See that toothy maw there? That's only one of its tongues.note Okay, they exagerrate the size a fair bit
"They say there's nothing new under the sun. But under the ground..."
Tremors is a 1990 horror comedy film about subterranean monsters. It is considered a Cult Classic for the way it plays with the typical monster movie tropes. It was directed by Ron Underwood and it spawned two sequel movies, a prequel movie, and a short-lived TV series.In the first movie, Tremors, the citizens of the isolated desert town of Perfection, Nevada find themselves under siege by "Graboids" (as they name them) massive subterranean worm-monsters who hunt prey by sensing ground-vibrations. It falls to two redneck handymen, Val and Earl (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward), to save the town.In the second movie, Tremors: Aftershocks, filmed and set six years after the first, a group of Graboids is menacing a Mexican oil refinery. The owners hire a reluctant Earl and his hustling fanboy Grady to deal with the problem. But things gets complicated when the Graboids start hatching out "Shriekers" — smaller, bipedal critters that hunt by sensing heat.In the third movie, Tremors: Back To Perfection, eleven years after the first, the Graboids return to Perfection and it falls to Crazy Survivalist Burt Gummer (Michael Gross) — the Ensemble Darkhorse from the first two films — to stop them. The Graboids mutate yet again, turning into jet-propelled, farting "Ass-blasters".The fourth movie, Tremors 4: The Legend Begins is a prequel centered around a milquetoast ancestor of Burt's, and set in the 1880s.The TV series, also called Tremors, directly continues on from the third movie. A new character, Tyler Reed, buys the Desert Jack Graboid Tour business and finds himself unintentionally partnering up with Burt Gummer, who has semi-officially become a go-to-guy for the government when Graboids are spotted in America. However, it turns out Perfection has some new monsters of its own crawling around, thanks to an abandoned governmental research lab and a mutagenic compound called "Mixmaster".There is occasional talk of another sequel, but for the moment, it's lost deep in Development Hell. The most recent reports suggest that Don Michael Paul (director of Jarhead 2 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter) will take the helm.Now with a Character Page
Grady: Of course! Stuff like this only happens in the middle of nowhere!
All There in the Manual: Promotional materials created by Sci-Fi Channel for the TV series give details on Graboid biology. Fun fact: Graboids are Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Bilateria, Class Cephalopoda, Subclass Coleoidea, Order: Sepioida, Family Vermiformidae, Genus Caederus, Species americana. Using the obsolete Linnaean taxonomy, this means that Graboids are most closely related to cuttlefish.
Armless Biped: Shriekers, also Ass-Blasters if wings don't count.
Asian Store-Owner: All the same family/store. The one in the first movie is eaten; in the third movie, his relative comes to take over the store; and in the fourth, it's their ancestor settling in the town.
Badass: Burt Gummer, all the way. He's probably the only character in any franchise who could survive being eaten by the monster without it being implausible - what would have been Fridge Logic with anyone else becomes awesome because it's Burt, that's the sort of thing Burt does.
Case in point, wiping over two dozen Shriekers singlehandly, his words implying he killed some with his bare hands!
BFG: "Grizzly single-shot BMG based on a World War I anti-tank cartridge." This gun blew a Shrieker in half, then proceeded to punch holes through the stone wall behind the Shrieker, several oil drums, a tool shed, another oil drum and the engine of their escape vehicle.
Also, in the first movie, the "Elephant Gun". It was actually an 8-gauge side by side shotgun. In case you were wondering, that means the bore diameter is .835. Let's just say Michael Gross, the actor playing Burt, was lucky he was firing blanks.
Burt gives Earl and Grady .375 H&H magnum double rifles in the second movie and cautions them to "hold 'em good and tight to your shoulder or they'll break your collarbone."
In The Series, Burt has replaced his lost BMG with an enormous Barrett M 82A .50 caliber sniper rifle. He later takes out a target several miles away with it.
Also, in the fourth movie, Burt's ancestor obtains a 2-inch bore punt gun, a giant hunting shotgun that has more in common with a cannon than a rifle - so named because it was too large to be wielded, and had to be mounted on specially constructed boats, or 'punts'.
And the Gatling gun he gets in the final scene, which is hinted to have sparked the love of guns that would be passed down to Burt.
Bizarre Alien Senses: Graboids pinpoint their prey using sound and other vibrations, while Shriekers and Ass-Blasters use heat vision.
And the lighter that Val and Earl can't keep track of.
The bombs Burt and Heather bring along. It's initially considered as just a way to make the Graboids leave them alone (because the noise aggravates their hearing), but then Earl thinks up a fishing idea.
Conspicuous CG: Avoided at first in the films, which used (extremely good) animatronics for the monsters; more and more CGI crept into the sequels; the Ass-Blasters in Back To Perfection in particular were depicted this way. Played totally straight in the TV series, overlapping with Special Effects Failure: All the monsters were represented with CGI. It looked cheap even when it was originally made, and hasn't aged well.
Somewhat necessitated. The CGI in the second film was used for things the animatronic Shriekers couldn't physically do (like running) The CGI in the series was actually quite good for a television show in 2003 (the bacterial cloud in "Ghost Dance" still looks pretty good). As pointed out, however, most of it has not aged well.
The episode "Water Hazard" used an animatronic for the monster of the week. Ironically, the one time they bothered to make a good looking puppet, the audience never saw anything but the very top of it, the entire creature being shown only in production stills.
In fact, the series has animatronic versions of most of its creatures: the full-sized animatronic Graboid (seen best at the end of "Graboid Rights"), animatronic tongues (seen in the pilot and several times thereafter), animatronic Shriekers and Ass Blasters. Even 412 has an animatronic head, though it's only seen briefly. The only thing they really never had any practical version of was the bacterial cloud, presumably because you can't build something like that.
Continuity Nod: A couple of particularly notable ones in the second movie:
When Kate finds evidence of the Graboid's origins, Earl states that he had always thought they were from space - an opinion he had also expressed in a conversation during the first movie.
The scene in Burt's rec room shows a wall visibly patched in the same spot a Graboid had burst through in the previous movie (of course, there's also the giant stuffed Graboid head mounted on the wall next to Burt).
You can also see the patch in the third movie. Burt still hasn't painted over it.
There is a short scene where Earl explains how the Graboids got their name in the first movie.
Earl: He named them. Then they ate him.
A Chang frequently seems to be instrumental in naming the various life stages of Graboids, with Graboid, Ass-Blaster and Dirt Dragon all being coined by a member of the family.
The third movie has a couple as well:
Burt's Grizzly from the second movie makes a reappearance. Unfortunately, Burt never gets a chance to fire it.
Burt uses one of his pipe bombs from the first movie on a spot where he thinks several Shriekers have gathered, with Miguel pointing the reference out.
The scientist in the Government's team sprays himself with a fire extinguisher in order to escape a group of Shriekers, the same technique employed by Earl in the second film. It worked for a time, but he wasn't fast enough to do what he needed to before the cold wore off.
The propellent for the potato gun was liquor scrounged from Nestor's old trailer from the first film.
The fourth film recreates the discovery of Old Fred's head in the first film, even going so far as to use the same name for the owner of a hat found lying on the ground. Except this time the head's not under the hat, it's under the wrecked wagon.
The t.v. series has several as well, both to the previous films, and, when viewed on DVD self-referencing.
Cool Guns: Happens a whole lot in the movies, almost always being used by Burt. Examples include basically everything from Burt's Wall of Weapons, but especially the William Moore & Co. 8 gauge "elephant gun" from the first movie, the gatling gun and punt gun from the fourth movie, and of course Burt's LAR Grizzly Big Boar .50 caliber BMG anti-tank rifle.
Crazy-Prepared: Burt Gummer was Crazy-Prepared even before he learned his hometown was infested with underground monsters. By the third film, he's ready for anything.
To give you an example: some people have generators to power their homes, and Burt does too. A few people have backup power in case the main generator gives out, and so does Burt. But only Burt has backup backup power.
Daylight Horror: All four movies and the TV series take place mostly during the day, with only a few horror scenes (and even fewer actual death scenes) taking place at night. Justified in that none of the four life stages of the creatures - dirt dragons, graboids, shriekers, or assblasters - use light to see, so they'll attack at any time night or day; they may in fact not even be aware there's a difference.
Averted, however, in the third movie. The climax of the movie is a junkyard battle against assblasters taking place at night. At the same time this clearly has less to do with night time being scarier and more to do with the fact that fire looks prettier at night.
Extreme Omnivore: Graboids will eat anything that moves, then spit back out anything indigestible.
Taken to the extreme when in the third movie, El Blanco eats an Ass-Blaster.
Lampshaded in the TV series, where the Monster of the Week made a wooden fence disappear and the idea that El Blanco ate it is shot down because Graboids don't eat wood, and it's mentioned that these are the same creatures that have been known to happily eat cars. (Granted, fences don't make noise and car engines do.)
ExceptSteel Eardrums. Firing that many rounds in an enclosed space such as a basement would've done horrible damage to Burt and his wife's ears. And it probably would've hurt the extremely-sensitive-to-sound Graboid too.
Astute observers will notice at several points during that scene the graboid seems disoriented, moving its head side to side, holding relatively still, all behavior similar to someone who has just been blinded.
Which is possibly why it paused in mid-fight to smack its beak against the ceiling, disoriented by the painful racket.
Burt, at least, is visibly wearing ear plugs. They're a little hard to see but definitely there. Presumably Heather is as well.
Even with those, Heather does cover her ears when Burt resorts to the elephant gun.
Earl seems like a two-time loser when he reappears in 2, only to demonstrate some surprisingly-astute knowledge of geology once he's in the field. Seems he'd been studying a lot between films.
Twitchell frequently expresses annoyance with Perfection residents (especially Burt) and his job, but he won't quit.
Twitchell: I could, but I chose a wife and kid. And taking care of them is more important to me than some dream job or a sailboat or a house in Big Sur where I can sit around and play my guitar all day. Jodi: Wait, you play guitar?
In the series, one episode has the team go out to a town filled solely with UFO-revering conspiracy theorists. Burt finds them all utterly ridiculous, at one point verbally proclaiming they are "all nuts". Then again, they actually accused Burt of being a government cover-up agent, so he kind of had a point.
Well, Burt was going on about how they were utterly obsessed over a paranoid conspiracy theory.
In "Ghost Dance," Tyler and Burt debate what it was they saw in the mine. Tyler says he sees Rosalita's point that it was a ghost, but Burt disagrees completely—saying it was the product of the secret underground biosynthetic lab.
Karma Houdini: Played with when it comes to Melvin Plug. While the Perfectionites make his life a living hell especially when he's a real estate developer, many audiences were disappointed that neither the Graboids or any thing else kill him.
Magic Bullets: Averted. Bullets behave realistically: small arms can't penetrate the ground to the Graboids, while a massive anti-tank weapon has a little too much penetrating power.
Lampshaded in the series, Tyler points out that water is really effective at stopping bullets.
Magic Countdown: Averted/inverted in the second movie; Earl sets a bomb for 2:45 seconds. It explodes 2:15 later.
The Merch: In-Universe example. Say, your hometown was attacked by giant subterranean monsters, who kill half of its inhabitants before being defeated by the other half. What do you do? Make money on it, of course! Over the course of subsequent movies and the TV series the main characters have become famous science and pop-culture personas, being featured in magazines and TV shows, starring in commercials and documentaries, opening theme parks, having the exclusive license and producing video games, comics, action figures and other merchandise based on the monsters. All while continuing to fight said monsters first occasionally (Tremors 2-3) and then on a weekly basis. The town of Perfection becomes a tourist attraction, with the store from the first film converted into a gift shop. In the third film onward, they even make use of El Blanco, an albino (and thus sterile) Graboid as a tourist attraction. In that case its a little more justified, as El Blanco's sterility makes him much easier to deal with than other Graboids.
More Dakka: Burt gets More Dakka each film, culminating in the third film with an anti-aircraft turret mounted on a half-track. The turret was actually in working condition and was fired (albeit with blanks) for that scene.
Also, the 2-inch bore Punt Gun and the Civil War era Gatling gun from the fourth movie.
More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Deliberately averted, as no stage of the Graboid life cycle has teeth. Their distinctive mandible/beaks can cut you up pretty good, however.
The things on the posters and DVD covers for the series usually do, though. Only Tremors 4 has an actual Graboid on its cover, rather than a toothy Sand Worm from central casting.
Actually, if you look into the gullet of a Shrieker or Ass-Blaster, there are small teeth, or at least tooth-like protrusions.
The tentacles inside a Graboid's mouth do have these teeth, although the spikes on the sides of their heads are far more noticeable. The toothy heads featured on the covers of Tremors 1 and 3 are actually tentacle heads, expanded to giant size for artistic effect. However, the strange creatures seen on the covers for Tremors 2 and The Series are entirely made-up for the box art.
In the first film, Burt was angry at Val and Earl for getting them stuck on a huge boulder while on their way to the mountains. A Graboid set a trap while the survivors were riding on a heavy truck.
Burt: So you two screw-ups got us stranded out here for nothing?!
Val: Just back off, man!
In the second film, he uses an anti-tank rifle to take out a Shrieker, and as noted above also accidentally destroys the getaway vehicle they were heading for. Later, he manages to trap a Shrieker pack inside a building, which he only then learns is filled with food (which causes the creatures to multiply rapidly).
"I didn't know, HOW COULD I HAVE KNOWN?" (both times)
In the third film, he blows up his compound to prevent a fully-evolved Ass-Blaster from reaching his food, only to again belatedly learn that when they overeat they instead slip into a coma:
"What sort of supreme being could condone such irony?"
Properly Paranoid: Though not a straight example, having an underground shelter with a Wall of Weapons and ammo, supplies and power generator in case of World War III served Burt well when his town got attacked by large subterranean carnivorous reptiles.
Earl: Guess we don't get to make fun of Burt's lifestyle anymore.
Burt brings it up himself in the sequel:
Burt: You know, Grady, some people think I'm over-prepared. Paranoid. Maybe even a little crazy.... But they never met any precambrian life forms did they?
Burt's (justified) paranoia also came up in the third movie. He spent years preparing for the possibility the Graboids would return to the valley, which they ultimately do - much to everyone else's surprise. When the government shows up to interfere with the residents taking on the worms, Burt remains unsurprised by their actions.
Burt: Oh, "Eminent Domain." And people call me paranoid.
Sand Worm: The Graboids are probably the best known example next to Dune.
Super-Persistent Predator: Graboids will wait days for something to come down if they chase it up a rock or a telephone pole. They do go away eventually, but by that time the prey has likely died of dehydration.
Shriekers and Ass-Blasters can vary. They'll go after anything that gives out a heat signature, so they'll follow someone wherever they go. On the other hand, since they can't tell what's meat until they bite into it, they can be tricked. In the second movie, Earl drops some pants in hot water and sends them out on a clothesline, causing the Shriekers to pursue.
That Poor Car: Vibrations from burrowing Graboids set off the car alarm in the Gummers' SUV, inciting them to destroy the vehicle. The Shriekers and Ass Blasters both have a habit of tearing cars apart mistaking the warm engines for living things.
Too Dumb to Live: Despite living through the original Graboid attack the town of Perfection seems to have forgotten just how deadly they can be and just how close they came to getting eaten. Though this is averted with El Blanco, who is shown to be MUCH easier to deal with and far less dangerous than other Graboids.
First movie: Nestor. Sure, he was terrified, but sitting on a tire? Really?
Villain Decay: Subverted. The Graboids, Shriekers and Ass-Blasters remain quite deadly throughout the series, but the human characters get better at finding ways to kill and control them. Eventually the creatures begin to be treated as tourist attractions.
Seen most clearly in the second movie. The Graboids are as dangerous as ever, but since Earl and Burt know exactly what they're going up against, they can bring the proper gear and mow through Graboids with little to no difficulty. And then things get bad...
Wall of Weapons: In Burt Gummer's rec room. The Graboid that broke in there got more than it bargained for.
The same Graboid's head can be seen, stuffed and mounted on a wall in the same room, in the second movie.
In the Attack of the Town Festival episode of the TV series, the heroes have to scrounge weapons from a house in which this trope also applies... with antique black-powder firearms.
Book Ends: In the 1st movie, the first and last graboids both die after ramming themselves through a concrete canal wall and cliff face respectively. It goes further than that - the first scene in the movie is at the same cliff they kill the final graboid at.
Brick Joke: In the first film, as Val and Earl are about to leave Perfection on horseback, Earl comments that he doesn't believe the "snake creatures" could be fast enough to outrun a horse. Val returns with:
Shit, for all you know, they can fly.
It was later referred to and foreshadowed by Val when he yells "Can you fly, sucker?" at the last Graboid before he kills it by chasing it off a cliff.
The Brick Joke culminates in the third film, where the Graboids metamorphose into flying Assblasters. Maybe that's why Val wasn't in Tremors 3?
In the beginning of the first movie, Val approaches Earl, who is snoozing in the bed of his truck, and wakes him by faking a stampede. At the end, after they have discovered the Graboids are sensitive to loud noises, Val uses the last bomb by lighting it and throwing it behind the Graboid, sending it fleeing in pain to carom out of the side of the cliff—a tactic used by ranchers to direct stampeding cattle.
A chilling example from the first film: near the beginning of the movie, Walter's fridge starts going berserk, and he asks Val and Earl if they can fix it. Val is eager to do so (probably hoping to get out of doing the garbage), but Earl wants to keep to the schedule. Later on, while the group are hunkering down in Walter's shop, trying to keep vibrations to a minimum, the fridge goes berserk again, leading to Walter's death. The joke? Earl was ripping on Val for not "planning ahead" just prior to the first scene at Walter's shop.
Happens on a large scale in the first movie. The movie takes place within a large, open valley in Nevada, but it's a valley no one can leave. The telephone lines have gone down, the only road in or out has been destroyed by a landslide, and every attempt to leave via another route is blocked by the Graboids. No one can get in either - at one point someone does try to check on the people of Perfection, Nevada, only to be killed by the Graboids as well.
Happens in the second movie as well. The characters originally go to the Petromaya oil fields willingly and can leave whenever they want, but then the Shriekers show up and start destroying their radio equipment and vehicles, effectively cutting them off from the outside world.
Is downplayed even further in the third movie. One of the characters even makes a point of how they're not cut off like they were in the first movie. By the end of the movie, however, the characters do end up trapped by the monsters.
The trope is completely averted in the fourth movie.
Disconnected By Death: Subverted, albeit over a radio set instead of a phone. Burt Grummer, after being told that the graboids are coming straight for his house, is last heard saying, "Jesus Chr—!" before the line goes dead as a graboid bursts through his wall. As it turned out, that graboid did indeed break into the wrong goddamned rec room.
Diving Save: Valentine does this to save Mindy from a Graboid in the first movie.
Evil-Detecting Dog: In the first movie, Val and Earl and forced to use Walter's horses to try to reach Bixby. Outside of town, the horses suddenly go crazy. Val just thinks Walter gave them bad horses, but Earl disagrees.
"They got wind of something they don't like."
Fanservice: Rhonda losing her pants in the first film.
Focus Group Ending: The first movie originally ended with Val and Rhonda saying awkward goodbyes to each other and Val driving away, only for his friend Earl to change Val's mind halfway through and turn back for the Girl after all. Cue credits. The test audience however started chanting "Kiss Her!" during the awkward goodbye scene and so a new ending was shot, with a Big Damn Kiss and a Relationship Upgrade while credits start to roll. Definitely an improvement over original, which can be seen on the DVD.
Genre Throwback: 1950's monster movies, particularly the first film in the series.
Subverted in the second fim; Burt mentions that Heather left him following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
And dialogue from the second film indicates that Val and Rhonda wound up like this too.
Has a Type: Val explains his preference in women and Earl later criticizes him for it. Val even has a number of pictures taped to his roof of his truck. Subverted in that the woman he ends up with is a petite brunette.
Val: Long, blonde hair, big green eyes, world-class breasts, ass that won't quit and legs that go all the way up!
Earl: Damn it, Valentine. You don't go for any gal unless she fits your list, top to bottom.
Hope Spot: Inverted twice in the first film. Burt and Heather unknowingly attract a graboid to their basement, and it bursts through the wall. The last thing his friends hear on the radio is Burt yelling, "God almighty!" and they all hang their heads, thinking that's it for the Gummers...and then they start hearing gunfire. Then it pulls it again a few seconds later, when Burt and Heather run out of ammo for the rifles they were holding...and the camera pulls back to show the Wall of Weapons, which up to this point had never been shown or hinted at.
Two in "Project 4-12." The first is when El Blanco eats the creature, only to spit it back up. Later, Cletus tries to reason with 4-12, and it looks like it's working, but then the creature attacks again.
Crowning example? He gives an idiot a revolver to get him to cooperate - an unloaded revolver. After he takes it back, he pops the cylinder just to make sure it's unloaded. This is what you are supposed to do anytime you pick up a firearm, just so you do not Shoot Someone In The Face.
Unfortunately, they get a little lax regarding this in the third movie. One example would be when Burt finds out that Jack's gun is fake, and hands him a pistol. Jack sticks the thing down his pants, which is a great idea if you plan on blowing your own nuts off, but generally something you want to avoid. Burt doesn't even bat an eyelid at this.
Justified, graboids are extremely large animals, and in real life very large animals such as Elephant, Rhino, Hippo, etc require powerful, large caliber weapons to kill quickly. To say nothing of the fact that Fridge Logic dictates that in order to burrow through the ground as it does without abrating its flesh apart, a graboid would have to posses an exceptionally tough hide in addition to its sheer size.
Improbable Aiming Skills: That or just Improbably Good Luck. The final Graboid spits the bomb it swallowed with the precision of a seasoned artillerist, straight into the heroes' hideout, and straight into their cache of bombs.
Improvised Weapon: The pipe bombs in the first and third movies, and the fire arrow shooting potato gun in the third movie.
It Can Think: The Graboids learn at a pretty alarming rate. Shriekers and Ass-Blasters likewise.
It Only Works Once: In the first movie, the Graboids have a tendency to find ways to work around the humans' counter-attacks before very long. In the second movie, one of the more successful methods of destroying the Graboids (tricking them into eating explosives) is used, but is adjusted a bit to prevent the Graboids from having a chance to spit the bombs back out (as had happened in the first film).
Lowered Monster Difficulty: Totally subverted in the first film, in that the Graboids display the ability to learn from experience and innovate.
"These things are damn smart! They're getting smarter by the minute!"
"That's fine, we've got some new things to teach them!"
Played with in the second movie. The Shriekers are smaller and considerably more fragile than the Graboids they mutated from, and are easier to fire at since they're above the ground. However, they're also far more numerous and, in that particular situation, Burt had stocked up on low ammo, high impact weapons expecting to deal with Graboids, which results in him burning through his ammo rather quickly once the Shriekers show up.
Notably, Shiekers seem to be a combination of both remarkably stupid yet incredibly smart. They attack anything that's hot enough to be alive, resulting in them assaulting a radio tower and shredding the electronics within, as well as ripping up the engines of cars. In Grady's own words, "You mean they've been acting so smart because they're so stupid?" At the same time, they're clever enough to prepare ambushes like the one that Burt stumbled into (and apparently the one that killed Pedro) and they formed a living ladder to get to the humans on top of the oil tower.
Though a single graboid is always a threat, in a way this seems to apply to the entire series. Each movie introduces a new form, with the previous forms becoming more common. With the exception of the forth movie which doesn't introduce any new forms and deals entirely with the original Graboid.
Played straight with the TV series however, where El Blanco is only a mild annoyance most of the time and shares no behaviors with other graboids. However, it's stated that, unlike normal Graboids, El Blanco is capable of getting full (presumably due to being sterile and thus doesn't need to feed nonstop in preparation for producing Shriekers), and thus will happily feed off the animals in the valley and leave the humans alone most of the time.
Or possibly it being smart enough to catch on that pursuing humans too relentlessly will get it blown up, too. Considering how many monsters get blown up in both the films and the series and how smart Graboids are, it's quite likely he simply considers animals easier prey than humans.
Oh Crap: For a creature without a face, the last Graboid from the original film conveyed this trope remarkably well when it burst out of the cliffside and found that it wasn't at the right stage of its life cycle to fly.
Earl and Grady in the second movie when they find the remains of a Graboid that just gave "birth" to Shriekers.
One Buwwet Weft: One pipe-bomb left. Also, the "Grizzly" anti-tank rifle only carries one bullet.
Omnidisciplinary Scientist: In the first movie, Rhonda's a seismologist grad-student, and while she does come up with a couple of plausible theories about specifics of Graboid behavior, she's ultimately just as ignorant about them as everyone else:
Valentine: What do you think it's trying to do?
Rhonda:Why do you keep asking me?
Parental Abandonment: While many viewers of the original film assumed that Melvin was Nestor's son, and had actually witnessed his own father's death, supplemental material reveals that his parents lived in Perfection, but were unsurprisingly in the habit of running off to Vegas and leaving him behind.
Taking You with Me: In the original film, Burt considers blowing himself up along with the graboids as an alternative to starvation, before Val and Earl's idea of "going fishing" averts his need to do so.
Tap on the Head: Valentine uses the "sharp shot to the solar plexus" version on Earl.
Tempting Fate: "Now there's nothing, and I mean nothing, between us and Bixby!"
The Determinator: The Graboids especially in the first movie. They don't give up, and in true Implacable Man style, anything which drives them away does so only temporarily. Meanwhile they can soak up a huge amount of punishment before succumbing.
There Was a Door: A Graboid decides to pay the Gummers a visit by headbutting through their wall. Not a straight case since Graboids are 1) too big to use doors, 2) have no hands/thumbs, and 3) would be absolutely horrifying if Graboids actually could use doors.
In the series, Four Twelve was prone to this.
We Need a Distraction: Several times in the first movie the characters have to come up with ways of distracting the noise-sensitive Graboids away from their immediate target; the most basic is simply stomping on the ground.
"Hey, Melvin! Wanna make a buck?"
It doesn't work with the last Graboid, Stumpy. As Val realizes, "This one's not falling for it."
And this is, of course, also put to use with the heat-seeking Shriekers and Ass-Blasters. A great example of this is in the second movie, when Earl soaks a piece of clothing in hot water to use as a distraction for the Shriekers so he and Kate could move to a safer location. Later on, Burt uses himself as a distraction to lure the Shriekers into the garage to trap them inside, though that doesn't work out as planned thanks to the piles of sweet snack foods, rice, and flour inside.
You Must Be Cold: Earl uses this trope to play matchmaker for Valentine and Rhonda, by borrowing Val's jacket and covering Rhonda with it while she's asleep.
An Arm and a Leg: In the second movie, Earl and Grady see the truck they called for has been torn apart by Shriekers. When they look for the driver, all they find are his severed arms.
Arc Words: "Do what we can with what we've got" (in the TV series)
The line "Doin' what I can with what I got" originates on-screen in Tremors 2 when Burt says it, but is also closely paraphrased some 100 years earlier by another character in Tremors 4.
Speaking of Tremors 2 and Tremors 4, there's also the term "Dandy"...
Ascended Fanboy: Grady in the second movie certainly acts this way and does have genuine admiration for Earl. Larry in the TV series, though his admiration extends to the whole town.
Big Bulky Bomb: 2.5 tons of high explosives. It levels everything in the area and leaves a massive crater.
Heartbroken Badass: Not a very prominent part of his character, but Burt qualifies in the second movie, when he all but admits he's there at least in part to get his mind off of Heather leaving him. The series drops a few hints that he's still not completely over her.
Burt is also quite devastated in third movie when Miguel is killed.
Improbable Cover: Subverted when Earl sets Burt's whole truck—packed with explosives—to explode. When the others hide behind a nearby building, Burt shouts at them to "Keep running!". They look at Earl, who replies "Burt knows his bombs". After quite a bit more running, they find a ditch, which, combined with the distance, provides sufficient cover.
Burt: Memo: two pounds of C4 may be a bit....excessive.
In the series, the tables are turned and Burt calls out an military general for wanting to get rid of the current problem with Mixmaster by essentially nuking Perfection.
Why We Are Bummed Communism Fell: According to Burt, one of the reasons his wife had for leaving him was the fall of the Soviet Union, and that Burt couldn't handle life without the threat of nuclear annihilation.
Asshole Victim: Tremors 3 has Agent Frank Statler, Agent Charlie Rusk, and Dr. Andrew Merliss, who refuse to let Burt hunt the graboids that have recently invaded, citing their protection as an endangered species. When the citizens of Perfection argue that the graboids are a threat to their lives and homes, the government agents tell them that their properties are going to be seized under Eminent Domain to set up a preserve. None of the three survive the film.
*Jodi and Jack draw their guns upon hearing another Assblaster incoming*
Burt: Forget it! You're both empty!
Burt (to Jack): You fired ten, she fired four.
Death Glare: Burt gives Jack an epic one in Tremors 3 after he learns that he just needlessly blew up his house and Jack tries to calm him with a stupid "zen zinger."
Foreshadowing: In the third film, one of the comics on the store's rack is "Graboids vs. Shriekers". Desert Jack later takes out the last Ass-Blaster by baiting El Blanco into eating it, in a comparable display of life-cycle stages turning on each other.
Val mocking the last Graboid if it can fly. Then come the Ass-Blasters...
Gatling Good: At the beginning of the third film, Burt shows us what he can do when given the proper equipment for the job.
At the end of the fourth movie, Burt's ancestor makes up for his lack of skill with a pistol by learning to shoot a Gatling gun.
Heroic BSOD: Burt briefly goes into one in the third movie when he blows up his entire compound, only to be informed moments later that it was completely unnecessary. This is pretty much played for laughs.
Jodi: Um, Burt... Burt's not available right now, but thanks for the update Nancy.
Nancy gets a brief one in the series when the Ass-Blaster she sold at the end of the third movie is stolen and ends up making its way back to Perfection, killing two people before it's found out.
My Car Hates Me: In the third movie, Desert Jack has a switch in his car that he uses to intentionally invoke this on his "Graboid Safaris".
"I should've taken that shot! I should've shot sooner."
Obstructive Bureaucrat: A team of three federal agents appear in the third movie to protect the endangered Graboids. Naturally, they're all killed by the things. Lampshaded by Burt when they finally come to him for help and ask what they should do:
Burt: Do what you do best: find something simple, and complicate it!
Twitchell in the series is always around blackmailing and pestering the town in one form or another. He seemed to be getting nicer as the series went along though.
Short-Distance Phone Call: In Tremors 3, Burt Gummer and Jack Sawyer have an angry conversation while Burt is driving. When Burt arrives and parks, he is perhaps ten feet from Jack, yet they continue talking on the phone. At least until Burt hangs up and delivers to Jack's face that classic line "Is your head up your ass for the warmth?".
Stranger in a Familiar Land: When Burt returns home at the start of the third movie, he's stunned that no one else is properly maintaining their graboid monitors.
Take That, Scrappy!: An In-Universe example. Melvin, The Millstone of the first film reappears in the third film as the property developer trying to buy out Perfection Valley, still as irritating as before but without the excuse of being a kid. Not only does he end up indirectly causing Burt to get (temporarily) eaten alive, but one of his property signs end up ruining a perfect escape attempt from the Ass-Blasters. At the end of the film, Burt decides to punish him by leaving him trapped on a boulder next to El Blanco.
Theme Park Version: Early in the third movie, Jack's graboid tour offers the theme park version of a graboid attack. Of course, the simulation becomes real when actual graboids show up.
Although never actually shown on camera, Earl, Kate, and Grady opened an actual graboid-themed theme park sometime after the second movie.
Wrong Movie Savvy: In Aftershocks, the characters are prepared for Graboids and stock up accordingly, but then they're dealt heat-seeking, topside-dwelling, self-reproducing Shriekers that completely change the ballgame. By Back to Perfection, Burt has mastered dealing with Shriekers (becoming a sought after expert), but then Ass-Blasters emerge. Burt thought an Ass-Blaster would eat and spawn more creatures like Shriekers do, so he blew up his house before it chowed down on his MREs... only to then learn that Ass-Blasters just go into a coma from overeating.
You Can Panic Now: In Tremors 3, when Burt, Jack, and Jodi find themselves with an Ass Blaster right above them that doesn't seem to see them we get this:
Jack: Okay. Just calmly get out of the boat, and calmly head for-
Doesn't Like Guns: Burt's ancestor Hiram, believe it or not. In Part 4, he only brings along a tiny pea-shooter when searching for the "Dirt Dragons". Towards the end, they start to grow on him. And just before the credits roll, his love interest gets him a present: a gatling gun. He likes it...
Fail O'Suckyname: The fourth movie reveals that "Perfection" used to be called "Rejection". This is lampshaded a few times.
Instant Marksman Just Squeeze Trigger: Averted and Lampshaded in the fourth film, when Black Hand Kelly tries to teach Hiram Gummer how to shoot a gun and gives him all kinds of handling advice, only for him to consistently miss.
Gummer: This is a waste of time.
Kelly: Well what'd you expect? You expect me to teach you in 20 minutes what took me 20 years?
Nothing Is Scarier: In Tremors 4, Juan describes how not seeing what attacked the other workers in the mine made it scarier than if he had.
The birth of Shriekers. We never actually see it, but we hear the unnerving noise a Graboid makes and then see the gory aftermath.
Written-In Absence: Filming on Tremors 4 coincided with the TV series, so Burt couldn't appear in the last two episodes (going by production order). In "The Sounds of Silence," he is said to be in Idaho, buying a periscope at a scrapyard. In "The Key," he's off in Montana on a commando weekend. ("The Key" did feature a clip of Burt's survival video playing in the store, but it was reused from a previous episode.)
One of the scientists in the third movie also seems to be the Animal Wrongs type. He gets on Burt's case for making a career out of hunting Graboids and Shriekers, completely disregarding the fact that Graboid encroachment poses a major threat to human life. He later gets his back torn to ribbons by a Shrieker.
The TV series is basically a huge Take That to "eco-kooks" as a whole. Even beyond the fact that Graboids are clearly far, far too dangerous for it to be sane to let them live, "El Blanco", the "protected" graboid... is STERILE. The reason that the residents of Perfection have no trouble coexisting with it is because it will never complete its life cycle and produce shriekers, assblasters, and therefore more graboids, and as a result is capable of becoming full (unlike normal Graboids who hunt until they produce shriekers) simply by feeding off the animals present in the valley. The greens are bleeding their hearts out over a critter that is, in a genetic sense, already dead.
Alas, Poor Villain: 4-12 from the TV series. It may have killed people, but its handler genuinely loved it and, until the plant that kept its aggression under control became impossible to find, it was living peacefully with him. Unlike most monsters, its death is actually played tragically and it's even given a proper burial.
Bilingual Bonus: Rosalita's rants in Spanish can be pretty funny. Especially when they're trapped by Shriekers, and she's just learned that Burt does indeed have spare ammo...locked inaccessibly away in the safe room after a scientist's stunt of cooking off the first ammo stock to save a group of Shriekers left the door wedged shut.
Death by Irony: One of the earlier episodes in the t.v. series seems built on this trope. The mob man who believed in the Graboid is the one eaten, not his disbelieving buddy. Then, in an effort to retrieve the key, their boss brought a harpoon to spear El Blanco, only for El Blanco to actually end up spearing him with the harpoon, instead.
Even Evil Has Standards: The Vegas gangster trying to kill El Blanco to get back the safe deposit key that was eaten several episodes earlier thought it was utterly cold of Delores to slip a radio onto a man and use him as Graboid bait.
Expy: In the third film, Nancy sells a captured ass-blaster to Siegfried and Roy. The TV series changes the buyers' names to those great Vegas stage magicians Sigmund and Ray, presumably Writing Around Trademarks.
Heroes Love Dogs: Tyler from the TV series remarks at one point, "God, I hate a smart animal... unless it's a dog."
Hollywood Acid: One episode of the t.v. series features a plant/reptile hybrid that sprays a potent "acid" that skeletonizes a person in mere seconds. In the episode they say it is a much stronger version of the digestive juices of the Pitcher plant.
LEGO Genetics: In the TV series, monsters were created by the Mix Master virus: Invisibat, Giant Shrimp, Termaggots, Plantimal, Microbe Swarm, Project 4-12.
Monster of the Week: In the series. Also, as noted, each sequel movie introduces a new mutation of the Graboids.
Though this is played differently in the prequel movie. It introduces a new larval stage for the creatures, but they only appear in a couple scenes before being replaced by the Graboids again.
It's also quite odd that she always wears thin T-shirts, as judging by her chest it's very cold in Perfection.
Taken to its logical extreme in one episode where she dives into a watering trough to avoid being eaten. She actually spends the next few scenes in a soaked white t-shirt. Amazingly, not a single character draws attention to this.
Out of Order: The TV series to absurd degrees. Most infamously, "Project 4-12" was shown after "Ghost Dance" despite the former introducing and explaining Cletus. Production had to film quick book end scenes with Tyler and Larry to make "Project 4-12" a Whole Episode Flashback. Averted with the DVD release, which has the episodes in the proper order, though the altered "Project 4-12" remains.
Planimal: The TV series has the Trope Namer. It's a plant/root/thing, but also has a circulation system.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Mixmaster, a virus designed to mix DNA of different species, remained buried in an underground lab for decades until it ended up being released into the valley.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: In one episode they encounter a scientist whose demeanor and views are remarkably similar to Burt's. Burt was absent at the time (due to Michael Gross filming the fourth film). Lampshaded by a few of the characters when the encounter her. She, however, feels that Burt is "a stiff".
Swallow the Key: Not done intentionally, but El Blanco the Graboid ate a gangster in an early episode of Tremors: The Series, who happened to have the key to a mob safety-deposit box around his neck at the time. In a later episode, the gangster's surviving associate returns to try to kill El Blanco and retrieve the key, hoping to empty the deposit box of its millions.