Event Report: “TREMORS” With Kevin Bacon and FANGORIA at Alamo DrafthouseMovies/TV,News Madeleine Koestner
Every month, horror fans flock to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Yonkers for the Prints of Darkness series, which showcases 35mm film prints of cult horror programmed by FANGORIA’s own managing editor, Michael Gingold. For this month’s screening, giant sandworms were on the menu in an entirely sold-out theater, with every seat occupied by fans there to see TREMORS and its star, Kevin Bacon, in person.
TREMORS holds up impressively well; the practical FX are topnotch and the 35mm print looks gorgeous on the Alamo’s big screen, highlighting the sunlit desolation of the desert setting. So much of TREMORS’ dialogue is far more quotable than this writer remembered. The humor packs a punch, especially in our current cultural landscape, with the push and pull between finding clever ways to outsmart the monsters and blowing them to bits in a hail of bullets making for an odd kind of satire.
The credits roll to a close, the lights come up and a huge round of applause fills the theater as Bacon walks down the aisle. The dashingly dressed actor has aged a couple of decades since playing TREMORS’ young, daredevilish protagonist, but is still as handsome and modest as ever. As the applause dies down, he and Gingold launch into a laidback and earnest Q&A session. “We were out there in Lone Pine, California, which was sort of a mystery in and of itself,” Bacon says. “It was a part of California I had never driven through or been to before. It was a small town that looked very much like it did in the movie. Beautiful, but harsh at the same time.”
The cast and crew lived in that tiny town, which consisted of little more than a couple of establishments amongst the picturesque rock formations, for three to four months. And they had a few other cohabitants: the graboids. “[TREMORS] is fun to see in that everything is practical,” Bacon says. “If it wasn’t [done] on set, it was 2nd-unit shots they would go shoot with Steve Wilson, who was a writer and the 2nd-unit director. There were things we weren’t necessarily seeing, but they weren’t digitally created or greenscreened.”
Young and choosy about his career moves at the time of TREMORS’ production, Bacon admits he wasn’t all that enthusiastic about starring in the movie. “As thrilled as I am to have been in the film, and as much as I think it holds up…” He pauses for a second, then makes an unexpected admission: “I was horrified to have to do it.” The audience breaks into laughter, before Bacon chuckles and continues with his explanation. “I had a very elevated idea of myself as a serious actor when I was that age, and I was drawn to things that were of a more serious nature. I had done FOOTLOOSE. It created this pop stardom for me, and I was very resistant of that! I had a lot of unsuccessful films, and I was really in a situation where things weren’t going well and I was running out of money. My wife was pregnant, I felt like my whole life was changing, there was a lot of pressure on me. This script came along, and I said, ‘Shit. I’m gonna do this.’ ”
Knowing that Gale Anne Hurd, producer of ALIENS and THE TERMINATOR, was part of the TREMORS team did give him some confidence in the project. He enjoyed the script and saw the humor in it, but it was hard for himto feel positive about being in a small genre film at that point in his career—especially when it was a horror/comedy, a risky proposition at the time. “I felt it really captured those two things: scary and funny. But the studio had a very difficult time marketing it and making people understand that was what they were going to see—or maybe they just didn’t want to see me! It bombed. It didn’t really find its [fan base] until this miraculous thing called VHS gave it a life.”
Having a fantastic cast helped as well. Reba McEntire had never acted previously and was only known as a country musician, and the risk they took on her paid off. Fred Ward and Bacon’s characters feel completely natural together, despite the two not having known each other prior to the shoot, or having much time to prep. “People talk a lot about chemistry,” Bacon explains. ”My feeling has always been, you get two good actors playing a scene, and able to hit the ball back and forth. That’s what chemistry is.”
Bacon also answers a number of questions on other subjects, ranging from his work on the Edgar Allan Poe-obsessed cop show THE FOLLOWING to his recent role in the indie thriller COP CAR. He expresses a great fondness for the genre, and among his numerous horror roles, STIR OF ECHOES stands out as his personal favorite. One fan even asks about how he reacted to the frequent mentions of his name in the Marvel blockbuster GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, which causes the actor to grin. “I knew the director [James Gunn], because I was in SUPER, the movie he did right before GUARDIANS. It’s interesting—James’ movie right before doing GUARDIANS was SUPER, and Jon Watts’ movie right before doing [the next] SPIDER-MAN was COP CAR. So if anyone wants to do a Marvel movie, just hire me and don’t pay me! Chances are your next movie is gonna be a blockbuster!”
Filmmaker/actor Jeremy Gardner is in the audience, and he confides to Bacon about how his movie THE BATTERY is littered with TREMORS references. TREMORS is clearly well-loved, and Bacon has expressed a great fondness for it in recent interviews, so despite having rejected the chance to return to graboid-fighting back when the first direct-to-video sequel was in production, he is reconsidering the notion now. “I’m still trying to work that angle!” he says. “I don’t know, we’ll see. We’re still discussing it. I kind of feel like if I put it out there, maybe somebody will pick up the idea!” The audience breaks into applause. With a new addition to the series, TREMORS 5: BLOODLINE, coming next month, hopefully another TREMORS film with Bacon returning is on the horizon.
Hit up the Alamo Drafthouse’s official website for information and tickets to upcoming screenings!