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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy/Horror Theatrical Trailer
Featurette - The Making Of... (53:38)
Cast & Crew Biographies
Production Notes
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1990
Running Time 91:42 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (60:50)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Ron Underwood
Universal.gif (3614 bytes)
Columbia Tristar Home Video
Starring Kevin Bacon
Fred Ward
Finn Carter
Michael Gross
Reba McEntire
Bobby Jacoby
Charlotte Stewart
Case Soft Brackley
RPI $29.95 Music Ernest Troost

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
German (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Italian (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.86:1 (Measured)
16x9 Enhancement
16x9No.jpg (4709 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking No
Subtitles English
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

A Brief Note Before We Begin

    The first thing you will probably notice when you load the menu on this disc is the Collector's Edition tag that Universal had wanted to be placed on this title, and they had indeed announced the title as such. Columbia Tristar, however, rejected this idea and are distributing the disc without any such moniker on the packaging, and at the price of $29.95. Obviously, Columbia Tristar Home Video do indeed have some criteria as to what does or doesn't make a Collector's Edition, and in this case, they have enforced it. As to what that criteria includes, I can't really say with any certainty (I'd welcome any correspondence from a representative that clears the issue somewhat), but my personal criteria would include a commentary track and as many of the trailers used to advertise the film as is possible. Columbia Tristar's criteria probably won't match mine, but it is nice to see that they are policing the use of this tag, and they deserve some acknowledgement for it.

Plot Synopsis

    According to the Brunching Shuttlecocks, Kevin Bacon is not only the centre of Hollywood to whom every actor in the world can be linked in six steps, but the centre of the universe to whom every known being can somehow be associated through six steps. Indeed, some of the films that the man has been seen in since his remarkable appearance in Footloose would have you believing that he simply appeared in them to further extend the tentacles of this association. Tremors is one such film, with the rest of the cast acting so badly it will make you want to bury your head in your hands and scream. Indeed, one of the stars of this production was once the father figure in a monstrous little show called Family Ties, although he does demonstrate some ability to ham up the role he has been given. In any case, if bad acting, bad story, and bad set design equal enjoyment for you (the roof of a concrete building flexes like heated vinyl in one sequence), then Tremors is right up your alley.

    The entire film takes place in an outback town somewhere in America called Perfection, with a receding population totalling fourteen as shown during the opening credits, and most of said populace are what we like to call hicks. The main characters of the film, Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), are handymen who travel from one end of the town to another, fixing such things as broken septic tanks. After meeting a seismologist by the name of Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) and having an unfortunate accident while trying to clean one such caravan septic tank, they make the decision to get out of town and pursue their dreams of hitting it big elsewhere.

    Fate, however, has other plans for them, and they find themselves trapped in town when a bunch of giant mutated worms decide to trash the main road that leads to civilization. Eventually, the townsfolk discover exactly why the populace has been slowly shrinking, and some hilarious action ensues. Other constituents of the town include a storekeeper named Walter Chang (Victor Wong), the gun-crazy Gummers, Burt (Michael Gross) and Heather (Reba McEntire), as well as Doctor Jim (Conrad Bachmann) and his wife, Megan (Bibi Besch). The latter two wind up being buried in their car while the worms go digging on their land, incidentally. From then on, it's basically a hilarious rush from one plot point to another as the citizens argue over what they should name the creatures, and how best they deal with them. I don't think it is giving away too much to say that the film had me laughing myself into muscle spasms from start to finish.

    Obviously, one should steer clear of this film in they are in search of intelligent, meaningful entertainment. But if you're looking for something that is so bad that you could be forgiven for thinking that this was the whole idea from the outset, then this is definitely the film for you. Cult movies just don't get any better than this, at least where entertainment value is concerned.

Transfer Quality


    Just when I thought that the budget horror title range would only be budget in price, Universal's grand tradition of inadequate transfers had to resurface. The transfer is presented in the measured aspect ratio of 1.86:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. There must be a page in the almanac of bad business decisions that states when you have a title that has enjoyed a strong cult following, and the introduction of wider televisions is very much in progress, that you simply must issue a transfer for a narrow screen.

    Thankfully, in spite of this omission, the transfer is as sharp as you can reasonably expect from a non 16x9 Enhanced transfer, with excellent definition both in the foreground and background. The shadow detail is very good considering that almost all of the film takes place in the middle of a desert with bright sunlight. The one extended sequence that takes place at night is very well-detailed and takes on an almost right-before-your-eyes quality. There is no low-level noise or grain to spoil the transfer.

    The colour saturation is a very accurate reflection of both the environment and the way in which it was photographed, with an abundance of reds and greens blending together to present a perfectly natural look to the desert. Sometimes, the skin tones looked a touch too red, but this was a transient problem that depended a lot on my own perception. The presence of blue in the picture, minimal as it may be, was also well-handled in this transfer, with the skies looking as smooth and natural as you could ask for.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem in this transfer, where much care appears to have been taken to keep the compression loose and more than adequate to the picture's needs. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some moderate aliasing in chrome objects, as well as many other objects with smooth, fine lines in them. This is a common problem to transfers of Universal films, and it is not quite as bad in this one because chrome, fine greenery and neon lights are the exception here rather than the norm. Film artefacts are occasional, with a handful of black and white marks on the source material showing up every few minutes. If it weren't for the fact that this transfer wasn't 16x9 Enhanced, I would firmly state it to be the best that Universal and Columbia Tristar have worked together on all year.

    This disc is presented in the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 60:50. This is in the middle of a tense action sequence, with a noticeable pause taking place in the music, making the position of the layer change somewhat less than ideal. If it were any quicker, however, I wouldn't have noticed it at all.


    The audio transfer is an excellent piece of work, and although I'm sure some will lament the absence of a 5.1 remix, the capabilities of the Dolby Surround format are exploited to their fullest here. The audio transfer contains five different soundtracks, all of them in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding: the original English dialogue, and dubs in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. I listened to the English, German, and Spanish soundtracks, and it is quite funny to hear dialogue that could have only originated in an American film rendered in distinctly European languages.

    The dialogue in the English soundtrack is clear and easy to understand at all times, much to the embarrassment of the actors, I'm sure. This is in spite of some very broad and obviously put-on rural American accents, as well as the fact that some lines were mumbled. Nothing of importance to the overall film was lost in spite of these considerations. There were no problems with audio sync, unless you count the mismatching of the creature sound effects with the creatures' lip movements.

    The score music is credited to Ernest Troost, with some uncredited score music by Robert Folk, and a song entitled Why Not Tonight by Reba McEntire. Overall, the score music adds to the rollicking B-grade comic horror fun of the film, adding an exciting atmosphere to sequences that test credulity to the absolute limit. Some sequences are lent a tense, eerie feel that also serves to highlight their patent ridiculousness. Overall, the score is a living, breathing part of the film that it cannot do without, so there's nothing to complain about here.

    The surround channels are used quite frequently and consistently to support the sounds of the monsters, the music, and the miscellaneous sources of rumblings in the ground. A discrete mix would have been slightly better at this than a matrix mix, but what we have here does the job quite well, much better than the job done by the discrete mix offered on The Thing, as a matter of fact. There are some occasions when the surround field seems to collapse into straight stereo, but these occasions are few in number and almost over before they begin. The subwoofer was frequently called upon to support seismic events and other special effects, and did so without making itself conspicuous.


    A theatrical trailer, some notes, and a fifty-minute featurette do not a Collector's Edition make. Obviously, Columbia Tristar felt the same way, as the only place you can see those words on this disc is in the menu.


    The menu is set out in the style typical of Universal DVDs, with the usual smattering of useless icons. The menu is not 16x9 Enhanced, nor does it contain any interesting animation or audio.

Theatrical Trailer (1:53)

    The theatrical trailer is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and clocks in at just under two minutes. The trailer succeeds in making the film seem like a million-dollar version of Plan 9 From Outer Space, which I believe is the general idea.

Featurette - The Making Of Tremors (53:38)

    This fifty-four minute featurette describes the reasons why Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock, and Steve Wilson wanted to make this film together, and where the idea originated. The featurette is presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. The information about how the film came to be financed by Gale Anne Hurd is quite amusing and interesting. The featurette also has one critical feature that I feel is essential for any featurette that runs for longer than ten minutes - chaptering.

Production Notes

    Much of the contents of these notes is repeated in a more interesting way by the featurette. Still, they're worth reading once if you're a determined completist.

Cast & Crew Biographies

    Biographies are provided for Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, and director Ron Underwood. They are all accompanied by incomplete filmographies, and are only of moderate value with no real interesting revelations about any of the subjects.

R4 vs R1

    Both versions of this disc miss out on 16x9 Enhancement, which is a real shame considering how the photography and scenery would have benefited from the increased resolution. There are no compelling differences between the two versions that make lead me to recommend the Region 1 version, so you may as well buy the local version if you must have this film.


    Tremors is a hilarious cult movie that proves you don't need a CGI budget big enough to feed a third world country in order to make an entertaining monster comedy. It is disappointing that the DVD is not 16x9 Enhanced, but this is probably the biggest complaint that anyone can make about this presentation.

    The video quality is good, let down only by moderate aliasing and lack of 16x9 Enhancement.

    The audio quality is good enough that you will soon fail to notice it hasn't been remixed into 5.1 channels.

    The extras are slightly limited, but their quality is very good.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
November 8, 2000

Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm), 16:9 mode/4:3 mode, using composite and S-video inputs, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer