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Stealing Perfection: The Tremors of Creating Land SharksWelcome to the Graboid hole, Valentine. Now you've probably heard of the underground movie Tremors. This is the story of how Perfection was created then stolen from its makers afterover 35 years of work. Warning, "Here be Dirt Dragons". It all started with a man named Steve Wilson, out on a rock in the middle of the desert. Sound familiar? “One day I was sitting out there on one of those boulders and thought how interesting it would be to have something that moved through the sand like a fish, and I couldn’t get off the rock,” -Steve S.S. Wilson He'd go on to meet Brent Maddock and Ron Underwood at UCLA film school and a legendary partnership was formed. Known as special effects wizards, they made their way into the film game until writing "Short Circuit" and getting the help of oneNancy Roberts , the true behind the scenes figurehead of the Tremors series. With the success of "Short Circuit", Nancy turned to them and asked if they had anything original in their back pocket they wanted to do on their own. To which Steve pulled out....Land Sharks. And it took a lot of work to turn that into what we know. Which is why Gale Anne Hurd and Jim Jacks jumped in to help. Firstly, Universal didn't know how to market horror-rom-coms because Tremors was the first of its kind. Then there's Universal itself wanting to make the movie but alsothinking Tremors will fail. Making things non-union and changing the name from "Beneath Perfection" to "Dead Silence" to hide things. “The studio wanted to keep the film hidden due to it being a non-union production, although they were involved at an arms-length distance with the picture being a negative pickup as opposed to a studio picture. They wanted it to be under the radar.” -Ron Underwood Though the day-to-day filming was challenging due to the nature of creating a low-budget monster movie, production went surprisingly smooth thanks to the abilities ofBrent, Nancy, Ron and Steve. Well actually, everyone involved. You already know the actors but there are some incredibly talented people involved behind the scenes.Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis as the main creature designers of the series. Turning their penis shaped designs into the Graboids we know and love today. That's just two of hundreds who painstakingly created Perfection. Steve Wilson's dad, Bob Wilson, also joined in the production of his son directing/writing/producing his first movie. He loved it so much he brought a home camera andfilmed the greatest behind the scenes series ever with it. The whole team did what they could with they had, trimming what they could and fighting for what they couldn't. The scene where the car is sucked under was originally longer and about to be cut before Nancy and Jim stepped in. There was even two aborted openings, one with Old Fred and Edgar, and another with a rabbit and coyote being eaten by Graboids after landing from space. As well as a different ending. Fun fact: Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick's first child was born during the filming of the scene where Walter Chang is eaten by a Graboid. That's how committed everyone was. Also why Kevin had nightmares and regretted Tremors until recently. But despite all that, on a budget of $11 million dollars, Tremors made $16 millon dollars in the theatre and was considered a failure at the box-office. Or so it would seem.... "We got a backhanded compliment from them when they said, ‘We could sell an empty video box called Tremors, we have to have it.’” -Steve S.S. Wilson With the advent of VHS and home video rentals, Tremors found its true home. And so came the call forTremors 2: Aftershocks. Originally, it was a much different movie than what we know today. Written in 1993, the first script for it hadReba returning as Heather Gummer with Kevin Bacon as Valentine McKee. There was a plethora of new characters fed to the Graboids and Shriekers, an opening with gangsters attacking a family, and ending that was so good it was re-used for the TV episode "Shriek and Destroy". As well as the impetus and repetition of the phrase"Doing what you can with what you got." passed between Heather, Burt and Val. And the best callback ever. But because Kevin Bacon didn't want to return since sequels were seen as faux-pas and Reba wanted to come back but couldn't due to her touring schedule, the budget was slashed and things were changed. Val became Grady, Heather divorced Burt and a legend was born. “When my son was eight, I let him see Tremors, because at that age he could appreciate it. When I spoke to him on the phone, I asked, ‘Travis, did you see Tremors?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I saw it. Dad, have you seenTremors 2? It’s really great.’ I said, ‘Son, I’m not in Tremors 2.’ And he said, ‘No, but it’s cool.’” -Kevin Bacon Fun fact: The unused designs of the Shriekers from Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr. were repurposed for Starship Troopers as Arachnids instead. There was even Phil Tippett joining in to help create the CGI Shriekers. That's when things really started to change. “I could see where they were really excited because you’d be able to move those videos so quickly just on the word “Tremors”.” -Cristin Carr Strubbe And Tremors came Back to Perfection. A movie that gets an unfair rap because people don't like the name AssBlasters (AB is what they were called behind the scenes and how Burt refers to them, I like the African word "Impundulu"), it's the strangest of the original bunch. It has the largest set of returning cast for any Tremors entry with Burt, Nancy, Melvin, Mindy, and Miguel. It's the only film in the series that's rated PGdespite coining and frequently using the term AssBlaster. AND it's Michael Gross' favourite Tremors movie. You're probably wondering why there'sa smaller amount of information compared to the first two movies. So did the creators. “We got to a point with Tremors 3 when there was no promotion at all. I remember saying to Universal, ‘There’s not even a poster to put up in a video store.’ What some stores were doing was putting up their own posters to notify customers there was a thing called Tremors 3 available. That was part of Universal’s austerity; they wanted to spend as little money as possible on these films. I’m not sure saving money on promotion is the smartest way. Rabid fans would find out about it, but as far as the general public knowing there’s another one of these movies available, that wasn’t the case.” -Brent Maddock “Universal made a lot of money off that product, it always sold well, especially in the Asian world. I was the unit production manager on Tremors 3 and the TV series and I still get residuals off them. Ron Underwood told me a story about the premiere of his second film, City Slickers, in Japan. They sat in the theatre and nobody laughed the whole time. He was really depressed and when he came out the publicity people came up and they said, ‘There’s a lot of people that want to talk to you’. There was a line around the block and all they wanted to talk about was Tremors.” -Tom Keniston “The video department begged the studio proper to make ‘Tremors 2’ and then it was a while before we made ‘Tremors 3’. That was designed to be the last one - the thinking being that surely we couldn’t milk this for more than those two sequels. But by that time, it was rolling forward on its own momentum, and they ordered ‘Tremors 4’ almost immediately. We explained that we’d structured three to be the end of the sequels, that we’d ended the life cycle of the monster and brought it full circle. The studio wasn’t bothered and basically said, ‘Well, what can you do?’ We asked if they’d mind if we made it a Western and start over. Their response was, ‘We don’t care, as long as it’s called ‘Tremors’ - so that’s why ‘Tremors 4’ is a Western.” -Steve S.S. Wilson Which is when Tremors landed on the small screen in the best piece of the puzzle yet. Seriously, I'm trying my hardest not to editorialize yetthe TV show and 4th movie are my absolute favourites. That's why I've been able to track the irregularities with it. The worst is that the order of episodes is constantly distorted, leading to many viewer's confusion as characters are talked about before introduced and events referenced that haven't happened yet. It's so bad that even Google has the wrong order.See for yourself. a Not to mention how Universal has pulled it from every streaming app ever since I started this #StampedeTremors campaign so they make more more money off ofthe incomplete DVD sets. The second is how once the TV show was greenlit, Universal immediately wanted Stampede to make Tremors 4.To the disregard of both productions. “If Universal had been willing to delay the start of Tremors 4 by two weeks, or if Sci-Fi had been willing to wait until the end of T-4’s shoot to start the series production, Michael Gross could have been in all 13 episodes. Both sides absolutely refused to compromise, even though they’re both owned by the same parent company. After all that, Universal Home Video then delayed the release of the finished T-4 several months. Go figure.” -Steve S.S. Wilson Thirdly, and what I have found as the most important, is Mixmaster. A compound created as a plot device for the TV show which allowed the DNA of any animals to be combined to create a new monster every week. "But it will keep spreading, mixing willy-nilly the DNA of every plant and animal that ingests it. There'll be countless, unimaginable mutations. Grasshoppers with scorpion tails, Gila monsters with bat wings." - Cletus Poffenberger THIS is why Universal stole Tremors from Stampede Entertainment. Do you know what the highest grossing series of all time is? Poke'Mon. I know, right? Because when you can crank out thousands of new monsters, you can print money from every single one of those creatures as new merchandise. So when the folks at Stampede Tremors came up with something that can do that, make those monsters both cute/scary so as to get the kids AND adults to buy the toys.... Well it's easy to see why Universal would pull someHollywood accounting with the series. If Tremors can make $500 million dollars without ANY official merchandise, imagine how much it would make if you could buy Graboid plushies, AssBlaster lighters or a different Mixmaster monster whenever they rolled out? And this series has been made with lower than minimal budget. What would happen if Universal actually gave the production the money it needed? "We get a lot of fans asking why they can’t buy rubber Graboids and Val and Earl action figures or video games. Some of you have even offered to help design or even manufacture them. Others have helpfully suggested lower-budget ways they could be produced. Still another asked if we just had a small leftover graboid in “hardened clay” he could buy. (Sorry, the graboids were constructed full size; the clay versions are gone, and the casting molds are huge. Even the ¼ scale graboids are pretty big.) In answer: we wish we could get Universal to think like our fans! You have to believe us when we say we’re just as frustrated as you are. We don’t control the Tremors “franchise.” Universal Pictures has the final say over all marketing and merchandising. I hear from sources inside Universal that the various marketing departments are expressing increased interest in our “franchise.” In English, that means they’re recognizing that there are a lot of Tremors fans out there. Nothing is definite, but here are some of the things that are being considered at Universal: Toys, action figures, collectibles and video games. The Tremors series is being considered for promotion in these areas, and deals may be discussed with toy companies, game designers, etc." -Steve S.S. Wilson And Universal knows how to grab monsters and keep them for later. Though the classics like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolfman, Mummy and Invisible Man are in the public domain,you'll be sued if the image gets too close to what Universal first created. Not just those creatures. They have Kong, Hulk, Jaws, Michael Myers, The Thing, all the Jurassic Park dinos, all the Romero zombies, Chucky, Casper, Riddick beasts, Hellboy, and Jaegers/Kaiju. Pretty much every monster you can think of that's not Godzilla. If Graboids, Shriekers, AssbBlasters and Mixmaster were added to that list, it would almost be a monopoly on monsters. In a world where the multi-verse is common, a MonsterVerse is easier to make than it seems (though they tried and fucked it up already, they WILL try again). Tremors is basically adult Poke'Mon. This is why Universal completely redesigned the Graboids, Shriekers, and Assblasters. The more they can make that associates Tremors with their version, the more they can take from Stampede before the end. Now the sadness comes. Time to Bummer Down Under. With the release and cancellation of Tremors the Series, and creation and late release of Tremors 4 , came Universal's desire for Tremors 5. "It was written while we were doing ‘Tremors 4’. Everybody was excited by the idea and, for a while there was talk of an even bigger budget and the potential for it to be a theatrical feature. So we were looking to how we could be really different." -Steve S.S. Wilson And from 2004 to 2015, Brent and Steve would write and rewrite Tremors 5 Thunder Down Under 7-8 times. But it seemed that while Universal wanted it, they also didn't. “There was never-ending interest from the fans, I became something of a de-facto frequently asked question answerer. I lost track of the number of times I had to write ‘I’m sorry, but there’ll never be a ‘Tremors 5’.” -Steve S.S. Wilson That's when Universal stole Tremors. And you should start asking yourself why a studio who thinks there is no money to be had in a series has made 7 movies and 2 TV shows from it... ”We were on the way back from Chicago, and got a call on the road from Nancy (Roberts), who was still heading up Stampede (the production company established by Maddock, Wilson, Roberts and Underwood). She said ‘You won’t believe it! ‘Tremors 5’ is happening! They want to make it!’ We got very excited, Nancy was going to get the information so we could hit the ground running. Nancy asked whether they wanted Brent or I to direct, and they told her neither of us were going to direct or even be remotely involved in the film. We were floored - it didn’t make creative sense, and it didn’t make financial sense. The story they gave us at the time was that they needed a team that did low-budget movies. The sequels we made were all low-budget films. That clearly wasn’t the real reason, and we never were able to find out what that real reason was. We did have a ‘right of first refusal’ clause built into our contacts that had just lapsed - a clause which meant they would have had to offer the sequel to us, and, if we said no, they could then take it to someone else. But we never got any real information about what really happened that led to that.” -Steve S.S. Wilson For a time, Stampede Entertainment chose to forget about Tremors since it was all they could do. Even though Universal cannibalized their script and took over half of it to make Tremors 5: Bloodlines. Nothing. Until Kevin Bacon came calling. "Nancy called us out of the blue again and said ‘You’re not going to believe this. Kevin’s finally thinking about returning to the character of Val! They want you to come in and talk about this new series idea that he has!’ Then, when we called back to set up a time, they said ‘Oh, we’re sorry. There appears to have been some sort of mistake. No-one here wants to talk to you in any way, shape or form and never will.’ It was classic Hollywood - classic, bad Hollywood. There’s a lot of good Hollywood too, and Brent and I have experienced a lot of that. But this was not fun.” 'Steve S.S. Wilson Universal/SyFy would go on to make that Tremors series anyway. Or at least a pilot of it. To the point where it had finished VFX and was able to be shown in full at festivals. But they cancelled it before it could go anywhere. Then they buried it. And no one really knows why. "I looked at that character [Valentine McKee] and thought to myself, 'You know, this is probably the only character I have ever played that I want to really go back and see what’s happened to him.' He was such a fascinating character to me because he’s such an ordinary man; not that smart, not that special, and yet he had this extraordinary circumstance that he had to sort of step up to the plate for. I thought to myself, 'If you take that away, if they just went away, those worms, what does a guy like that do? The rest of his life has now really become uninteresting,' so exploring that I thought would be fun. We made an excellent pilot outside of Albuquerque, recreated the town, had a really great cast, director, and writer and to this day I still don’t understand why they didn’t want to move forward with it. It’s a real head-scratcher for me. If I honestly thought the pilot was shit then I’d say we just didn’t crack it but it was cool, and that’s a really hard balance to get, between funny and scary, as you know, that’s the sweet spot.Tremors was good at that." -Kevin Bacon Read the script for yourself. It already had Mindy and Melvin in it with the return of Burt and Earl on the horizon. And if you watch the trailer, just know that it'scompletely misleading. The redesigned Graboid lives alongside the old one and Val IS wrong when he says "They don't plan. They don't strategize.". Him being ignorant is part of the plot. At this point, Universal was already in full swing creating their new Tremors movies. In the same time it took for Tremors 2 to come out after Tremors, Universal has made 3 new movies, Bloodlines, A Cold Day in Hell and Shrieker Island, and a TV show. That doesn't make much sense considering how 4 movies and a TV show were created over 25 years. For Universal to crank out 3 movies and a TV show in less than a quarter of that time is a feat in and of itself. Movies that are a shadow of what Stampede Entertainment was doing with the over-fetishisation of piss/shit humour, overt sexism/racism, and a disregard for the way the creatures behaved before. There's a part in Shrieker Island where a man is killed by a Graboid while on the toilet. And that's not the worst part. The worst is how it happens in the middle of a tropical thunderstorm while the man is making zero noise. Not even a grunt of constipation. Think on that. A monster that hunts entirely by sound, seeking out and finding someone in the middle of a rainstorm that would drown out its sound sensors. It hurts, doesn't it? Dumb fun fact: Tremors 6 was filmed in South Africa despite taking place in Canada and is the only movie to try turningsand into snow. No, there was no real reason to do it. Not to mention Kevin Bacon's daughter explaining to Burt Gummer how Graboids work. “Things could get a little uncomfortable as I tried to protect the franchise. Because we had a different director who hadn’t done this before, there were certain things we would disagree with, and I’d say, ‘Burt can’t say that, because it’s not factually true.’ So there’s a real balancing act without somebody like [the original writers] Steve or Brent there to ultimately say, ‘No, that can’t be done.’... Long story short, Stampede had the will and the passion, but they did not own the property. So it was either sit out this dance and they’ll reinvent the franchise without Burt, or here’s a chance to do Burt again." -Michael Gross Bringing us to the semi-present day and the part where #SPOILERS# happen. #SPOILERS# The release of Tremors 7 Shrieker Island. And the supposed death of Burt Gummer. But not in the good-story way. This was something that was merely an afterthought. "They decided it just had this punch. Frankly, I thought to myself — I didn’t express it to them, but I thought to myself — ‘Maybe Universal’s getting a little tired of this franchise.’ Because this wasn’t my idea. Universal and the director came to me with this idea, and they said,'This could be emotionally very powerful, if we have to say goodbye to this man after 30 years. And I hemmed and hawed, and I thought about it a little bit. And I said, 'You're absolutely right about the emotional gut punch this can be.' And I said, 'You're going to hurt a lot of people's feelings.' "What we negotiated -- well, it wasn't really a negotiation, we all agreed on this -- is that we kind of left the door open. Because although Burt is gone, we never see a corpse. We never see his remains. I said, 'I can live with this,'" Gross said. "Because they came to me. They said, 'Look, you've been doing this so long. What do you think?' And I said, 'Well, as long as we kind of leave the door open.' I mean, I can kind of see an eighth film where it opens with Burt in a hospital bed, in a full body cast and saying, 'I survived.' He could hardly move a muscle. And maybe eight is...if I had a concept for eight, it would be Burt horribly injured, but in a motorized, weaponized wheelchair that has rocket mounts on the side and can leave an oil slick behind like James Bond's car. So nobody can chase him." -Michael Gross Which would be fine if that's what Universal actually did. Instead, they tacked on a cheap montage of clips at the end and make it seem like Michael Gross himself is dead. They even show clips of Hiram Gummer but nothing of Burt from the TV show despite it having more hours than the movies combined. That's how you treat the one person who has been with this franchise for the last 35 years? I smell a reboot. And the Graboid hole deepens with the end credits. Ever heard of Burt Gummer Day? No, it's not something Universal made up for Tremors. It's a holiday created by@BabyFarkMcGeeZax of Imgur. And he's been doing it for the last five years through love, effort and 4K Intergalactic Quality Gifs alone. But has Universal credited him? Nope. Michael Gross would love to know who started it but no one besides me will tell him. And here Universal is using his holiday as lines of dialogue and a marketing campaign to get people watching Tremors every April 14th. It's pretty messed up. This is where people like you and I come in to play. Do you have any idea of the width and breadth of Tremors fandom? Remember what I said about merchandising money? Video games tie into that too. "Just to be clear, a wildly successful video game (an idea we've always wanted to work on) would make Universal a fortune. Not us." -Steve S.S. Wilson And since Universal won't make them, Tremors fans have done what they can with what they have. And there are a lot of them. All across the spectrum. Not just games either, if you want a T-shirt that's Straight Outta Perfection, you'll have to ask around and search butyou'll find plenty when you do. That's not even getting into the fan-art or fan-fiction or fan-film communities, all of which are quite wholesome even when they are being crazily sexual.Ever seen a sexy Graboid? It's.... something. And there's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more than there should be. It's like the #1 sidekink of furries. I know, I don't understand it either, but I can sure as hell appreciate the craft. And there's hundreds of thousands of them! And millions more that are simply hiding their love of Tremors because they think it's too weird and they'll be made fun of for liking it. Someone made a not terrible remix-song of Melvin singing"Way to go, dudes!". A 9 year old kid entered a mullet competition because he was inspired by Kevin Bacon as Val. I haven't even mentioned the 22,000 people in Burt Gummer's Subterranean Meme Stash. There's a freaking subreddit for it! r/Tremors Then the podcasts!! Practically everyone and their mother has done a 2 hour podcast on why Tremors is the greatest horror-rom-com movie series ever. SO many that I won't even attempt to list them. Just search Tremors and podcasts. There's thousands. The same goes for video reviews , reaction watches and reconstructions on Youtube. Too many to list. It's the go-to movie when people want to point out underrated horror, a feel-good time, or tight screenplays. So much so that they use Tremors as study material in film schools across the world. James Gunn loves the movie so much he made sure to reference it in Slither by namingthe school after THE Earl Bassett. Jon LaJoie loves it so much he wrote an album and song around it called "Wolfie's Just Fine". And Rick and Morty referenced it twice last season. I've dived into the creative Graboid hole a few times as well. Four years ago, I discovered how Earl and his sleeping bag look like Stumpy at the end falling to its death. The only reason you can read the scripts for the Tremors pilot, original Tremors 2, and Tremors 5 is because I've used every social media channel I can to talk and ask about it and people in the these threads and on Twitter noticed. Half of the quotes you read are because the folks atHollywood Unseen saw what I was doing, asked Steve a bunch of questions and wrote the answers down. Hell, most of this information comes from "Seeking Perfection", the Tremors biography by Jonathan Melville. He literally wrote a 300 page book because there wan't one and he thought there should be. Because when you need it, and don't have it, ya sing a different tune. Steve S.S. Wilson is such a fan of the series that even after he and Stampede were kicked out, he has spent the last 6 years answering questions on the Tremors FAQ page section of the Stampede Entertainment website. Ask yourself or send some love, they can sure use it. The only reason I was able to get the famous copyright lawyer, Marc Toberoff, to take theStampede Tremors case was because I sent so many people there that someone happened to ask about the copyright expiration clause. Because after 35 years, the original creators can take their creation back. The time is running out though cause I can tell Universal plans a remake/reboot so they can run the clock til the Stampede Tremors team dies of old age. It's another one of those things I wouldlooooooove to be wrong about. But if people can get mad enough to #RestoretheSnyderVerse when Zac Snyder didn't even create the characters of DC then we can #StampedeTremors until the series goes back to Perfection. These people spent over 35 years of their lives making monster movies for our entertainment. The least we can do is let them finish what they started. They're owed that. We all are. Because when someone's creation can be taken away that easily after so much time, love, and effort than how could any of us feel safe creating anything ever again? "We must do what we can with what we have."