Jan. 29th, 2016

arf_she_said: (Default)
I was just gonna present these without comment but I'll never get over how well-made this movie is. Tremors (1990, dir. Ron Underwood, DOP. Alexander Gruszynski) is sharp and funny, and introduces absolutely everything you need to know about its premise and characters within ten minutes. It never moves at anything less than a cracking pace. Fred Ward has some golden broad comic beats to go with his crunchy broad face and Kevin Bacon, who is introduced taking a piss and pulling his undies out of his arse, sells the hell out of every second of his moments of alarm and victory.

The script by Brent Maddock and S. S. Wilson is a study in narrative economy: every secondary character introduction speaks volumes and every gag is an organic set-up for something of narrative significance later -- who's got the lighter, who wins rock-paper-scissors, Bacon taking it personally that McIntyre's not a green-eyed blonde with perfect breasts. It's very easy to enjoy this one on its own terms -- no need for the irony and distance that a lot of cult classics might require.

It's also WAY prettier than it has any goddamn right to be. These are not the kind of visuals you expect out of a creature-feature comedy from the exact group of people who brought you Short Circuit. These are Western shots; romance shots; comedy shots. They bring it scope and intimacy and humour.

It knows how to use scenery and it knows how to use faces and it knows how to place people in the screen -- Underwood is so good at framing in this movie. In the standoff in Perfection he often keeps one beroofed character in the background while another character is working in the foreground; the screen is alive with action and tension but it's never distracting. He keeps dirt (sorry, Pleistocene alluvials) in just about every shot, and dust is caked on windows, shirts, is always puffing up around people or dangerously in the distance. The sets are all practical, allowing shots through windows, all built in that extraordinary valley, with mountains looming in the background, at first trapping them, and then offering safety.

So just about every shot, apart from being gorgeous, carries multiple strands of narrative, character, and spatial information; and Underwood never misses a chance to use the camera for a visual gag either -- Bacon's burst of hair as he hangs upside down -- the reveal of Burt and Heather's gun wall -- pull back from a closeup of an object over Bacon's and Ward's shoulders to reveal how far they have to go to get to it -- Bacon running almost offscreen and screaming I GOT A GODDAMN PLAN over his shoulder like a madman.

Here are some of my favourite shots:

Broke into the wrong goddamn rec room didn't you you bastard! )
arf_she_said: (Default)
All you gotta do to get me is have characters who can't look at each other but desperately want to. EMOTION! Great trick for an actor to pull off, to be hyperconscious of another person.

And of course...


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