The first in an ongoing series of film conversations where I track my daughter’s reaction after she’s been introduced to one of my favorite movies.
What’s the movie about?
It’s a slow-burn contemplation on the risks/rewards of choosing to isolate oneself away from broader society….and then some giant worm creatures show up and start eating people.
Why did I pull this particular movie out of the cabinet?
Because it’s fun, and we could all use a little fun right now – I’ll let other people focus on re-reviewing Outbreak and Contagion. For now I’ll take some escapist movie faire, bring on the loud, funny, and distracting films; a Kevin Bacon movie about “goddamned underground monsters” fits the bill nicely.
What did I think of the movie upon revisiting it?
It’s great, a truly impressive piece of filmmaking all the way around – it’s a modern-day B Movie classic. The practical monster effects are fantastic, the chemistry between the actors is great, the setting is perfectly realized, the script is tight, and the horror/humor are well balanced.
And…it’s easily my favorite Finn Carter film.
Why do I like it?
The chemistry between characters Val Mckee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bass (Fred Ward) is infectious…perhaps not the best word choice right now…. Val and Earl’s relationship anchors the entire film – it’s one of my all-time favorite onscreen pairings. They’re equal parts goofball and heroic, but underneath the bluster is a surprisingly sweet relationship – they really care for each other. As they’re deciding who is going to make a run through a gauntlet of giant worms to secure an escape vehicle, Val offers a hearty, “good luck shithead,” and Earl replies with “Don’t worry about me jerkoff.” But, before Earl can start moving Val punches him in the stomach and makes the run himself – he’s willing to risk his own life to protect his friend. By the time the town comes under attack you really like these guys, you’re invested in their relationship and you’re rooting for their survival.
Rounding out the cast is Michael Gross (or as I knew him at the time “Mr. Keaton”) as survivalist Burt Gummer – a man who takes defending his rec room to an entirely new level. The role of Burt was apparently popular enough to make him the primary character in five direct to video sequels – none of which I’ve seen. Finn Carter plays pole-vaulting seismologist Rhonda LeBeck who teams up with Val and Earl for a good chunk of the movie complimenting their characters nicely, adding a casual romantic element which pays off nicely at the end of the film.
Aside from the cast, the practical creature effects are fantastic – the layered design of the “Grabboid” itself is highly inventive, it initially throws you off the trail on what kind of monsters are attacking the townspeople. After the full reveal, you get several up close shots of the creatures and they hold up surprisingly well – they look great, with just the right amount of slime, teeth, and tentacles. Beyond the monster itself, the special effects team from Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. managed to create multiple shots of the creatures moving through the earth, all practical effects which look very realistic. One shot in particular shows one of the giant worms leaping out of the ground as it rushes towards Burt Gummer’s house; even though the movie just turned thirty, that sequence looks as good or better than any current CGI monster you’d find in a modern film.
Upon rewatch, what didn’t work for you?
Not much, this film is very close to Perfection (see what I did there?) There is one brief green-screen moment during Burt Gummer’s big triumph which looks pretty bad, other than that, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Lots of people love this movie, how do you know I’m not just a poser?
Because I like the movie so much I went so far as to find several of the filming locations near Bishop, CA, that trip is memorialized with the following photo.
Am I still happy I chose this to share with my daughter?
Hell yes, it was a totally solid choice. Also, she now understands why I attempt to solve any conflict with a quick game of rock, paper, scissors.
So, what did she think? Check out the podcast above!