny thing, though. The creatures in this movie are under the ground. But creature-cam sits slightly above the ground, which makes it appear as if the underground creatures throw up a tiny periscope-type eye in order to track their prey.
We get a moment of suspense, but since Rhonda is the only love interest available in the movie, she gets to live.
Back with Val and Earl, more odd jobs are accomplished. Earl is talking about getting out of this podunk town, once and for all. He’s finally convinced that it’s time to move on when the septic tank emptying device they’re working with sprouts a leak and covers them both in human waste.
Amazing. Twelve minutes into the flick and we’ve already had number one and number two. The bodily function gold mine has just about been tapped out.
Earl and Val pack up and prepare to leave town. They have a short chat with Nancy, local single mom, and Mindy, her pogo-sticking daughter. She tries to ply them with work and beer.
But they say nay, and run for the border. Of the town.
This lasts right up until they spot Edgar, local drunk, sitting up on an electric tower, being all dead.
The local doctor is called, and it’s determined that Edgar died of thirst. He sat up on that pole three or four days. The doctor does not seem concerned about this in the least.
The movie then jumps to a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere, where an old dude becomes a healthy snack for… something-or-other.
Turns out the guy’s name is Fred. We learn this when Val and Earl drive past his farm and discover all his dead sheep. And his decomposing face sitting on the ground under his hat.
Val and Earl head back to town, pausing for a moment to warn some meat… I mean… um… a couple of fellows working on the highway. They tell them there’s a killer on the loose, then drive away.
The workers ignore Val and Earl, and moments later one of them jams a jackhammer through something under the ground. Blood pools up.
Final result: Two dead men on the highway, plus an avalanche blocking the road.
Val and Earl find out the phone in Chang’s is dead, and drive back to the highway to go to the next town and call the police. Only the highway is blocked by the aforementioned avalanche.
They turn around yet again, only the truck is stuck on something. Val floors it, and eventually escapes.
They head back to Chang’s, where all the surviving cast members are congregating, and make a startling discovery. A massive, snakelike tentacle with a mouth is stuck on their axle.
So they sell it to Chang for fifteen bucks.
Out in the middle of nowhere, the doctor and his wife get eaten, because the movie doesn’t need them any more.
Back in Chang’s, there is much debate about how to get help from the next town – Bixby – which is 38 miles away.
They decide to send Val and Earl on a couple of horses. They also give them guns, some bullets, and some Swiss cheese.
Really. Swiss cheese. I’m sure this will be very important to the plot at a later time. Perhaps the monsters are lactose intolerant.
At any rate, Val and Earl head out on horseback. They discover that the doctor and his wife are probably very dead, and then their horses are attacked.
So they run, and manage to escape certain death with a total dumb-luck move: jumping over a cement-sided ravine.
The creature smashes its head on the ravine, and dies.
Rhonda shows up, and the three of them spout off a bunch of pseudo-scientific jargon about what the creature may or may not be. When suddenly, Rhonda realizes that they’ve barely made it past the first 30 minutes of the movie.
So she checks her charts, and sure enough, there are three more of them out there.
They run for Rhonda’s truck, only to discover that they’re being chased. So they hop up on a rock to wait the creature out, giving them more chances to throw out science terms to keep people who claim these kinds of movies are unrealistic off balance.
Our heroes spend the night on the rock, and there’s another urination scene. Good times.
Morning comes, and they discover that the creature is still waiting for them. So they grab some convenient wooden poles and pole vault from rock to rock, finally landing in Rhonda’s truck.
Only one question: Why were the poles there, exactly?
No matter. They drive away, escaping back into town.
Everyone except the survivalists gather in Chang’s shop and debate what to do next. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, but it finally boils down to: Head to the mountains.
You know why this scene takes so long? Actors are cheap. Special effects are not. Just a little tip for you writers out there.
Debate comes to a close when everyone hears Melvin screaming outside. At first they assume he’s just fooling around, but then they all see that he’s climbed a light pole.
Chaos and screaming becomes the order of the day. This culminates with people running to various locations for safety. Rhonda loses her pants.
More discussion occurs: The have to get to the mountains, but the creatures just ate part of Val and Earl’s truck, so that’s a no-go.
Suddenly, Chang’s cooler starts squealing, which draws on the creatures right to the middle of Chang’s store. The beast bursts through the floor, and eats Chang. I’d do a bit about Asian take-out here, but honestly, it just doesn’t seem polite. He was fully half of the minority population of the town.
Out in the middle of more nowhere, Burt and Heather return home, having found nothing. They head to the basement, and Heather fires up a shell casing cleaner, which draws the creatures out thanks to lots of noisy vibrations.
Val tries to warn them about what they’re facing via CB radio, but it’s too late – Burt and Heather are forced to shoot one of the monsters over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over… you get the idea.
Finally, after much gunfire, one more creature is dead.
It looks like everything is going to be okay, and then the creatures start futzing around with the bottom of various buildings. They know that there’s food on top of them, they just aren’t sure how to get at it.
So they start knocking things over.
Much like dogs, they are encouraged in their work when they receive a tasty treat, in the form of a fellow who topples from the roof of his trailer house, which we now know are useless against both tornadoes and large worm-like beasties.
Realizing that they all need to get out of town before the deadly worms get to them, a plan comes together. They’ll take the “Cat,” a 30-ton hunk of construction equipment, attach a massive trailer to it, and drag everyone out of town and up to the mountains.
Only the Cat is about a half mile away, as the crow flies.
They fire up a little tractor and have it drive away on it’s own, while Val makes a run for the Cat. Unfortunately, the tractor hits a bump and topples, leaving Val stranded several yards away from the Cat, standing stock-still to avoid being heard by the things that go bump in the night and then eat you.
The rest of the townsfolk make a lot of noise to draw the creature away, and Val makes it to the Cat, attaches a trailer to it, and rolls out.
Everyone hops on board, including Burt and Heather, who spent their time trapped on the roof making pipe bombs. I know that sounds like a euphemism, but it’s not.
The crew heads for the mountains, and it looks like everything is going to be okay – right up until they drop the Cat into a pit trap that the monsters made.
Everyone previously sitting on the Cat race up onto the trailer. They try to shoot one of the creatures bent on eating them, and Burt tosses a lit pipe bomb over the side. This hurts the creatures enough to make them run away.
Since the trailer isn’t the safest place in the world, the survivors opt to make a run for a nearby rock. They toss another pipe bomb over the side of the trailer to drive the monsters away, then run for the rock.
Naturally, the little girl trips. But the movie is PG-13, so there’ll be no snacking on the little blondie today.
Once everyone is safe on the rocks, talks break down quickly. The survivalists are mad that they got dragged out into the middle of nowhere, and can’t make a proper stand. So they take it out on Val and Earl. Which is sort of like getting mad at a really stupid puppy. Sure, it piddles on the carpet, but you knew it was an idiot before you bought it…
Ultimately, Burt determines that rather than starve, he’d prefer to light a pipe bomb, walk out and let the creatures take him.
Earl thinks this is a great idea, but decides to vary it a bit – by lighting a pipe bomb, typing it to the end of a rope, and fishing for the creatures.
This plan works the first time – one of the beasts grabs the bomb and it blows his head clean off.
The second creature, however, spits the bomb out, and it lands in the sack of remaining bombs. Frankly, if terrifying small towns doesn’t work out for the beast, it could probably be a quarterback in the NFL. And honestly, wouldn’t, “Killer Prehistoric Creature” look great on your fantasy football roster?
At any rate, everyone survives the blast by running to the other side of the rock. Except Val, Earl, and Rhonda ran off the rock. Which you would expect from Val and Earl, but Rhonda has a college education. Perhaps there’s a reason she got sent to the middle of nowhere for her graduate work – her professors think she’s a moron and they don’t want her around.
The rest of the folks back on the rocks make noise to try to attract the giant worm-o-death, but it doesn’t work. So Val opts to run away. But he opts to run away really fast, so that’s in his favor.
Okay, his actual plan is, run to the nearby cliff, stand at the edge, wait for the monster to come racing at him, throw the final lit bomb behind the monster, and scare it into diving through/off the cliff.
And what do you know? It works.
As this happens, Val yells out, “Can you fly, you sucker? Can you fly?” I mention this because it will be important roughly two movies from now.
Later, Val and Earl are putting some new tires on their truck. They banter back and forth about how they need to make some phone calls, try to get into People magazine. Or National Geographic.
I’m glad that the fact that they saw two of their friends getting eaten in front of them earlier that day isn’t preventing them from thinking big.
A nod to how things wrapped up is in the background, by the way, in the form of a single police car, and an officer who appears to be portrayed by someone’s 14-year-old son.
Rhonda produces a camera and takes a picture of Val and Earl. She’s also very excited about the fact that she’s going to be involved in the research that will come with the discovery of the creature. Good gravy, these people are astonishingly un-traumatized by all the death.
Bunch of sociopaths, frankly.
Val and Rhonda banter for a bit, and Rhonda walks off. Finally, Val steals his nerves, races up, and kisses Rhonda.
This of course leaves the story with only one important loose end: Since the guy who runs the ONLY store in town is now dead, where are the remaining members of the town going to buy their stuff?