Welcome to “The Cutting Room Journals”, a forum for the appreciation of films of all types. Here I intend to offer; reviews of new releases, discussions of classic films, debate over hard hitting issues, and news concerning the latest updates in the films which are important to see. Most of all I am here to celebrate film, and with that I give you my first article.
The year was 1990; the Berlin wall was down, war in the Middle East was still strictly a historical term and Director Ron Underwood was about to recreate an entire sub-genre of film. The “Creature Feature” is one of the oldest members of the horror genre, its roots stretching back to the films of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in the 1930’s. The term was coined in the 1960’s. Stations would broadcast films such as the Universal Horror series of the 1930’s, 1950’s science fiction pictures and imported Japanese monster films of the 1960’s on Friday and Saturday night as “Creature Feature Specials”. Together these collections of films laid the ground work for a whole sub-genre of horror where it was not maniacal plans of a mad man which would frighten the audience but rather the wrath of a corrupted mother nature lashing out against humanity with force that does not discriminate against who fell in the way of its path.
Ron Underwood’s Tremors is possibly the best example of this genre to date. Which barring in mind the films present company in the genre is unfortunately a minor accomplishment. Before I continue I would like to define that the films which coined the term are each representations of their own genres which were collected for the creature feature specials of the 1970’s. Films like Tremors exist within their own circles and utilize conventions unlike the classic horror films which inspired their creation.
Tremors is often remembered as simply another notch in Kevin Bacon’s cinematic bed post. Though Bacon does provide an excellent performance and works flawlessly with the rest of the cast to provide both intense performances that make you feel for their characters while still injecting a sense of humor that films approaching this level of necessary suspension of disbelief. The combined acting chops of the cast are admirable but it is not the draw which brought audiences to see the film. the graboids are the archytype upon which all future creature feature monsters would be modeled after for years to come. They are grotesque, alien-like beings that strike fear into the audience from the first time we see one rear its head from the sand. The manner in which they claim their victims leaves the audience wary of walking on open ground. Though the film may seem a bit campy at times there will always be a thrill in watching the cast come together to defeat the infestation of monsters plaguing their town.
The same tropes used in this film can be seen echoed throughout countless films in the horror genre but the thing that allows Tremors to be a success is its awareness of what it is. It doesn’t try to inject any subtext or preach about the mis-treatment of the environment as many modern creature features do. At its core it is a simple movie about some good ole’ boys fighting some monsters and doing it in as creative a way possible. It is in the films comfort with itself that it was able to establish a dedicated following and edge out a spot as a cult classic. Everything about Tremors should be too ridiculous to work but it does because it is aware of what it is and handles its ambition in a way that so many films today could learn from.