Monday, June 27, 2011

Grabboids: The Val and Earl Show

The rain and thunder pound on outside, but inside, ah inside is a trove of alternate worlds to escape into. Row upon row of brightly colored, highly enticing 7" by 4" by 1" slivers of heaven. The banks of VHS tapes reflect the florescent light suggestively, until one catches the eye and it's completely obvious that this is tonight's entertainment.

This ritual is one I played out hundreds of times before and on this particular stormy evening in 1992, the slip cover for Tremors caught my attention first. It's homage to classic monster movies was evident just from the cover, which was almost completely taken up by a poised to strike "grabboid". It was all so very Jaws-like. I flipped it over to take in the details, which was really just part of the ritual (I'd already decided to rent it anyhow).

Kevin Bacon!? Footloose Kevin Bacon? And Fred Ward from Remo Williams? Oh this is gonna be sweet. But it was 1992, so what I likely said was "radical!" or possibly "gnarley!". But let's not sell Tremors short on the rest of its casting; its diverse collection of character actors is a integral part of what makes this flick so great. In short its characters have character. Bacon and Ward play Val and Earl, two handymen who do odd jobs for folks in this community. They decide (one day too late, as Val laments) that they've had it up to here with putting up fences, digging ditches and emptying septic tanks for chump change.

Of course, we wouldn't have much of a ride if our protagonists could simply leave the delightful town of Perfection (population: 14) unmolested. No sir. Folks start to turn up dead and soon enough the grabboids start to rear their ugly, prehistoric, multi-tongued, monstrous worm-heads. Of course, our motley band of townsfolk begins to become monster worm snacks in rapid succession including Walter Chang, played by John Carpenter mainstay Victor Wong.

However, there are two Perfection townsfolk who the grabboids are foolish to mess with: the Gummers, Burt and Heather. The Gummers relocated to this sleepy, near abandoned ex-mining town to avoid the gaze of big government. The gun nut survivalist duo are played by Michael Gross, fresh off of the Family Ties finale and Reba McEntire, who I don't even hate here (full disclosure: country music is atrocious). The gun fight scene in their bunker's basement is awesome. It's also worth noting that Gross has made a veritable career out of the Tremors films (he's in all 4) and it's tv spin off. I still contend that Burt Gummer is a cult horror figure and deserves his own action figure.

So, refocusing the scene on 11 year old me. With the glossy intoxication of the back of the Tremors VHS in full control of my frontal lobe, I march to the check out at my local Blockbuster (now on an endangered species list of some sort), pausing along the way to snag some 'everlastin gobstoppers, popcorn and a Serge soft drink, to begin a night of unapologetic delight. It's still storming like hell out side, so I make sure to hide Kevin Bacon and the gang under my jacket and hustle home in half the time. Far more "radicals!" and "gnarleys!" escaped from my parent's basement as I must have watched this cult classic half a dozen times over the following three rainy days.

These days there's so many easier ways to have movies come to you, but that's a lament for another post. Tremors is available on both Blu-ray and DVD (you guys still watch those, right?). If you're gonna pick up the Digital Video Disc version, you might as well purchase the Tremors Attack Pack, which contains the first film and all three of it's direct-to-video sequels. Grab some friends and plan a night in with this fantastically enjoyable camp classic.

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