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Tremors 4K UHD/Blu-ray review: Dir. Ron Underwood [Arrow Video]

There’s little doubt that Tremors is a bona fide cult classic, and this new release gives Ron Underwood’s film another re-birth with a 4K (restored) UHD and Blu-ray package that’s so crammed with extras from Arrow Video, even the graboids can feel the vibration of their weight.

A perfect combination of comedy-horror, with an equal place for genuine thrills and iconic one-liners, Tremors is a creature feature that deserves its spot in modern film history, as well as echoing and emulating some of the best mainstream movies like Jaws or a classic 1950s B-movies. In truth, this could easily be absurd but the writing team of Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson (who also had a hit with Short Circuit back in 1986) alongside Director Ron Underwood hits all the right marks.

What makes Tremors stand out is the simplicity of the setup yet there’s also so much going on to keep you on higher ground, and away from the subterranean terrors. The film follows handymen Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward) who work in various remote places out in the desert. In their day-to-day life, they’re after bigger and better things than putting up fences, but it’s not long before they’re embroiled in a fight for survival after unusual underground creatures start attacking the small town they frequent.

The town is Perfection in Nevada, with a heady population of 14, and there’s not a lot going on but after discovering local old Fred hanging from an electricity pylon, and it’s revealed that he died from dehydration by choice, they wonder what the hell is going on. Following that up with the mysterious death of a local farmer, and the blood-stained road-workers hats on the highway, it’s clear that something is coming. Things get even more intriguing after they meet Scientist Rhonda (Finn Beck), who’s researching unusual seismic activity and she’s not sure what’s causing it.

The smart thing about Tremors is how well it sets everything up and how little time they waste in getting to the good stuff. While you won’t see what’s attacking them immediately, it isn’t long before you see parts of the beast, in a classic Spielberg sense, and then reality hits home. This new 4K UHD/Blu-ray looks superb on-screen and throws us into the dustbowl community where everyone knows everyone, and now we’re going to see them try and survive this attack.

From the early, opening ground-level shots that follows Rhonda as she’s setting up her technical gear, subtly suggesting something snake-like hunting people and vibrations, to the subtle wobbles in the ground, you know there’s something happening. The initial stages of Tremors also give us numerous clever moments to explain why these underground monsters are giving their attention to Perfection. From young Mindy (Ariana Richards – also Lex in Jurassic Park) on a pogo-stick, to Robert Jayne’s teenager and his basketball, right across to the loud chiller in Walter Chang’s (Victor Wong) shop kicking in at random times, there’s all the right sensations for secretive aggressors… but who will escape their snaky-clutches?

Tremors is an entertaining adventure, no matter how many times you’ve see it – and I saw it a lot growing up – with pure, iconic moments that stay with you. What also makes this film stand the test of time, even though it’s 30 years old, is the choice to use practical effects. It might seem like monsters from the depths could be cheesy and lose an element of fear, but because the film was made with old-school effects, technical invention and a town that literally shakes, it seizes your attention with an impressive level of tension, alongside the funny black comedy.

It’s also held together by a strong, core cast that includes Kevin Bacon leading the way, with his friend and colleague Fred Ward, two everyday chaps just trying to get by. They have a natural friendship that helps you connect with what comes later. You’ve also got an excellent performance from Finn Carter, who’s very Karen Allen, but creates an equally adept female character with more than enough intelligence and fight to survive. In fact, everyone here has strengths of their own and that’s also what keeps it modern, so it’s a true ensemble performance including the likes of Tony Genaro, Michael Gross and country star Reba McEntire, who more than holds her own throughout.

As well as the sheer enjoyment, this Arrow Video special release is jammed-packed with extras, see below for the full list as there’s seriously a lot. We delved into many of the ‘making of’ documentary shorts, plus an original gag reel (complete with a ‘I told you so’ intro from S.S. Wilson, ahead of his time with BTS ideas), new audio commentaries, and featurettes across two discs.

Who’d a thought that underground goddamn monsters from 1989 could still look so damn impressive. Tremors is like the real-life Snakes Vs Iguanas, but with everyday people doing everything they can just to get to the next day – and much funnier, of course!  

Tremors 4K UHD/Blu-ray is released from Arrow Video on 14 December 2020: https://amzn.to/2WaEDQe

4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS:
• New 4K restoration from the original negative by Arrow Films, approved by director Ron Underwood and director of photography Alexander Gruszynski
• 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

DISC 1 – FEATURE & EXTRAS (4K UHD 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, and remixed 5.1 surround audio options
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• 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 Pictures interviewing key cast and crew from the franchise (including Kevin Bacon, Michael Gross, Ariana Richards, Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson, among many others) and revisiting the original locations
• 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 McEntire
• 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 – LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE):
• Extended hour-long interviews from Making Perfection with Ron Underwood, Brent Maddock, S.S.Wilson, Nancy Roberts and creature designer Alec Gillis
• Outtakes with optional introduction and commentary by S.S. Wilson
• 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)

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