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“Tremors” is about much more than giant worms; it’s about the importance and power of community and caring for others in times of need.

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I was never what you would call a normal kid, and of course, that made life difficult. I am still not normal at my big age of thirty. One film I thought about entirely too much as a child and now as an adult is the 1990 classic neo-Western horror film Tremors.

Yes, that Tremors — the one with the giant worms.

Tremors did something to alter my adolescent brain chemistry, and to this day, I crave the comfort and familiarity of Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward doing battle with Graboids. I will say that as I get older, my perspective on the film has deepened, and I watch it frequently enough that it’s a little odd that this is my first time analyzing it properly.

In addition to Tremors, I think a lot about the idea of community, genuine community, and not the fake stuff people sell you to buy their snake oil — a genuinely supportive community that, in the face of disaster, is motivated and will work together to help others survive.

Our world has become individualistic to a narcissistic degree, and we view helping and collaborating with people as an act that will dull our own shine instead of increasing it.

Tremors is madcap and hilarious and holds up in multiple ways. Yet, what I appreciate most about the film now is that it has heart and community at its core.

Perfection, Nevada, is a dismal locale even before the American Southwest equivalent of Shai-Hulud shows up to wreak havoc.

It was once a bustling town with many inhabitants, but now Perfection has seen better days, and its name is an oxymoron. The few Perfection locals know one another fairly well and regard each other with a warm familiarity, even if they find one another annoying and trying at times.

Valentine “Val” McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bassett (Fred Ward) are two down-on-their-luck handymen in Perfection. They do odd jobs around the town and know everyone almost too well. They’re disillusioned with the struggle that Perfection offers and consider leaving the town for good. That is until the worms show up, but that’s not before we see how fond the townspeople are of the errant duo.

Val and Earl are so entrenched in the town and, by extension, its people that leaving it becomes impossible when they notice something is amiss, when people start disappearing, and their bodies start popping up.

In the midst of it all, young geology grad student Rhonda LeBeck (Finn Carter) is studying seismology around the town. Rhonda could easily be considered an interloper in the already tight-knit town, but she becomes a vital part of the group and a welcome ally in survival despite not technically personally knowing anyone. Val, however, takes a liking to Rhonda and becomes infatuated with the academic.

When the film’s worm-centric drama ramps up, the townspeople and Rhonda have to start looking out for one another for survival. Teamwork makes the dream work and saves your skin when you’re in trouble. Petty differences and issues are set aside, and the work begins.

What ensues is a great example of what it means to have community, even if you are considered an outsider.

Community isn’t just people you know; it’s an asset to humanity, networks that help aid in our survival.


The group in Tremors looks out for one another thoroughly.

A clear instance of this is when Burt (Michael Gross) and Heather (the one and only Reba McEntire) Gummer are headed back to their compound a few miles away. The Graboids, sensing vibrations from that area, head there. The group makes it a point to warn Burt and Heather and ensure they are prepared for what is coming.

They are successful, and together, they hatch a plan conducive to their survival, which leads to an overall happy-ish ending despite losing a few beloved comrades along the way.

Burt and Heather could have easily been sacrificed and used as an unknowing distraction while the other group tried to make it to safety. However, that’s not the case. Care, compassion, and humanity came first instead of self-preservation.

Watching this movie as an adult makes me realize how difficult it is to find a sense of community. It’s not easy. Some factors make that even more difficult, including age, location, disabilities, race, sex, gender, etc.

There are likely more boundaries to finding community than pathways, but humans are gregarious creatures, even introverts; we long to belong somewhere, to have people we can trust and relate to.

There’s no better feeling than knowing you can lay down your guard and have trust in another person or a group of people. It’s integral to our survival. While individualism is important, making ties with people and learning that not everything is about you is just as important.

We live in a world where people are greedy and opportunistic instead of team players and allies. It creates an environment that is hostile and stressful and not conducive to, well, anything at all. We can’t be our best selves if we’re constantly in survival mode, expecting others to stab us in the back.

The future I want looks a bit like Tremors sans Graboids.

It’s a future where we all look out for one another, are welcoming, and work together for the greater good. Frankly, I’m just exhausted by the narcissism in this world, the idea that we have to be the center of all and that community is a weakness.

Community is our greatest strength. Why is it that one of the chief rules of horror movies is not to split up? Why do people isolate others as a power play? The answer to both questions is the same. We are at our weakest when we are alone.

In a community, we can all thrive and flourish — and that should be our goal for ourselves and others, worms be damned.

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