Davids Basement of the Bizarre

THE BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW: Tremors by Arrow Video

In 1990, director Ron Underwood brought us a monster movie that will go down as one of the best ever put to film. TREMORS came out at a time where the cycle of horror and monster movies were on a down tick, after a very successful run during the 1980s. These types of movies had been made, and remade, so many times that ticket sales were low and a movie like this was considered a risk. It’s a real shame too as TREMORS definitely deserved more fanfare when it was originally released.

The plot is simple, which is probably why it works so well. There is no scientific explanation as to where these creatures came from, and that’s fine. Though one of the characters suggests outer space, the main plot of this movie is survival. All of the characters living in Perfection, Nevada are likeable so you are really rooting for them! When someone doesn’t make it, you feel the pain that the rest of the characters experience. They want to grieve for their friends but also want to get as far away from Perfection as possible.

Earl and Val.

Valentine “Val” McKee and Earl Bassett are handymen working in Perfection, Nevada, an isolated settlement in the high desert east of the Sierra Nevada mountains. They eventually get tired of their jobs and leave for Bixby, the nearest town. As they leave, they discover the dead body of Edgar Deems, a fellow resident perched atop an electrical tower, still grasping the tower’s crossbeams and his rifle. Jim Wallace, the town’s doctor, determines that Edgar died of dehydration, apparently having been too afraid to climb down.

Later on, an unseen creature kills shepherd Fred and his flock of sheep. Val and Earl discover his severed head and believe that a serial killer is on the loose. Two construction workers ignore Val and Earl’s warning and are killed by the same creature, causing a rock slide. Val and Earl try to find help after warning the residents, but find the phone lines are dead and that the rock slide has blocked the only road out of town. Out of sight, a snakelike creature wraps itself around their truck’s rear axle; it is torn apart when Val stomps on the accelerator and drives away, and is discovered when they return to town.

Val and Earl borrow horses to ride to Bixby for help. They come upon Wallace and his wife’s buried station wagon near their trailer, but the couple is missing (having been killed the previous night). As they press on, an enormous burrowing wormlike monster suddenly erupts out of the ground, revealing the snakelike creature to be one of the worm’s many tentacled “tongues”. Thrown from their horses, the men flee with the monster in pursuit. The chase ends when the creature crashes through the concrete wall of an aqueduct, dying from the impact. Rhonda LeBeck, a graduate student conducting seismology tests in the area, stumbles onto the scene; she deduces from previous readings that there are three other worms in the area. Rhonda, Val, and Earl become trapped overnight atop a cluster of boulders near one of the worms, and surmise that the creatures hunt their prey by detecting seismic vibrations. The trio then find some discarded poles and use them to pole vault across some nearby boulders to reach Rhonda’s truck, narrowly escaping the creature.

After the three return to town, the worms attack and kill general store owner Walter Chang, forcing everyone to hide on the town’s various rooftops. Meanwhile, survivalist couple Burt and Heather Gummer manage to kill one of the creatures after unwittingly luring it to their basement armory. In town, the two remaining worms start attacking the building foundations; they knock over a trailer Nestor is standing on, allowing them to drag him under and devour him. Realizing they must leave town, Earl, Rhonda, and Miguel distract the monsters while Val commandeers a track loader and chains a semi-trailer to the rear. The survivors use it to try and escape to a nearby mountain range. En route, both worms create a sinkhole trap that disables the track loader, and the survivors flee to some nearby boulders for safety.

Burt and Heather.

The group begins to lose hope of escape until Earl gets an idea to trick the worms into swallowing Burt’s homemade pipe bombs. The strategy kills one worm, but the last one spits a bomb back towards the survivors, forcing them to disperse as the explosion sets off and destroys all but one of the remaining bombs. Val lures the final worm into chasing him to the edge of a cliff and then explodes the remaining bomb behind it, frightening the worm into charging through the cliff face, where it plummets to its death onto the rocks below. The group returns to town and call in the authorities to begin an investigation, while Earl encourages Val to pursue a romantic relationship with Rhonda.

I first became aware of Arrow Video when I reviewed their Gamera: The Complete Collection boxed set from 2020. Prior to getting this amazing set, Criterion was the company to get deluxe releases from. I am actually enjoying the Arrow releases much better! The packaging and extras from Arrow are quickly setting the bar! This release came out in December of 2020 and though I did not get it until March, 2021, this title was certainly a great way to end the year.

The movie itself looks the best it ever has and still stands up quite well, over 40 years later. One of the showcases here are the pre-CGI monster effects, all done live on screen. Not only are the creatures very realistically portrayed, making them perform, especially under the sand and soil, must have been daunting. Never do you think that these creatures are latex and wire armatures.

The bonus material on this set never seems to stop. Just look at what is included:

A MONSTER MOVIE THAT BREAKS NEW GROUND IN 4K ULTRA HD!

Good-ol-boy handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) are sick of their dead-end jobs in one-horse desert town Perfection, Nevada (population: 14). Just as they re about to escape Perfection forever, however, things start to get really weird: half-eaten corpses litter the road out of town; the phone lines stop working; and a plucky young scientist shows evidence of unusually strong seismic activity in the area. Something is coming for the citizens of Perfection and it s under the goddamn ground!

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS New 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Ron Underwood & director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
60-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Kim Newman & Jonathan Melville & selected archive materials
Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original & newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank + Small fold-out double-sided poster featuring new Graboid X-ray art by Matt Frank
Six double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproduction artcards
Limited Edition packaging w/ reversible sleeve featuring original & newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank

DISC 1 FEATURE & EXTRAS (4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY)
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
Restored DTS-HD MA original theatrical 2.0 stereo, 4.0 surround, & remixed 5.1 surround audio options
Optional English subtitles
New audio commentary by director Ron Underwood & writers/producers Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson
New audio commentary by Jonathan Melville, author of Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors
Making Perfection, a brand new documentary by Universal Pictures interviewing key cast & crew from the franchise (including Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Ariana Richards, Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson, among many others) & revisiting the original locations
The Truth About Tremors, a newly filmed interview w/ co-producer Nancy Roberts on the film s rocky road to the screen
Bad Vibrations, a newly filmed interview w/ director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
Aftershocks & Other Rumblings, newly filmed on-set stories from associate producer Ellen Collett
Digging in the Dirt, a new featurette interviewing the crews behind the film s extensive visual effects
Music for Graboids, a new featurette on the film s music with composers Ernest Troost & Robert Folk
Pardon My French!, a newly assembled compilation of overdubs from the edited-for television version
The Making of Tremors, an archive documentary from 1995 by Laurent Bouzereau, interviewing the filmmakers & special effects teams
Creature Featurette, an archive compilation of on-set camcorder footage showing the making of the Graboids
Electronic press kit featurette & interviews with Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross & Reba McEntire
Deleted scenes, including the original opening scene
Theatrical trailers, TV & radio spots for the original film + trailers for the entire Tremors franchise
Comprehensive image galleries, including rare behind-the-scenes stills, storyboards & two different drafts of the screenplay

DISC 2 INTERVIEWS & SHORT FILMS (LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE) Extended hour-long interviews with Ron Underwood, creature designer Alec Gillis & more!
Outtakes w/ optional introduction & commentary by S.S. Wilson
Three early shorts by the makers of Tremors.

This set gets two thumbs up from me and is well worth the price. The movie itself is a classic, showcasing both horror and comedy. Though this combination doesn’t always work, it definitely shines here. This is a fun set that you will find yourself going through time and time again. The bonus features are fun and you may find yourself watching everything on these discs in one sitting.

I hope you enjoyed this review. Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW series.

~David Albaugh

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