It’s very easy nowadays to label something as a cult classic. It used to be affiliated with lesser known titles that one would only hear of by word of mouth or by accidentally stumbling onto it at the video store. Now, cult classics have become subjects of trending topics on Twitter or viral GIF’s that have millennials searching for the source. While I adore Donnie Darko, it feels no longer relevant to refer to it as a cult classic as it is harder to find someone who has not seen it versus someone who has. However, that does not take away from why fans love it as popularity can not diminish source material. All that said, TREMORS is film that might still be considered a cult classic.
It failed at the box office upon its theatrical release as it was a then strange hybrid of comedy and horror, especially set in the daytime. Luckily, it came out just as home video was a booming market and households wanted VCRs for Christmas. It was then that TREMORS found a fanbase, leading to multiple sequels and various editions of home video releases. The giant monster coming out of the ground, JAWS style, got consumers to rent the VHS, accompanied by a somewhat family friendly PG-13 rating. Kevin Bacon was already a familiar face and his name probably helped push units at the time.
In TREMORS, Val and Earl are handymen in Perfection, Nevada, an isolated settlement high in the mountains. They decide on wanting to aim for a change in their lives, but their way out of town is stopped when they stumble across a dead body. Quickly, mutilated animals and bodies start piling up and suspicion of a serial killer arises. Their concerns are shut down as giant worm like creatures start coming out of the ground. The remaining residents find themselves at literal new heights as the creatures are drawn to vibrations caused by sound and need to gather to fight off their enemy.
There are two things that make TREMORS as beloved as it is: The characters and the monsters. The characters feel authentic and deliver some of the best lines caught on film. Their chemistry reminds us that this is a community that loves each other and grew up in the same parts, no matter how smart one might be above the other. The monsters are excellent examples of practical effects. No CGI can be seen and crafty camera tricks allows the filmmakers to create seemingly grand action sequences.
Arrow Video has delivered a top notch, definitive edition of TREMORS that collectors will appreciate. Housed in a sturdy slip box, fans can choose from the 4K and Blu-ray editions, both delivering similar material aside from the transfers. There’s two double sided fold out posters, one of alternate artwork while the other features an X-ray of the Graboid with the other side featuring a sign for the city of Perfection. A sixty page book is included with pieces written about the franchise, cast and the restoration dating back to 1990. Some other cool collectibles include a coupon for Walter Chang’s market and six double sided lobby cards housed inside the disc case.
That’s not even touching on the actual special features, both newly produced for this release and some archival interviews. The biggest highlight for me was “Making Perfection,” an extensive new documentary featuring interviews with the cast and crew. It’s one of the most beautifully shot documentaries I’ve seen in years for a home video release and it helps that the participants are very candid about their experiences. While they look back with admiration, they also don’t gloss over any troubles with budget and marketing concerns as well the immediate disastrous box office. The new footage is mixed in with press videos from its initial release and it feels like a lot of love went into this. It’s clear when a documentary is made from fans and not just a hired crew.
“The Truth About Tremors” is another must see as it’s an interview with co-producer Nancy Roberts as she goes in depth on starting your own business in the industry as well as the process of getting a script like TREMORS financed and made. She even goes into what led to the sequels and their creative directions. Other features on the set include interviews with producers, the music composers, and special effects team alongside archival produced material. A funny feature includes a compilation of all the TV edits for TREMORS alongside their uncensored counterparts. A bonus disc is included with extended interviews, outtakes with commentary and short films from the makers of TREMORS.
In regards to the transfer, the update is undeniable. While there are moments of softness, the day set classic gives us a chance to admire new clarity. The colors feel vibrant and almost to the point where some scenes look freshly shot. The restoration was approved by director Ron Underwood and director of photography Alexander Gruszynski. The stereo and 4.0 mixes were newly remastered from the original sound materials. A 5.1 sound mix is included along with two new commentaries.
With both physical supplements and newly recorded interviews, TREMORS is quite possibly Arrow Video’s best release of 2020.