Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross
Directed by Ron Underwood
Distributed by Arrow Video
It’s only taken a solid 30 years to happen, but Tremors (1990) finally has a home video release that isn’t a total eyesore. Universal Studios has been pumping out reissues of the same old awful transfer for years, from the initial DVD release to HD DVD and onto multiple Blu-ray releases, all with differing cover art but containing essentially the same abomination within. That finally ends now with Arrow Video’s incredible 4K restoration (available on both Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD) which blows every prior release to smithereens. Not only have the video and audio (in multiple configurations) been remastered but, being a lavish collector’s edition, Arrow has included an abundance of bonus features, along with a couple posters, lobby cards, and a thick booklet. Tremors fans, this is the release you’ve been asking for.
Enough has been said about this film over these past 30 years – not to mention this is far from a dead franchise with a television series, prequels, and five sequels (the most recent released this year) produced in the interim – but for those unfamiliar or needing a refresher course the story concerns Val (Kevin Bacon) and Earl (Fred Ward), a couple of handymen living in the dusty desert town of Perfection, Nevada who are on the brink of skipping town and taking their business somewhere with more life when death arrives in the form of giant carnivorous sand worms that come to be known as Graboids. The two men join up with a visiting seismologist, Rhonda (Finn Carter), and head back into town to warn the other twelve residents (it’s a very small town) of the underground dangers. Lots of heavy monster action ensues, people are killed in a variety of gruesome ways.
I can’t oversell the monster mayhem here; it’s pretty amazing. This is a love letter to ‘50s sci-fi films, especially the ones with overgrown animals, but the difference here is the monsters are shown early, often… and they look damn good. Amalgamated Dynamics, the team led by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., designed all of the Graboids and there’s a clear reason why Universal couldn’t help but expand this feature into a far-reaching franchise. The design is kinda like the sand worms of Dune (1984) but about the size of a great white shark, with massive fanged mouths, and “tongues” made up of horned serpents. They look horrific enough but so much slime and bright blood and gore come out of these things you’d swear they’re as real as anything else.
Also helping matters is the cast, which is run by Bacon and Ward but with scene stealers like Victor Wong, Reba McEntire, and Michael Gross it’s really a full ensemble of strong players. Most of the townsfolk get some personality beyond their wardrobe and even those with a few lines make an impact. Michael Gross is the only member of the cast who has stuck with the series for a steady paycheck in three different decades, though Ward did one sequel and Becon attempted a new television series that never got off the ground (I still want to see that pilot). And while Hollywood spends all its time looking for ways to make non-action-y women into badasses I ask this: where is my Reba McEntire spinoff? She is a one-woman army and I would like to see her back in a future film.
Arrow has gone back to the original camera negative and scanned it at 4K resolution, delivering a 1.85:1 2160p image that looks as crisp as a freshly cut 35mm print. The previous releases all were plagued by every bit of digital manipulation available and the resulting picture looked like an upscaled widescreen VHS. This release isn’t even comparable, and with the bar as low as it was the work done here by Arrow is exemplary in every way. Do I need to string together several superlatives to sell the impressiveness of the picture? This is not only the best the film has ever looked but also one of the best 4K home video releases of 2020. I have no doubt the separate 1080p Blu-ray release is every bit as satisfying to watch in motion as this edition, but with the full breadth of 4K available it’s just on another level.
There is a trio of audio options here: the original theatrical 2.0 stereo mix, a 4.0 surround option, and a remixed 5.1 surround sound track. I tend to favor multi-channel tracks and went with the 5.1, which is full and weighty, giving the Graboids a powering rumbling presence, though I did sample the original theatrical track and that was no slouch for those who prefer to stay pure. I wish there was some kind of option for the original R-rated track, before every curse word was turned into something PG-13, like “Can you fly, sucker?” and “We got the motherhumper!”. This is a movie with characters that should be speaking like you’d except, with plenty of colorful language. Subtitles are available in English.
On a final note, I’d like to say nobody does a limited edition like Arrow and this is another one of their book-thick titles, given the ultra-lavish treatment with all sorts of ephemera and writings to go along with a two-disc set that’s already stacked enough to more than justify the price. Once you add in all the goods and see how sexy this thing is on a shelf it’s no question Tremors is a best-of-the-year release.
SPECIAL EDITION BLU-RAY 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 ONE – FEATURE & EXTRAS
- High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
- 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 TWO – INTERVIEWS & SHORT FILMS (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)
Tremors finally gets the home video release it deserves, and Arrow delivers one of the best home video packages of 2020. Highly recommended across the board.