Thoughts and Trivialities: Tremors

So all this week I’ve gone over what I own of the Tremors franchise.  I did it in honor of Halloween, but as it turns out the fifth installment, Bloodlines, was released just this month on the 6th.  Whats more, 2015 is the 25th anniversary of the release of the first movie.  While I’m probably the last person left celebrating it (better late than never), I am pretty bummed that I missed out on the opportunity to see Tremors on the big screen back in March.  To make matters worse, Michael Gross made an appearance at the event AND I WASN’T THERE!  I mean, my parents even met the man before I was born, yet I ended up being the real fan in the family.

Tremors is really a story about Burt Gummer.  Even the prequel sets up the character.  As you should know by now, Burt is played by Michael Gross who has been present in every incarnation of the series.  He’s even listed as producer in the fourth film.  Unfortunately, Gross is reaching 70.  While that hasn’t halted his acting career, it does make me wonder if there will ever be a Tremors 6.  I canNOT imagine the series without him, but due to the great spans of time between entries the chance of the man dying before the next one happens is a sobering reality.  If that’s the case, my sincerest hope is that Universal lays the series to rest.  The overdone habit of rebooting franchises hasn’t worked out well in my eyes and I hate the thought of my beloved series being marred by such a silly concept.

Burt is one of my favorite fictional characters.  I’ve been praising him all week, but he really is great.  His no-nonsense attitude keeps him from joining the rest of humanity and he’s a-okay with that, but he is the sole reason anyone is left alive in the series.  The combination of advanced planning, superior firepower, and general paranoia has boosted the survival rate in Perfection Valley.  Sure, people still die.  But hey, that’s why they’re call background characters.

The initial uncertainty Burt experiences in the first movie is dissolved when his wife, Heather, leaves him.  We find out in the television show that he has never forgotten her and I like to think that their separation is what gives him such a driving force to grow and be his own person.  Burt is excited by danger and faces any challenge presented to him with a resolve that should make any A.B. think twice.  He never backs down and always pulls through.  It’s in these traits that the quirky militant loner has earned my admiration.

As a series Tremors is often labeled as horror and science fiction, but I disagree with both.  Sure, the introduction of Mixmaster to the show has given it a science fiction element, but graboids and their kind (you know, the real focus) are advertised as a natural species, not a mutation.  A movie about normal bears killing people wouldn’t be labeled as science fiction, so why should this be any different?  That being said, I do consider graboids and A.B.s to be monsters.  “Natural” or not, they are fictional and I certainly wouldn’t want to meet El Blanco face to face.  But this doesn’t mean I find the series very frightening.  Sure, there are a few feeble jumps scares, but the characters spend too much time on banter for me to take it seriously.  Add in the twangy country music and the fact that most everything occurs during the day and I just cannot support what I’ll call the “theory” that these are horror movies.

More than monster movies, these are formulaic buddy team-ups.  Every version has two guys, supported by a female love interest, who are the driving force behind the demise of the invading creatures which have shown up in groups of four several times.  The “buddies” often disagree with one another, which adds comedic value, and it’s become an expectation as the series progress that at least one of them is not going to return for the next installment because he’s run off with the woman.  I was quite surprised to see that multiple romances were beginning to take shape in the television show.  It’s unfortunate that they were never given a chance as it’s hinted that Burt may have found another woman as out there as himself.

I find it odd that the characters are unaware of the bizarre symbiosis present in the graboid life cycle.  Not being a biology major, I’m not entirely sure how to classify a graboid.  Or an ass blaster for that matter.  The two are very different species, but it’s obvious that they are both related and entirely dependent upon one another to survive.  While considered the same species in the series, they actually are not.  Let’s start with graboids.  They hatch from large eggs and can stay dormant for hundreds of years.  Once born, the larva move swiftly enough to propel themselves through the air for short distances.  But they cannot fly like ass blasters.  After at least a month, the larva mature into adult graboids.  These beasts hunt until their hunger is satiated.  Internally, the shriekers develop until they are strong enough to tear their way out of their host’s body, thus killing the graboid.

Onto the above ground animals.  Shriekers are hermaphrodites capable of spawning new life shortly after consuming food.  Through this rapid multiplication and through the use of their heat seeking ability not found on graboids, I can safely say that shriekers never were graboids, but it still remains a mystery as to how they magically show inside of one.  After a short time–somewhere not far over the 12 hour mark–the shriekers mature into ass blasters.  Again, not a different species as they seem to be classified in the series, but simply an adult version.  Larger and more capable, yes, but in reality still the same animal as a shrieker.  It’s merely the difference between a puppy and a dog.  A dog with firebutt.

Now here’s the weird part: ass blasters somehow develop graboid eggs.  The longest-living ass blaster in the series is Messerschmitt who is still alive in the television show years after being captured in Back to Perfection.  It eats at least two people and several burros, yet the creature still continues to gorge itself over a short period.  It’s unknown what the ultimate fate of this A.B. is, but since it is never mentioned that Messerschmitt lays an egg we can only speculate how much energy needs to be put into the maturation of the baby graboid.  This works though.  If the eggs lay dormant for hundreds of years, it makes sense that they would need a ton of energy to sustain themselves for so long.  This whole thing is just odd considering that their life cycles work like wearing a sock one day, turning the sock inside out the next, and continuing this pattern until the sock is threadbare.

One final note I noticed throughout this exploration is muted rivalry Tremors shared with Jurassic Park.  While it’s obvious who the winner was, there are some parallels worth pointing out.  The most obvious parallel is that both franchises are distributed by Universal Studios, the king of movie monsters.  Another easy crossover is the presence of Ariana Richards.  Better known as Lex Murphy in Jurassic Park and The Lost World, Richards also played Mindy Sterngood in the first and third Tremors films.  She wasn’t the only actor to crossover.  Stuntman Thomas Rosales, Jr. played Carter in The Lost World and he was also the oil worker killed at the beginning of Aftershocks.  Additional parallels include Tyler referring to shriekers as “Jurassic Park rejects” in the show, the 4-12 monster sounding exactly a velociraptor in JP, and the prolific Tippett Studios providing graphics for both bugs and dinos alike.  It’s likely other nods are present, but I haven’t noticed them yet.

If you’ve made it this far, I commend you.  It should be obvious by now that Tremors is one of my fandoms.  Surprisingly, there didn’t seem to be much–if any–merchandise attached to the series.  No novels or comics either, which is a serious failure for the marketing team since other ’90s franchises were absolutely saturated which this kind of stuff.  The lack of material presence surely didn’t help with its notoriety and holding power among the masses, but at least that means I don’t have to have more stuff cluttering up my shelves and I can just enjoy the smallness of the universe.

Considering how easy it is for people to go through movies through the spread of dollar machine rentals or online streaming services, I would suggest that anyone with a few extra hours should check this series out.  Really, it’s fun.  It may not be readily available, but why not support the series by paying a few bucks for a DVD or two?  Burt says thanks.

…Oh, and if you see Michael Gross around, tell him I said hi.

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