AUSTIN, Texas—Two kinds vibrations fans exist in the world: those who have seen Tremors: bloodlines and those who only acknowledge the franchise’s original movie starring Kevin Bacon. In that 1990 horror comedy, a small southwestern town called Perfection suffers an infestation of man-eating sandworms (called Graboids) that eventually knocks back local not-so-brainy beefcake Val McKee (Bacon). Ars’ Culture Writer Jennifer Ouellette casually refers to this film as “perfection,” not an uncommon sentiment. If B-movie horror with flashes of comedic brilliance and a few scares interests you, viewers probably couldn’t do much better than vibrations.
So when news of a modern reboot for television first came out in 2015, this development sparked both cautious optimism and premature regret. There were already several sequels in the straight-to-DVD world, as well as a short-lived cable series from 2003. But they seemed like the over-the-top camp of sharknado more than vibrations†
Still, Bacon agreed to reprise his role and executive produce. Writer Andrew Miller composed the script. And horror powerhouse Blumhouse Productions – then pre-Out but still post gems like the original The robbery– worked with Bacon on the whole. Even the most diehard fans couldn’t wish for much more 25 years after the original cult classic. After all, Bacon apparently never chose to revisit old scrolls for that point.
†[Val] was pretty much the only character I played in a movie I thought would be fun to watch 25 years later — it’s because he was such a mess,” the actor said on stage in Austin this week , Tex. “It would be an interesting journey to find out what happened to him after the worms. So I took the idea to Jason Blum, and we explored a movie version. But there were complications: Universal is a complicated company with many moving parts. It became clear it wasn’t going to be made as a movie, but Jason asked me what I thought of a TV series… On the first few takes [at plotting out a script]“I thought this was a terrible idea to do as a series. But then I spoke to Andrew, and suddenly it was a great idea to do it as a series.”
The Miller acquisition likely won Bacon for a few reasons. For starters, it ignores everything that came after the original 1990 movie (sorry to fans of the Arctic adventures in 2018’s Tremors: a cold day in hell, now on Netflix!). Second, Miller threaded the needle between staying true to that first vibrations movie and making a more 2018 appropriate TV series. Tone-wise, the show kept the mix of horror and comedy that helped the original eventually find an audience, but story-wise, it really embraced what would later become a modern trend. How do characters in these beloved classic worlds deal with the events of the past as a new generation grows up and knows little or nothing of lost glory? (See 2018’s Cobra Kai as another delightful example.)
In vibrations’ TV pilot Val has held on to his hero days as the city of Perfection struggled to determine his next move. The show is The world of Graboids theme park looks more like an aging regional destination than Disney World, and even the local cafe probably regrets changing its name in an inevitable Instagram thirst trap, Grab-A cup of coffee.
†[Early on] we considered nostalgia a good thing,” said Jessica Rhoades, executive producer of the show (then with Blumhouse TV). “But [Andrew] was the first to say to Kevin and me, “Nostalgia is just looking at the past without looking to the future or focusing on the problems of the present.” That was an exciting way to talk about something with vibrations†
“So I started with, ‘What if Perfection was the hottest city in the world for a minute, but in the end the Graboids didn’t come back—what then?'” Miller added. “We wanted to explore that in Val’s relationship with his daughter, who now resents him for not focusing on the present, getting drunk, etc.”
The idea had enough meat that Bacon and co. eventually found a buyer in SyFy, and they wanted to make a pilot. Shot on a 70-acre ranch about an hour outside of Albuquerque, director Vincenzo Natali (Westworld, Hannibal) brought a cinematic shine to everything that perhaps the original film was missing. Actors like Toks Olagundoye (Veep) and PJ Byrne (big little lies) signed up for a new Hollywood muscle. And the current VFX meant that even the beloved Graboids – and all future victim series – could get a little more sinister, a little more “realistic” this time around.
SyFy finally had three pilots made for the spring of 2018: Deadly class† vibrations† and Run for your life. Nothing but Deadly class made to order, with news about the vibrations cancellation in April (around the same time SyFy broke hearts with then-end of) the vastness†
SyFy never became familiar with its reasoning, leaving those who follow the vibrations pilot a bit stunned. The trailer eventually leaked because #internet and its competence only made that network silence more difficult. Did it cost too much? Did the season’s plot feel weak? Do people suddenly hate Kevin Bacon? Whatever the situation, the single episode never aired…
…until this week of course.