The perfect B-Movie celebrates its 30th anniversary.
When Tremors hit theaters in 1990, it was not a box office success. Kevin Bacon, the biggest name actor in the movie, had a breakdown over filming it, and once considered it a career low. But the movie earned a cult following on home video and rental. Five sequels have been released in the years since, and there was even a Tremors TV show that aired for 13 episodes.
Written by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson and directed by Ron Underwood, Tremors has charm and heart. The story of small town folks banding together to defeat a cadre of fast-moving, carnivorous sandworms, it relied on the laid-back chemistry of its actors, who knew exactly what kind of movie they were in. Tremors has a high body count, but its tone is consistently light and upbeat. And despite the laughs, the movie manages to wring tension out of its horror scenes.
In honor of the movie’s 30th anniversary, here are 15 Easter eggs in Tremors that you might have missed. If you liked this gallery, you can also check out Easter egg galleries on Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, and Pulp Fiction. Tremors is currently streaming on Netflix.
The movie opens with Val scaring Earl awake. This is actually a brilliant bit of foreshadowing; Val later uses a bomb to scare the last Graboid to its death. When Earl falls out of the truck wrapped in a blanket, he even resembles a Graboid; the blanket has a yellow-green exterior and a red inner lining.
2. Location Filming
Despite taking place in Nevada, Tremors was filmed on location in the Alabama Hills of California, and in the Lone Pine area to the east of them. Owing to the unique rock formations and flat areas, these lands are frequent shooting locations for Western films.
3. Population of 14
At the beginning of the movie, a sign says that Perfection has a population of 14 people. The math on this checks out; if we discount Rhonda, who’s a graduate student (presumably from a neighboring college), and Howard and Carmine (who are jackhammering a nearby road, but may be contractors who do not live in Perfection), there are 14 characters in the movie: Earl Bassett, Val McKee, Burt Gummer, Heather Gummer, Melvin Plugg, Nancy Sterngood, Mindy Sterngood, Miguel Sanchez, Walter Chang, Nestor Cunningham, Edgar Deems, Old Fred, Jim Wallace, and Megan Wallace.
If Val and Earl stick around after the events of the movie, the town needs to update its sign to 8 people. If not, it’ll be down to 6 people.
4. Pogo Stick
The little girl on the pogo stick, Mindy Sterngood, is played by child actor Ariana Richards. Richards would go on to portray Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park, and she would reprise her role as Mindy in Tremors 3: Back to Perfection.
5. Monster Origin
One of screenwriter S.S. Wilson’s first jobs was as a film editor for a naval film company. The naval base was located in a desert in California, and Wilson came up with the idea for Tremors while hiking one day:
“We used to hike around the gunnery ranges out there and I was always making notes for ideas for movies. So at one point, I was hiking on these big rounded boulders which were very much like the ones that we ended up shooting in the movie, and I made the note: ‘What if there was something under the ground like a shark and I couldn’t get off this rock?'”
6. An Interesting Mouth
The mouths-within-a mouth concept for the Graboid was not the initial design. One of the concept drawings, according to Maddock, had a layered design which made the Graboid resemble an uncircumsized penis:
“[Executive producer] Gale Anne Hurd looked at the first drawing and said, ‘Guys, these look a little phallic’… So the guys redid them a little bit after that.”
The crew built multiple models of the Graboids, of all sizes. Several of the models were to scale, but many of them were smaller models or puppets, which appeared big via close-up shots and forced perspective.
7. Unlikely Protagonists
Wilson and co-writer Brent Maddock knew that Tremors would be a film in the vein of a 1950s monster flick. But they needed a way to distinguish the film from others in the genre, which would usually have a lawman, soldier, or scientist at the heart of the story. Thus, Maddock came up with the idea of having two everymen as the heroes, which they mined for great comedic effect.
More concerning than the Graboids were the numerous, real rattlesnakes that plagued the set. The film crew hired a local to be on the lookout for them, and he was also responsible for clearing out any rattlesnakes that snuck onto the set during the night.
9. Vietnamese To Chinese
The role of grocery store owner Walter Chang is played by Victor Wong, a character actor best known for his work in The Last Emperor, Big Trouble in Little China, and the Three Ninjas franchise. The character was originally written as a Vietnamese man named Phan Vam. But the filmmakers felt that Victor Wong, a fourth-generation Chinese American, would be the best fit for the role. So, they changed the role’s ethnicity to Chinese before Wong tried out for it.
10. Be My Valentine?
Val has a very appropriate belt buckle. (Valentine? Heart? Get it?)
11. A Long Hike To Set
Country music star Reba McEntire made her film debut in Tremors as the wife and partner of survivalist Burt Gummer. She was fine with the rough-and-tumble nature of the role, but the scheduling was a nightmare. She would tour on the weekends, and afterward, she would take two planes and a drive to get to the set by 6 am.
In an interview with Esquire, McEntire recalled how fun it was to fire the guns in the movie, particularly the flare gun.
12. Wooden Gun
In the same Esquire interview, McEntire recalled that during the scene when she ran to the rocks near the end of the movie, the crew switched out her real gun with a wooden gun, in order to make it lighter and easier to handle.
13. Orange Surprise
There are several gore shots in the film, where the characters get splattered with Graboid innards. In actuality, these innards were made up of canned pumpkin, hence the orange color.
14. One F-Bomb Only
The filmmakers wanted to make Tremors a family friendly movie. And so, when the MPAA rated the first cut of the movie R for language, they went back and made some edits to get the rating down to PG-13. They were allowed to keep one use of the F-word, when Kevin Bacon’s character, Val, yells at a dead Graboid.
15. The Other Ending
In Tremors’ original ending, the romantic plotline between Val and Rhonda is left unresolved. Val and Earl drive off to Bixby. Then, they turn around and head back to Perfection; it’s implied that Val might have gone back to tell Rhonda how he felt, but the audience never sees that emotional payoff.
At the movie’s first preview screening, the audience chanted for Val to kiss Rhonda, which led director Ron Underwood to shoot and insert the kiss scene we see and love today.