Like most, this has been around for a while, and I am just now seeing it on Amazon Prime Video. It’s Tremors from 1990 out of Universal Pictures. It stars Kevin Bacon as Valentine “Val” McKee. Details are from Wikipedia.
The opening shot clued me that I was not to take this film seriously. We see a couple of 20th century cowboys embracing the morning in the Nevada desert. That cliff in the foreground is an obvious work of art by a studio spray gun operator, but it is ultimately to provide the solution to the drama.
Val and his buddy Earl Basset (Fred Ward) are a couple of improvident day laborers, catching odd jobs at ranches and the fictitious settlement of Perfection.
They are about to meet pretty geology student Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter). This is critical on two points. First Val is keen on somehow getting laid, and his dream is a winsome, green-eyed lass with pale hair. Rhonda is going to look a lot better without the zinc oxide on her nose. For the second part, Rhonda is critical, because she is monitoring some seismograph sensors placed around the desert, and they are starting to show activity. Hence the name of the movie.
Well, these tremors are caused by a fierce creature that lives beneath the desert floor. This is a takeoff on the sand worms from Dune and only slightly more believable. These creatures tunnel through the desert alluvial (that’s a geology term for dirt), but they can’t deal with solid rock, of which there is plenty (granite) throughout the region.
The monsters (Rhonda measures the existence of four) detect movement on the ground and head for it. They pop up suddenly and fearsomely, grabbing people and animals and dragging them underground to eat them alive. Frightening!
After a number of characters in the movie get devoured, the survivors go on the defensive. Burt and Heather Grummer (Michael Gross and Reba McEntire) are notorious local survivalists. They have prepared for a government takeover, but the subterranean attack catches them off guard, momentarily. They gather on their roof top and assess their arsenal.
Attempting to escape to the safety of the mountains (granite), the survivors become stranded on a granite formation isolated on the desert floor. Here they devise a scheme to defeat the remainder of the beasts, using pipe bombs cooked up by Burt.
Spoiler alert! In the end Val defeats the remaining monster by luring it to charge under ground to the cliff face, shown in the opening shot in the movie. The beast plunges to a gratifying end, and Rhonda shows her appreciation to Val in the best way possible.
If you can buy into sand worms that live underground undetected for ages or else suddenly appear in the biosphere as new species, then you can get through this movie. This is one of those movies that plays at being a comedy while people are being eaten alive by fearsome beasts.
The closing scene has Val and Rhonda in a furious smooch, and we know this has to lead to a bed somewhere. If you have no imagination what so ever, that is a happy ending. If you live in the real world you have to wonder how a woman about to obtain her Ph.D. in geology is going to have a life with a barely literate cowboy who makes plans five hours into the future. This is where Hollywood makes its money.