Film Review: Tremors (1990)

Also known as: Land Sharks, Beneath Perfection, Dead Silence (working titles)
Release Date: January 19th, 1990
Directed by: Ron Underwood
Written by: Brent Maddock, S. S. Wilson, Ron Underwood
Music by: Ernest Troost, Robert Folk (uncredited)
Cast: Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Victor Wong, Bibi Besch

Stampede Entertainment, Universal Pictures, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room, didn’t ya you bastard!” – Burt Gummer

I know that Tremors somehow spawned a franchise that a lot of people seem to like. However, I’ve never been a big fan of it. In fact, I’ve only seen this film, the original, in its entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of others but never cared enough to watch them all the way through, even if Michael Gross’ Burt Gummer is damn entertaining.

So I’d say that this one is the best but I don’t really know. But I’d assume so, as it’s the only one to get a proper theatrical release and wasn’t just made for video, DVD or the SyFy Channel.

Also, this one has the best cast with Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Victor Wong, Reba McEntire and Bibi Besch all alongside Gross. Plus, Gross wasn’t the star of the series yet. He wouldn’t really become the centerpiece till the third film after Fred Ward dropped out following part two.

This movie is enjoyable. I mean, I love giant killer animal movies and even if these maneating sandworms aren’t the size of kaiju or the Shai Hulud from Dune, they’re cool creatures that, at the time, offered up a pretty cool and original threat for horror audiences.

There is just something terribly frightening about being swallowed alive through the ground you’re walking on. The victims in this film get sucked under in a way that isn’t too dissimilar to how the killer shark from Jaws pulled his victims underwater, chomp by chomp.

Overall, this is a well cast movie that allows its stars to ham it up. I was kind of sad to see Victor Wong go so early though, as I was hoping he’d have a bigger presence and get to kick some ass. But we get some solid Fred Ward material, which is always a plus for me as he’s been underutilized and underappreciated his entire career. Sure, that’s my opinion but it’s probably fact too.

For a 1990 film, the special effects are good, practical ones that exist in the real world. This isn’t chock full of CGI, which seemed to become the norm as the series rolled on into the future. This one was lucky enough to come out a few years before Jurassic Park changed the game with digital monster effects. But everything onscreen looks great. I also loved the first person point-of-view of the sandworms chasing their victims, even if it didn’t make sense because they hunted underground and blindly chomped at vibrations.

Tremors is a dumb but fun movie. It may have gotten flushed down the memory hole if it weren’t for all the sequels but it’s definitely mindless and entertaining enough to provide 96 minutes of amusing and lively escapism.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: all the other films in the franchise, as well as any other killer animal movies.

Film Review: Prince of Darkness (1987)

Release Date: October 23rd, 1987
Directed by: John Carpenter
Written by: John Carpenter
Music by: John Carpenter, Alan Howarth
Cast: Donald Pleasence, Lisa Blount, Victor Wong, Jameson Parker, Alice Cooper, Peter Jason, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson

Alive Films, Carolco Pictures, Larry Franco Productions, Universal Pictures, 101 Minutes

prince_of_darknessReview:

This film came out in the middle of John Carpenter’s heyday. It was also the middle part of the loose trilogy he refers to as the Apocalypse Trilogy, which includes The Thing, this film and In The Mouth of Madness. All films are separate films but they follow a similar tone and a very stark “end of the world” vibe.

Prince of Darkness is an unsettling film and visually, one of the most striking in Carpenter’s pretty illustrious catalog. Other than The Thing, I find this film to be the most terrifying in his portfolio.

You never really know what is going on in this film but in a nutshell, the devil is coming back to Earth and the students trying to work on a strange science project, are being used as the vessel’s to bring forth his return. There is a mysterious cylinder of churning green liquid that works as the catalyst to propel the evil forward, there are zombie like hobos who have trapped the students inside the evil church with the green liquid, there are demon bugs, possessed characters and some pretty disturbing visuals. This film has made me fearful of someone spitting water in my face.

This is some of John Carpenter’s best work and one of my favorite horror films from the 80s. One can’t watch this movie for the first time and not feel uncomfortable. Even to this day, as many times as I have watched it, there are certain things in this film that still hit certain triggers that I had when seeing it for the first time when I was eleven or twelve.

I love this movie for what it is and how well it was executed. It has one of Carpenter’s best film scores and is one of the most original and intriguing movies he has made. The only thing really to fear though, is knowing that some schmuck will remake this someday.

Film Review: Son of Kong (1933)

Release Date: December 22nd, 1933
Directed by: Ernest B. Schoedsack
Written by: Ruth Rose
Based on: King Kong by James Creelman, Ruth Rose, Merian C. Cooper, Edgar Wallace
Music by: Max Steiner
Cast: Robert Armstrong, Helen Mack, Frank Reicher, John Marston, Victor Wong, Edward Brady

RKO Radio Pictures, 69 Minutes

son_of_kongReview:

Son of Kong was a rushed sequel to the original King Kong after that film’s massive success. Shockingly, this came out the same year, just nine months after its superior predecessor.

That doesn’t mean that Son of Kong is a bad picture. In fact, I quite enjoy it as an early 1930s monster movie. But when compared to King Kong, it doesn’t even come close to that movie’s greatness.

The original Kong has achieved legendary status and rightfully so. Son of Kong plays more like the later sequels to the classic Universal Monsters film series. It is enjoyable enough, it expands on the mythos but it lacks the heart and imagination that made the first film a true classic.

One positive, is I like the development of Robert Armstrong’s Carl Denham. It follows his story and his return to the island to avoid prosecution for being deemed responsible for the original Kong’s rampage in New York City. Here, he meets a new Kong and is able to try and redeem himself and to overcome the guilt he feels for taking the first Kong away from his home.

It may be sacrilege to say but I enjoy Helen Mack in this film more than Fay Wray in the original. Unlike Wray, Mack is not a screaming and flailing helpless woman. She is strong, has a much more interesting story and is more integral to the plot by not being a generic damsel in distress.

I also feel like the effects, especially the stop motion, are slightly more refined in this picture. There seems to be less but that is probably due to this film being rushed out. The new Kong doesn’t even show up until there are only 25 minutes left in this 69 minute picture. But the younger Kong comes off as more fluid in motion than its father in the first movie.

Son of Kong is a nice companion piece to King Kong. It is also a continuation of Denham’s story and he was the most interesting character of the original. While it isn’t the classic epic that the original film is, it is still a fun old school giant monster movie.