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Film / Tremors

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The Tremors franchise is a series of action-horror-comedy movies about a hitherto unknown species of giant burrowing worm-creatures dubbed "Graboids", most of which star Michael Gross as survivalist Burt Gummer.

The franchise also has two attempts at a TV series, both produced by The Sci-Fi Channel, the first lasting a single season in 2003, and the second a 2018 reboot/alternate continuity installment which featured lead Kevin Bacon returning to star for the first time since the original film, but which failed to get beyond the shooting of an unaired pilot episode before getting the axe.

The franchise includes:

Series-wide tropes

  • The Ace: Burt is one of the best monster hunters out there, armed to the teeth with equipment perfect for taking on Graboids and their ilk. Even when he gets blindsided by new developments, he finds ways to deal with them eventually through sheer ingenuity.
    Burt:Just doing what I can with what I got.
  • Action Survivor: Most of the characters, save for Earl and Grady in 2 and Burt in general.
  • Alien Blood: Graboids' blood is a bright reddish-orange, its exact shade varying slightly between films.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Albinism has nothing to do with sterility, despite Miguel's theory about why El Blanco (or his relative's nanny goat for that matter) proved unable to reproduce.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: Averted. The Tremors films have actually received praise from firearm enthusiasts for their mostly-accurate depictions of gun safety.
  • Bad Vibrations: Caused by the Graboids, but subverted with the first appearance of the Shriekers.
  • BFG: Practically one of the series staples, usually carried by Burt Gummer.
    • The first film has the "Elephant Gun", the final weapon Burt takes out to finish a graboid. In actuality, it's a large 8-gauge shotgun firing solid slugs.
    • Aftershocks introduces the LAR Grizzly Big Boar, it's 50 BMG round is strong enough to absolutely obliterate a shrieker, pierce the wall it was right beside, a couple of barrels, and the engine block of their escape vehicle. It makes a cameo in Back to Perfection
    • The Legend Begins shows that the interest for huge guns might be genetic as Hiram Gummer, Burt's ancestor chooses to buy a punt gun when returning to Rejection to fend off the graboids. In the ending, his love interest buys him a gatling gun that really kickstarts the Gummer family's love for guns.
    • In the television series, he carries the slightly more practical Barrett M82.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Graboids pinpoint their prey using sound and other vibrations, while Shriekers and Ass-Blasters use heat vision.
  • Breakout Character: Burt was a very popular part of the movie and became the only character present in every film and the TV series as a result, more-or-less starring in the franchise since 2001. Even the fourth film stars Burt's lookalike ancestor.
  • 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.
  • Covers Always Lie: With the notable exception of the fourth film, most of the covers depict the graboids’ fanged snake tongues as the actual monsters.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Most of the protagonist's plans are a combination of this and the Indy Ploy.
  • 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 anythingnote .
    • Ironically a running theme in the movies is that while Crazy-Prepared for most things, the Graboids keep throwing him curve balls. First movie: normal preparation against the government, but not against subterranean monsters ("I never figured I'd be shooting through dirt"). Second movie, he's prepared to fight Graboids, but small heat-seeking land-based creatures leaves him completely out of ammo in his first encounter with them. Third movie: Has a nice fortified concrete bunker that can stand up to both Graboids and Shriekers. But nice and exposed to flying creatures...
  • Crazy Survivalist: Burt Gummer, a heroic version. And more lucid than most examples.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Burt tends to run into this problem quite often, and is usually why he isn't able to simply deal with the situations at hand completely on his own.
  • 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.
    • The fifth movie double subverts this trope, as it states that the African assblasters are nocturnal, because it's more difficult for them to hunt using heat-vision in the African heat of the day... but then they start attacking during the day anyway. It's because the protagonists have their egg.
  • Debating Names: During a lull in the action, the townspeople debate what to call the underground Sand Worms that are menacing them. Shortly after they decide on "graboids", the person who suggested it is killed by one.
  • Dig Attack:
    • The Graboids' standard attack is to burrow underneath their human/animal prey, grab them with their tentacles and pull them into their mouths through the ground.
    • The Graboids can attack vehicles resting on the surface by digging under them (dropping them underground) or bursting their tires. They have also been known to dig underground tunnels near the surface in a vehicle's path to trap it. The more heavily-armored heads of the African and Arctic subspecies let them ram vehicles from below to flip them.
  • Draw Aggro: Near the end, three characters are stuck on the sand where the graboids can get them. While they are forced to stand still, other characters on a rock make noise to get the graboids to come to them. Unfortunately the graboid doesn't fall for it (but fortunately Val comes up with a plan).
  • 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.
  • Feed It a Bomb: The easiest way of killing Graboids (until they learn how to identify one).
  • The Ground Is Lava: A fairly useful tactic for avoiding the Graboids, particularly in the first film.
  • Gun Porn: Practically every scene involving Burt has him surrounded by guns and other ordinance, and/or talking about those things.
  • Guns Do Not Work That Way: Either subverts, averts, or avoids every single trope on the page.
  • Happily Married:
    • Burt and Heather in the first film. Averted 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.
  • The Hero: An interesting progression. In the first film, Val McKee is The Hero, Earl Bassett is The Lancer, and Burt Gummer is just one of the various townspeople. In the second film, Val is Put on a Bus, Earl is The Hero, and Burt is The Lancer. In the third film, Earl is Put On A Bus and Burt becomes The Hero, remaining in that role for the rest of the franchise.
  • Hidden Depths: Burt as the films go along, especially after his divorce. He becomes less Crazy Survivalist and more Combat Pragmatist.
  • It Only Works Once:
    • Played straight in the first and fourth movies, subverted in part 2 (where close to thirty Graboids are killed using the exact same tactic), and mixed in part 3 (two Ass-blasters make the mistake of lighting up in a room already occupied by gasoline and two more are shot and killed with an improvised potato gun, but a third ducks when they fire at it).
    • To be fair in the second movie, none of the Graboids are in close proximity to each other when killed being spread out over an entire oil refinery, which is around 12 square miles of area to cover, as well as the bombs being remotely detonated so they can't blow anything up if spat out, and in the third the Ass-blasters were distracted by something else before being shot.
  • Jerkass: Melvin Plug in all of his appearances.
  • 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.
  • Living Relic: The creatures in the franchise are explicitly identified as Pre-Cambrian lifeforms native to Earth. Fridge Logic aside, that would literally make them the oldest living species in prehistory, way older than even dinosaurs.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: A Running Gag in all films. Whenever a Graboid is killed, it tends to spray chunks everywhere. Earl wises up by the second film and carries an umbrella with him.
  • MacGyvering: Common in the later films and TV series. Lampshaded by Miguel in the third film.
  • 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.
  • 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. Specifically, an M16 Multiple Gun Carriage aka the "Meat Chopper". Also, the 2-inch bore Punt Gun and the Civil War era Gatling gun from the fourth movie.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Averted as far as the main life cycle stages go. 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. (The African variety plays this trope straight.)
  • Named After the Injury: Early in the film the heroes injure one of the graboids by shooting off one of its tentacles. From that point on they refer to that graboid as "Stumpy". Stumpy is the final graboid to be killed at the end of the film.
  • No Name Given: The Dirt Dragon/Graboid/Shrieker/Ass-Blaster species doesn't have a common name that's applicable to all four life-cycle stages, just a taxonomic name in online promotional material.
  • Once per Episode: Most of the movies feature the following gags:
    • People being unexpectedly pelted with Graboid/Shrieker/Ass-blaster remains
    • Burt being left with the wrong guns for the job.
    • Trapped individuals seeing or hearing something moving and thinking a monster is on the way only to realize, "It's Burt!"/"It's Mr. Gummer!"
      • Done in reverse in the fifth movie. Burt is the one trapped when he sees a blip on his seismic monitor and think it's a graboid come to eat him, but it turns out to be Travis.
      • Who, in a sense, could still be called "Mr. Gummer".
    • Someone stops for a bathroom break.
  • Only Shop in Town: Walter Chang's Market. Of course, it's a very small town.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Averted, chiefly because Burt is there to make sure people don't misuse their weapons.
  • 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. However, if a more accessible vibration starts nearby, a Graboid may abandon its prey for the easier meal, something real life predators may do.
    • 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.
  • Shown Their Work: Burt Gummer is a character example in regards to Gun Safety. Throughout the series, despite being a few fries short of a happy meal in all other areas, Burt follows the rules of safe weapons handling to the letter. It was actually a point of pride for his actor.
  • 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.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: Used in both the third film and the TV series to introduce Jodi Chang and Rosalita Sanchez, who each inherited the property of an uncle (Walter Chang and Miguel, respectively) killed by monsters. The downside is that the property is in Perfection, so both nieces have to move to monster territory to take advantage of the bequest.
  • Vanity License Plate: Burt Gummer - "UZI 4U".
  • Villain-Based Franchise: While Burt Gummer is a recurring hero in most of the franchise, he cannot really be said to be the primary protagonist. The Graboids and their different life cycles are the center of attention.
  • Wall of Weapons: In Burt Gummer's rec room in the first movie. 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.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: Shriekers are described as reproducing exponentially, one becomes two; two become four; four become eight, ad infinitum. Exponentially would mean one becomes two; two become four; four become sixteen.
    • When I took calculus, exponential functions were in the form of "N to the power of x," where N is an constant (calculus courses prefer the irrational number e, but other bases work just as well). If N = 2, then for x = 1, 2, 3, ... you get 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, and so on. So it appears that these writers were using the math correctly. On the other hand, they're not that good at biology: ALL living organisms reproduce exponentially, so long as they don't run out of food or space (as Malthus pointed out in his book on population).


Video Example(s):


Burt and Heather Gummer

Two Gun-enthusiasts living on the outskirts of Perfection, Nevada, and are Survivalists that have garnered enough firepower to warrant a Wall of Weapons inside of their basement and plenty of ammo for all of those guns. Woe betide to any Graboid that tries to break into that Rec Room.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (10 votes)

Example of:

Main / BattleCouple

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