20 Fun Facts About Tremors

Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon in Tremors (1990).
Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon in Tremors (1990).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Talk about an underground classic. Tremors—easily the greatest subterranean monster movie ever made—turned 30 years old this year. So, we’ve dug up some trivia that’ll help get you in the mood for an anniversary screening. Just watch your step …

1. The premise for Tremors came to screenwriter S. S. Wilson during a rocky hike.

A scene from Tremors (1990).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Giant, worm-like beasts terrorizing Nevada. Now there’s an idea as wild as the West. The Tremors franchise has proved remarkably successful, having spawned a short-lived TV series, a prequel, and three sequels (with a fourth—Tremors: Island Fury—being released in October 2020). But how did it all begin? According to co-writer S.S. Wilson, we can thank some scrap paper and the Armed Forces’s film division.

“I had a job working as an editor at a navy base in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” Wilson said. “On weekends, when they weren’t shooting at the gunnery ranges, I was allowed to go hiking out there. One day, while climbing over large boulders, I had a thought. ‘What if something was under the ground and I couldn’t get off this rock?’” Wilson jotted his idea down, pursued it years later, and the rest is history.

2. Saturday Night Live forced the movie to change its name.

Tremors (1990) began pre-production with the working title “Land Sharks.” However, upon realizing that SNL had already unleashed a recurring character called LandShark to spoof Jaws (1975), Wilson and company decided to change the movie's title.

3. A menagerie of real-life animals inspired Tremors's creature design.

The real stars of Tremors are four grotesque carnivores known as “graboids.” Though there’s nothing quite like them in the animal kingdom, Mother Nature still played a big role in bringing these things to life. Special effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. threw bits and pieces of such real-world critters as elephants, crocodiles, dinosaurs, rhinos, slugs, and catfish into their graboid sketches. You may have noticed that, weirdly, this list excludes earthworms, which the pair found “very boring.”

4. Tremors, Gladiator (2000), and Iron Man (2008) share a key filming location

Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, California, has provided the backdrop for many movies. In addition to Tremors Star Trek V (1989), Gladiator (2000), Dinosaur (2000), Iron Man (2008), and Man of Steel (2013) are just some of the hundreds of movies that have shot here. In Tremors, these majestic mountains border Perfection, Nevada, a fictional near-ghost town.

5. Some of Tremors's early graboid concept art was deemed “too phallic.”

Fred Ward with Finn Carter in Tremors (1990).Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Special effects artists Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. dropped the idea of a turtle-like neck when somebody alleged that their monster’s blubbery folds resembled “foreskin.” According to Gillis, producer Gale Ann Hurd “said that when we would fax the drawings over, all the women in [her] office would pass 'em around and giggle.”

6. Like many PG-13 movies, Tremors gets away with a solitary F-bomb.

The Motion Picture Association of America—best-known for its (in)famous ratings system—allows “one nonsexual F word per script” in PG-13 films. Tremors takes advantage at the 34:07-mark, when Kevin Bacon's Val tells off a recently-killed graboid.

7. The writers of Tremors thought it would be more realistic to never reveal where the graboids came from.

Wilson in particular was fed up with the sci-fi genre’s standard monster origin clichés. “[They’re] either radioactive or they’re a biological experiment or they’re from outer space or they’ve always been there," he said in "The Making of Tremors." "Those are the only choices you have.” Thus, Tremors offers no information about its creatures’ beginnings (though later films claimed the man-eaters were prehistoric reptiles).

8. Tremors was Reba McEntire’s first movie.

McEntire postponed her honeymoon with fellow musician Narvel Blackstock until after Tremors finished shooting so that she could make her feature film debut playing the fearless, gun-toting Heather Gummer. Unfortunately, the Tremors franchise outlasted the couple's relationship; they divorced in 2015.

9. Only one full-length graboid model was constructed for Tremors.

After an overzealous graboid fatally crashes into a cement wall, our heroes Valentine “Val” McGee (Kevin Bacon), Earl Bassett (Fred Ward), and Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) unearth the monster’s corpse. What they actually expose is a massive, one-of-a-kind dummy you can see in all its pebbly glory above.

10. Tremors's car scene was supposed to be much more explicit.

Horror’s all about what you don’t see. During one chilling sequence, a hungry graboid devours a middle-aged doctor, traps his petrified wife inside the couple's station wagon, and drags the entire vehicle underground. At first, director Ron Underwood planned on recording the car as it sank into a pit filled with vermiculite, an earthy, “dirt-like” substance. But, maddeningly, this material hardened without warning and his crew was forced to improvise.

Their solution? Subtlety. Following a brief struggle, the finished movie cuts to a distant, wide-angle shot of two headlight beams shining upwards into a starry sky before flickering out. The insinuation of a deadly off-screen burial was pulled off with some last-minute imagination.

11. Tremors's original intro ended up on the cutting room floor.

Tremors opens with Kevin Bacon peeing into a canyon. Admittedly, that’s hard to top. Still, a much darker beginning—wherein the mule of Perfection’s town drunk is gobbled up inside his rickety, wooden pen—was shot but ultimately deleted.

12. The studio chose to replace most of Tremors's soundtrack.

A strong score with a western twang spices up this movie’s unique flavor. But Ernest Troost, who was officially credited with composing the movie's soundtrack, actually wrote relatively little of what you hear in the finished product. Instead, Robert Folk created the lion’s share after Troost’s offerings were largely removed. “He must have had a very good lawyer,” Folk said, “because the provision in his contract stated, that if any of his music were used, that he would have screen credit … I was asked [if I wanted to share] screen credit and I really didn’t.”

13. Michael Gross began filming Tremors the day after Family Ties wrapped for good.

Kindly Mr. Keaton of Family Ties fame couldn’t be more different from Tremors’ breakout character. Gross’s tenure as Burt Gummer—a no-nonsense, gun-toting, and often anti-social survivalist—began less than 24 hours after the show which made him famous had its wrap party. Gross has stuck with the Tremors franchise over the decades and we'll be seeing more of him in October's Tremors: Fury Island.

14. Tremors gave Kevin Bacon severe sleepwalking nightmares.

For years, Bacon considered Tremors a low point in his professional career. “I broke down and fell to the sidewalk, screaming to my pregnant wife, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing a movie about underground worms!’” he told The Telegraph in 2013.

Bacon has since warmed up to the movie, but still remembers, “Having these crazy dreams about monsters” while filming, according to Seeking Perfection: The Unofficial Guide to Tremors. Those nightmares also led to some very bizarre evenings for Bacon’s then-pregnant wife, Kyra Sedgwick. “I would pick her up,” he said, “and sleep-walk and carry her out onto the street ... She’d be like ‘Honey, honey, honey, you’re asleep!’ and I’d say ‘No! I’ve gotta get you out of here!”

15. Director Ron Underwood nearly appeared in Tremors as female stunt double.

Director cameos don’t get much stranger than this. When the time came to film Tremors’s climax, Finn Carter’s stunt double was a no-show. So Underwood grabbed a wig and jumped into the fray himself for a few frames (which he later cut).

16. Tremors's moving graboid “humps” were achieved with a boat buoy.

Insert Jaws theme here: By chaining these maritime units to a truck and dragging them through underground troughs, the team created an ominous tunneling effect complete with rapidly flying dirt during key action scenes.

17. Tremors’s ending was altered due to test audiences.

Val and Earl spend the entire movie pining for the greener pastures of a nearby town named Bixby. Yet, as their graboid-slaying quest unfolds, Val finds himself growing close to Rhonda. Naturally, pre-launch viewers hoped they’d kiss after vanquishing the monsters. Instead, Tremors originally ended with Val and Earl driving to Bixby before having a change of heart and turning around. Clearly, this wouldn’t do—or at least, that's how Underwood’s test audience felt. The last few minutes were then swiftly re-shot to include that requisite smooch.

18. SyFy later gave Tremors's graboids a faux scientific name.

Before Tremors: The Series debuted on SyFy, a (now-defunct) tie-in website claimed that, following the events of the first film, scientists coined the Latin name Caederus mexicana for this newfound species.

19. James Gunn's Slither (2006) includes a sneaky reference to Tremors.

In an obvious nod to Fred Ward, the heroine in James Gunn's campy delight Slither teaches at Earl Bassett Community School.

20. There’s a Tremors exhibit at the Museum of Western Film History.

The Museum of Western Film History in Lone Pine, California, features a wonderful display that features an enormous prop graboid head and a scale model of Chang’s Market. Next time you’re in eastern California, be sure to check it out!

Additional Sources: “The Making of Tremors,” Collector’s Edition DVD Bonus Feature; The Ultimate Tremors FAQ

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Feel Nostalgic With the New Hello Kitty-Themed Tamagotchi

Bandai America/Amazon
Bandai America/Amazon

Back in November 1996, Bandai released the cult favorite Tamagotchi, a tiny virtual pet that users could feed, play with, give medicine to, and more. The name itself is actually a combination of two Japanese words, tamago and tomodachi, meaning egg and friend—and it was the toy's egg shape that was key to its distinct design. They could fit in pockets, on keychains, and inside the backpacks of any kid who wanted a distraction during the school day.

According to NME, more than 82 million of these egg-shaped digital pets have been sold since their initial release in the ‘90s, with 10 million of those coming within the first year alone. Now, the handheld pets are back again in the form of a collaboration with another famous Japanese creation, Hello Kitty.

Hello Kitty first took over hearts starting in 1974 when a Japanese company called Sanrio put the design on a vinyl coin purse. More than 45 years later, Hello Kitty (her real name is actually Kitty White) has been developed into video games, cafes, hospitals, wine, and more. This new Tamagotchi is the perfect mixture of two of Japan’s most famous brands, both of which have reached a global audience.

Bandi America/Amazon

In these new editions, Hello Kitty will help you raise your Tamagotchi. You’ll be able to feed them Hello Kitty’s favorite foods, like apple pie or milk, and play a balloon game and piano game. Based on how well you raise your Tamagotchi from an egg to an adult will determine which of the seven surprise characters you receive.

These new Tamagotchis will be released on December 1, 2020, and are available to pre-order in red and white on Amazon for $20.

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