Tagged Fred Ward

Fear of the Outside World in Tremors

Tremors. 1990. Directed by Ron Underwood. Screenplay by Brent Maddock & S.S. Wilson.
Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire, Robert Jayne, Charlotte Stewart, Tony Genaro, Ariana Richards, Richard Marcus, Victor Wong, Sunshine Parker, Michael Dan Wagner, Conrad Bachmann, Bibi Besch, John Goodwin, & John Pappas. Universal Pictures/No Frills Film Production.
Rated 14A. 96 minutes.
Comedy/Horror/Sci-Fi

★★★1/2
POSTER I’ve got a fondness for the monster/creature feature sub-genre of horror and science fiction. There are so many classic, old school Hollywood flicks that have iconic monsters. Everything from James Whale’s Frankenstein to Karl Freund’s The Mummy. You can consider Stephen Spielberg’s birth-of-the-summer-blockbuster Jaws a creature feature. There are even lots of solid indie movies to have produced iconic, horrific creatures, such as the recent Mickey Keating alien film Pod, 90s fare like The Relic and Guillermo del Toro’s Mimic (though studio interference butchered the latter).
And for all its faults, 1990’s underground creature flick Tremors is an entertaining addition to the pack. With a memorable VHS cover I remember wanting to see this movie as a kid. I eventually caught it, still too young for horror, on television late at night. While there’s a great deal of humour and campy movie making, there’s still a super creepy aspect to this one. Despite some almost slapstick style acting and cheese Tremors still manages to attain a level of ’90s horror glory, as it ekes out a few laughs, also giving us a nice dose of creature action with a few fun special effects along the way. By no means is it classic, but it is an enjoyable bit of horror wrapped up a science fiction comedy.
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 5.26.31 PM
In the tiny town Perfection at the edge of the desert, two handymen, Earl Bass (Fred Ward) and Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon), are at their wits’ end. They’ve decided to up and get out of there, to try and make lives for themselves somewhere else. Except that when they’re headed out Earl and Valentine find a man named Edgar up stuck in a tower. In fact, Edgar’s dead. He stayed up there for days and dehydrated. Really?
Well turns out, a woman named Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) is in town studying seismology. There have been some serious, strange readings in the ground around Perfection lately.
Big, hungry, and terrifying worms seem to be living underneath Perfection. And now they’re coming up to grab anything they can get their slimy mouths on.
But when the ground isn’t safe, where do you go?
Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 5.45.17 PM
That’s the biggest appeal of Tremors in terms of its horror. We feel a fear of anything that can come from the air or underneath us, whether in water or under the ground. Because it’s something inescapable. It’s bad enough if you’re in water, as anything can get you, there’s really nowhere to hide you’d have to just keep on swimming. Until you make it to land. But it’s scarier on land. You either have to climb, die, or fight. So that’s what Earl, Valentine and the rest of the crew find themselves up against. And in a small desert town like Perfection there are even a more limited number of options of where to go than might normally be found. A lot of the tension the screenplay builds up is simply through that isolation. The few residents are forced to do anything they can possibly think of to try and fight these creatures.
If you really want to get deep, the tremors represent the influence and pressure of the outside world. Valentine and Earl are on their way out of Perfection, off to the big city. However, they don’t even make it past the town limits before something pulls them back in. The tremors are an outside influence trying to infiltrate the town. Earl and Valentine realize this, their small town way of life threatened, and they’re pulled back in to defend themselves. Underneath the horror and all the comedy, Tremors is about those who realize they’re more at home, safer with those they’ve known in their little tight knit groups than branching out into a bigger place where they don’t know anyone, where anybody, or anything, can be lurking right below the surface. Ultimately, it’s an agoraphobic film, and if you see it in that light then the film can really take on a different light, making the horror more fun.
On top of all that, the Graboid creatures were created by Amalgamated Dynamics (they’ve done a bunch of other stuff from the recent Harbinger Down which they did independently to other bigger films like Death Becomes Her and David Fincher’s Panic Room). Even if you simply take Tremors for what it is, at a base level, the horror and the effects are still a lot of fun. There are some genuinely nasty bits of effects, especially once some of the Graboids start to get shot/blown up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Cheesy as the movie can get, both Bacon and Ward are endearing, as well as the fact they’ve got great chemistry together. It’s a perfect old guy-young guy buddy combination, to the point you can almost consider this a buddy comedy horror. Again, there’s some definite stinky cheese here. But it’s the way these two sell it, how they use their charm to make the screenplay work even at its most campy. Bacon, as always, is energetic. Ward, too. They play the small town attitude well and you can really buy that these two have been working together for a while in Perfection – part of me wonders how they ended up as partners, Val probably meeting Earl when he was just a teenager and the two became this almost pair of grifters, roaming around doing anything they could to make a buck, work for this person, that person. So for a movie that has ’90s cheese factor of significant proportions, the screenplay actually drums up a good bit of intrigue for all its simplicity. Carter does a fine job with her role as Rhonda, providing a semi love interest that doesn’t actually come out until right before the final credits (something I dig because love stories are tiring sometimes and clutter up certain plots). She gets the chance to be smart, bad ass, and aids in the overall protection of Perfection. In that way, she’s a productive outside influence as opposed to the monstrous Graboids. The rest of the cast is peppered with nice casting choices, such as Michael Gross and Reba McEntire as an awesomely nutty gun-loving couple that come in handy, even the classic Victor Wong is in there for good measure. For an ensemble cast, this film could’ve done much, much worse.
Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 9.57.11 AM
As I said, Tremors is by no means a classic. Or is it? No masterpiece, that’s for sure. But it is one of those ’90s movies I’ll never forget. I saw it constantly on the shelf at my local Allan’s Video, it finally came on television late at night. Then I probably saw it another dozen times over the next 26 years, including today while reviewing it. It’s got light hearted comedy, a couple solid little performances for the movie they’re in, as well as the fact those Graboids are creepy, nasty looking things. In a decade that fell off a little compared to the ’80s, re: horror movies, Tremors is a welcomed bit of fluff that hits the spot when you’re looking for a bit of lightweight cinema that crosses comedy, horror, and science fiction in the span of a quick 96 minutes.

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 3: “Maybe Tomorrow”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 3: “Maybe Tomorrow”
Directed by Janus Metz Pedersen (Armadillo)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Down Will Come” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.13.38 PMAs many of us predicted, this week found Detective Ray Velcoro [resilient Irish bastard Colin Farrell] alive and well after seemingly meeting the heavy end of two shotgun blasts – one at midrange, the other close range in the gut and chest. I thought he was wearing a vest, but to my surprise he was not; the rounds were riot shells, the non-lethal sort police use. Velcoro smiles slightly out of the side of his face as he relates that last part to his new partner Detective Ani Bezzerides [Rachel McAdams].
The opening of the episode was perfect. A lot of people are saying today that it was campy. Yeah, right. It’s a dreamy sequence, which happens between the time Ray is shot in the last episode and when he wakes up in this one. This scene shows how Twin Peaks is absolutely a running influence on both Nic Pizzolatto since the first season and the directors of the show in this new season.
Things are slowly heating up for Ray. He meets with Frank Semyon [Vince Vaughn] to discuss the recent events. Ray drinks a glass of water instead of the usual booze and cocaine cocktail. When Frank asks about the water, Ray replies: “Booze tends to take the edge off, I wanna stay angry.” There’s a shift happening in Ray Velcoro, as if he is now truly realizing the forces with which he is dealing, even after all the terrible things I’m sure he has seen, and done. The change is evident as Frank gets ready to head out and the bartender asks what happened to Ray. “Somebody murdered him,” Frank tells her as he pays up and leaves.
Velcoro is experiencing further aggravation in his family life, as his ex-wife offers him money to essentially walk away and not contest the custody of their boy. This, of course, as we’ve already seen is certainly not an option Ray even cares to think about.
I’m really interested in Ray generally, especially when it comes to his whole personal situation, because it’s absolutely wild, and it is such a tough situation all over that I can’t imagine where things will lead by the end of the season.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.15.56 PMMeanwhile, poor Frank is having troubles with his wife Jordan [Kelly Reilly]. She tries her best to help him get a bit of semen into a plastic cup, but ole Frank just can’t get the job done. The tension of Frank’s business life is clearly working its way into him, every way possible. Later in the episode, one of Frank’s cronies is found dead, his eyes wrecked like the dead catalyst of the season Ben Caspere. This seems to really set Frank off. One thing is for sure – he is getting deeper and deeper into the criminal mud than ever, no telling whether he’ll sink or crawl out on top. I just see the fire simmering low under the surface of Frank and his poised exterior, like he is trying hard to wear a certain mask even if it doesn’t fit quite right.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.16.15 PM I’m not sure if there’s anything really interesting going on with Vaughn’s character, though, I am still interested. Mainly it’s the way Vaught plays Frank Semyon with a quiet sort of demeanour that intrigues me, and I’m anticipating down the road we’ll end up seeing some intense moments that will pay off; I see something explosive in Frank, waiting, brewing to a head. Or who knows – maybe Semyon will be disappointing in the end as a character, someone cliched and stereotypical of the businessman-turned-gangster we’ve seen so many times around before.
We do get a glimpse into Frank’s physical aggression, as he faces off fist-to-fist with Danny Santos, a gold toothed gangster associate. Frank not only beats the hell out of Danny, and fairly quick, he then proceeds to pull out the gold fronts in Danny’s mouth. Vicious. Yet I feel there is only more to come on that front.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.17.04 PM“Maybe Tomorrow” brought a new bit of mix with the characters, as Detective Ani Bezzerides and Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] went out on the job together, questioning people in connection to their case, which in turn really gets under the Mayor of Vinci’s skin. I liked their exchanges, especially in the car early on. Ani starts to ask Paul about the case which took him off the bike – the young lady and her ‘offer’ from the First Episode – which sets Paul off a little. She goes on to assure him it was only brought up because Ani wondered if it would affect him doing street reconnaissance. I liked this moment particularly because it paints Ani again in a light that doesn’t always go for female characters; from the beginning, she is a take charge woman but does not suffer from being portrayed as uptight or hung up in any way. Whereas other shows might have Ani chastise Paul or make a snide comment now that they are saddled up together, Nic Pizzolatto opts to have her either be slightly understanding or not really caring at all and only worried about the job in front of her. I don’t think Pizzolatto is pushing towards having McAdams play a female character such as Bezzerides simply to pander to those who say there were no good, strong female characters/roles in the first season – I think he is genuinely writing a solid character. Ani could’ve worked as a male character, easily, however, it adds a better dimension having her as a female police detective here. I think it really flows well with the other personalities of the characters involved in the investigation.
Also, I think the small portions of the relationship between Ani and Steve is good stuff. She is a tough woman, not without flaws, and putting Steve in the position of being the inferior is interesting. The first season we got enough of the women flinging themselves after the men, desperately looking for love; this time around Pizzolatto opts to show the other side of the coin where the men get their feelings hurt and they lash out. And that’s part of why I’m enjoying the second season – it has those existential elements, slightly less than in the first, but it stands on its own, and offers a different perspective than we got in the first. I didn’t want a repeat, I wanted something different, and Pizzolatto has enacted enough change so far that I’m pleased. Ani is one of the best parts of those changes, I think adding a female detective, or any female lead character such as her, is really a benefit to the whole season.
75There’s a great scene with Officer Woodrugh and a soldier friend of from their “time in the desert”. It offered enough insight into Paul as a character to confirm everything that has been setup in the first two episodes. Clearly we already knew Woodrugh was wrestling with his sexuality at some point, and still is, and this became even more clear with the scene involving his friend – a friend who is more than that, someone who still thinks about “those three days”. They have a small altercation and Paul leaves.
What piqued my interest even more was the end of the scene where Detective Teague Dixon [W. Earl Brown] – the other cop on the case who already seemed to catch a vibe off Woodrugh in the Second Episode – can be seen watching Woodrugh walk away from the confrontation with his friend. I’m waiting to see where this development goes. Either Dixon might be interested in Paul, long shot, or he may be interested in the blackmail opportunities that could arise should he discover anything concrete about his fellow lawman. We shall see.
Plus, a great little bump in a club between Frank Semyon and Officer Woodrugh, who is there trying to collect information, which doesn’t really foreshadow anything, I just like that the cops and the criminals are sort of navigating a world where they literally bump shoulders. You can never really tell where the edges of the law begin, where they end, like a big cesspool where everything touches and everybody wades in up to their waists. Very cool moment.
true-detective-2-03-paul-bumps-into-frankBasically, for those who have been complaining the second season is slow, that it doesn’t really have much story, “Maybe Tomorrow” truly delivers. We get some more secrets, little chunks of backstory and character/plot development falling out here and there. It was really a piñata-like episode, packing a good punch for the naysayers. Sure, I’ve no doubt they are still out there and will continue to be. I just think season two is giving the goods. It is a different beast than the first. We really seeing the beasts inside everyone, not only the criminals, but all the people in the city of Vinci from the cops to the criminals, the men, the women, and it’s like humanity spilling its guts. The first season of True Detective was all about the dirty side of humanity, however, the main characters of Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were good guys ultimately, even with all the skeletons in their personal closets; they were on the right side of the law, even when they were on the wrong side of it trying to find justice near the end of the season. This new season is all about what happens when the detectives on the case aren’t exactly good, honourable people, or at least it’s about the bad, sometimes terrible, choices good people make when the chips are down.
Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 2.13.11 PMThere are no bells and whistles on this season, so far, like there were in the first. I think that helps. Rust Cohle was awesome – so damn cool – but we have great characters developing here, especially in the three lead cops Bezzerrides, Woodrugh, and Velcoro. The end of this episode was not near as crazy as “Night Finds You“, but the whole thing was stellar, and I’m looking forward to more progression in the next, along with plenty other secrets and who knows what else. I feel certain things were settled in this episode – Frank and his need to release some form of aggression whether through fists or sex – and some things have only started – the budding situation between Paul and Teague – and the titular line of the episode near the end when Frank says, “Maybe tomorrow”, to his wife only hints at something big for the next one titled “Down Will Come”.
See you next Sunday!