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Tremors (Two-Disc Limited Edition) (4K Ultra HD)
As a lifelong fan of horror and other genre films, I have been pleased to witness the evolution of how these films are received and how their stars view the experience years after production. Be it film conventions, Web sites, niche studios like Shout! Factory that court fans, or the realization that these movies are loved passionately by people who spend money, it is no longer a low point in one's career to star in a horror film. Much like Jamie Lee Curtis learned to love the Halloween franchise again after years of dissociation, Kevin Bacon recently has admitted that his 1990 film Tremors, once a source of embarrassment, is actually a pretty damn good creature feature. Whether the actor will return to the franchise remains to be seen, but fans of Director Ron Underwood's movie will love the new Limited Edition from Arrow Video, which offers a 4K restoration and complementary bonus material. Tremors may be inspired by 1950s creature features, but the film offers a surprisingly competent cast of characters who refreshingly take on the film's worm-like antagonists with a lot more brains than most genre-movie characters. Three decades after its theatrical run, Tremors remains as exciting and funny as it ever was.
Handymen Val McKee (Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) turn down an unfulfilling job and head toward the Sierra Nevada mountains, where they quickly discover that an underground creature is killing the locals. The unsuspecting residents of Perfection, Nevada, are blind to the terror until the boys unwittingly cause one worm to smash into a concrete barrier, killing it and revealing its massive size and deadly appendages. With the help of seismologist graduate student Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter), Val and Earl discover that three additional worms remain alive. The trio enlists survivalists Burt (Michael Gross) and Heather (Reba McEntire), grocer Walter Chang (Victor Wong), and townsfolk Miguel (Tony Genaro) and Melvin (Bobby Jacoby) to fight back and kill the remaining worms. To stay alive, everyone must remain quiet and off the ground, as the slightest vibration will trigger the next "Graboid" attack.
This is a movie that I have enjoyed for the better part of 30 years. I remember watching it on HBO and on VHS during the ‘90s. Among the things that Tremors does well is character interaction and banter. Lacking in unnecessary backstories, subplots and sideshows, Tremors keeps the action moving with an enjoyable group of people that actually use their brains despite initially appearing like country bumpkins. Setting the film in this remote location also keeps it from feeling dated. Despite a few ‘90s vehicles and wardrobe choices, Tremors easily could have been set in 2021. Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. crafted the practical effects, which are quite spectacular when you consider the 30-year-old film only had a $10-million budget. I remember clapping heartily as a worm smashed itself into orange-goo oblivion and an entire station wagon got sucked underground by a Graboid. Sure, the "worm view" underground shots are dated and ripped off from The Evil Dead, but the effects in Tremors hold up quite well overall.
The film made just shy of $17 million at the box office but found its audience at home. Initially conceived as an R-rated film, Underwood cut a number of profanities to land a PG-13 rating. The film never suffers from this rating and offers numerous fun kills and aftermaths without resorting to buckets of blood. Bacon and Ward make a formidable, cantankerous duo, and Carter is an excellent sidekick. This is the definition of a likeable cast, and each supporting player is given time to shine. During uncertain times, rewatching Tremors is nothing less than a comfort. This is an excellent genre film with limitless replay value. Take a fan-favorite film and give it an excellent 4K release from Arrow Video and you earn my highest recommendation.
THE 4K ULTRA HD:
I'm not sure what the "debate" is about; the original Blu-ray edition of Tremors looked like shit. Massive edge halos, digital noise reduction and a dated source all plagued that release. Thank the movie gods because Arrow Video has completed a new 4K restoration from the original film negative for this release that is approved by Underwood and director or photography Alexander Gruszynski. This 1.85:1/2160p/HEVC/H.265 transfer from a native 4K source offers Dolby Vision and HDR10 at a very healthy bitrate. Sure, Tremors at times looks like a lower budget film, but gone is the ugly, digital appearance of the previous release. In its place is a filmic, highly detailed transfer with excellent fine-object detail and texture. There are some minor fluctuations in film grain, but the transfer looks excellent in motion. Fine-object detail is excellent; from facial features to costume texture to set dressings. Wide shots are crystal clear and highly detailed. Skin tones are accurate despite the high-contrast outdoor settings, and black levels are strong. The HDR pass offers subtle improvements in color saturation, shadow detail, and realism. Other than a couple of softer optical shots, there are few noticeable variances in this image.
The soundtrack is offered in three variants: 5.1, 4.0 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio. Each is excellent, though I slightly prefer the less common 4.0 mix. Dialogue is crystal clear and nicely balanced with effects and score. Action effects pan the sound field and provide an immersive experience. The LFE is aggressive, perhaps a bit too aggressive in the 5.1 mix, and the score is weighty. There are no issues with distortion or hiss. English SDH subtitles are provided.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This limited edition two-disc set includes the film and bonus material on a 4K disc alongside an additional Blu-ray of bonus material. Those looking for the movie in HD will have to purchase Arrow's dedicated Blu-ray edition. The discs are packed in a black 4K case that offers double sided artwork (a newly commissioned design on one side, classic poster artwork on the other). That case slides inside a substantial slipbox alongside a 60-page booklet with essays, production information and artwork; a double-sided poster; six lobby cards; and a coupon for Walter Chang's market. Bonus material stretches across both discs.
On the 4K disc you get an Audio Commentary by director Ron Underwood and writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson; an Audio Commentary by Jonathan Melville, who has written a guide to the film; Making Perfection (31:08/HD), a newly created documentary; The Truth About Tremors (22:02/HD), an interview with producer Nancy Roberts; Bad Vibrations (10:47/HD), an interview with DP Gruszynski; Aftershocks and Other Rumblings (12:38/HD), an interview with producer Ellen Collett; Digging in the Dirt: The Visual Effects of Tremors (20:59/HD); Music for Graboids (13:35/HD); The Making of Tremors (44:15/HD), an older documentary from Laurent Bouzereau; a Creature Featurette (10:24/HD); Deleted Scenes (5:02/HD); Pardon My French! (16:18/HD), a funny reel of network TV edits; an Electronic Press Kit (10:52 total/HD); a Trailer Gallery (10:56 total/HD); Franchise Trailers (6:34 total/HD); and Image Galleries (9:40 total/HD).
On the Blu-ray disc you get Extended Interviews from "Making Perfection" (5:02:42 total(!)/HD); Arclight Hollywood 2015 Pre and Post-Film Q&As (1:11:11/HD); a Gag Reel with Optional Introduction by S.S. Wilson (10:48/HD); and three Early Short Films (49:10 total/HD).
Arrow Video hits another home run with this two-disc limited edition 4K release of Tremors. The film offers lively performances and is a fun creature feature that holds up well thirty years after its theatrical release. Arrow provides an excellent restoration and hours upon hours of bonus material that will delight fans. DVD Talk Collector Series.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.