The beloved creature feature gets a release close to Perfection
Arrow Heads — UK-based Arrow Films has quickly become one of the most exciting and dependable names in home video curation and distribution, creating gorgeous Blu-ray releases with high quality artwork and packaging, and bursting with supplemental content, often of their own creation. From the cult and genre fare of Arrow Video to the artful cinema of Arrow Academy, this column is devoted to their weird and wonderful output.
There was a period of time as a young child, where I was afforded a looser reign by my parents and allowed to catch a few films past the watershed. Often action, sometimes horror, movies that gave a foundation to my cinematic tastes and have long since nestled in a corner of my brain, tinged with affection. Tremors is one such film, and while I’ve seen plenty a creature-feature since, it has only grown in my estimation. Snappy, a perfect balance of horror and comedy, a cast with brilliant chemistry, and some old-school practical effects, are all celebrated in this new (and truly impressive) release from Arrow video that treats us to some superb extras, and a 4K visual upgrade.
The small town of Perfection, Nevada. Population 14. Two of which are best buds Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward), who eke out a living as handymen, while yearning for something more from life. Their quiet, uneventful days are soon upended by a series of strange occurrences. Phone lines going down, dead livestock, and the disappearance of some locals. They cross paths with geologist Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), who is in the area investigating some unusual seismic activity. To their horror they soon come face to face with subterranean creatures that hunt down anything that sends a tremor through the surface of the ground. Rallying the town, they band together to survive and escape the valley, as they are pursued by what they come to call “Graboids”.
Working from a tight and polished script from S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, director Ron Underwood (City Slickers, Mighty Joe Young),turns in a raucous blend of comedy and B-movie horror. The chemistry of Bacon and Ward as buddies Val and Earl, really propels things along. They’re aided by warmly sketched (and portrayed) characters, thrown into the floor is lava-escapades as they vault, climb, and run their way to safety, picking up the other residents of Perfection along the way. It’s a great ensemble, perhaps most notably Michael Gross as gun nut Burt Gummer, who goes on to star in the 6 (and counting) sequels. Each nestling nicely into the tale, as well as the character of this small, rustic town.
Tremors is lean fun, but considered too. Beyond the characters and setting, geographical isolation and western vibe blending perfectly with this invasion, the monsters themselves are excellently realized. Their behavior and anatomy, pieced together as the film unfolds. Glimpses of the monster, building an understanding of it’s strengths (and weaknesses), ramping up the tension, aided by old-school practical effects that still look great today. A good-natured feeling from the neighborly collaborations of the people of Perfection tempers the monster aspects, tilting the film into more family friendly fare than genuine horror. Thrills certainly remain, coming from delicate footsteps on the sand, pursuit from one safe spot to another, a kid on a pogo-stick, or an ill timed ice-cooler kicking in.
Being a collector’s edition you might expect some fancy flourishes, and Arrow sure do deliver. A hard slipcover contains the goodies detailed below, with most of them tucked away inside the case housing the discs themselves
- 60-page perfect-bound book featuring new writing by Kim Newman and Jonathan Melville and selected archive materials
- Large fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and 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 with reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Frank
The film itself is represented by a 4K scan of the original film stock, overseen by director Ron Underwood and director of photography Alexander Gruszynski. Despite being relative newcomers to 4K (after Flash Gordon and Pitch Black), Arrow have done an outstanding job. Detail really impresses, with facial details, textures of clothing, desert dust, rust on trucks, and paint flaking off the side of run down buildings, showing off Perfection like never before. Colors are strong and natural, the vibrancy of the graboid innards shows up exceedingly well. Brightness level are high, and blacks and show a good range, benefitting overall contrast. Grain is a little heavy in darker scenes but overall feels pretty natural.
For an in depth look at this 4K release and the previous Blu-ray, check out Austin’s comparison here at Cinapse.
DISC 1 — FEATURE & EXTRAS (4K UHD)
- New audio commentary by director Ron Underwood and 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 Studios interviewing key cast and crew from the franchise (including Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Ariana Richards, Ron Underwood, among many others) and revisiting the original locations: The kind of newly commissioned featurette you hope for on a new release of a classic
- The Truth About Tremors, a newly filmed interview with co-producer Nancy Roberts on the film’s rocky road to the screen
- Bad Vibrations, a newly filmed interview with director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
- Aftershocks and 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 and 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 and special effects teams
- Creature Featurette, an archive compilation of on-set camcorder footage showing the making of the Graboids
- Electronic press kit featurette and interviews with Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross and Reba McIntire
- Deleted scenes, including the original opening scene:
- Theatrical trailers, TV and radio spots for the original film as well as trailers for the entire Tremors franchise
- Comprehensive image galleries, including rare behind-the-scenes stills, storyboards and two different drafts of the screenplay
DISC 2 — INTERVIEWS & SHORT FILMS (BLU-RAY )
- Extended hour-long interviews from Making Perfection with Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock, S.S. Wilson, Nancy Roberts and creature designer Alec Gillis: A nice run-on from the documentary from disc 1, the info from Gillis is especially worthwhile
- Outtakes with optional introduction and commentary by S.S. Wilson: Nicely given context by the commentary
- Three early short films by the makers of Tremors, remastered in high definition, including S.S. Wilson’s stop-motion horror/comedy classic Recorded Live (1975): A giddy glimpse into some of the early ideas, and practical creations, of the Tremors filmmakers
The Bottom Line
Tremors sees small town American grit and ingenuity, collide with B-movie monsters. A thoroughly entertaining romp, even after 30 years, means this cult classic is well worthy of the enduring fandom that surrounds it, and this packed celebratory release from Arrow video.
Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.
Tremors 4K (and Blu-ray) is available from Arrow Video via MVD Entertainment now