Close

5 Plot Point Breakdown: Tremors (1990)

By Xiaofeng Chen · August 25, 2014

 

Screenplay Genre: Science-Fiction / Action 

Movie Time: 95 minutes

Synopsis: In the Nevada desert there is a small town: Perfection, which has an isolated geographic position and has all but been abandoned. Now, there are only a few people living in the town: a farmer and cattle breeder, shopkeeper, potter, doctor, reclusive anarchists and two modern cowboys: Valentine McKee (Kevin Bacon) and Earl Bass (FRED WARD) who make their life by freelance handyman work. Intro Rhonda LeBeck (FINN CARTER), who came to the town to study seismology by measuring the vibrations around the region.

Then something unusual happens: Rhonda’s sensors record some strange tremors, and reveal something moving under the ground. The townspeople and their livestock are attacked and killed by some kind of underground creature. The residents try to ask for help from the nearest city Bixby. But the phone is out, the road is cut off by landslide, and the radio can’t reach outside the valley because of the mountains. They are on their own, and the underground monsters are out there…

1. INCITING INCIDENT

Valentine and Earl are leaving Perfection to Bixby for new lives. On the way they see their neighbor Edger (SUNSHINE PARKER) sitting on a power tower with not one flinch. They try to get him down from the tower, but find he had died there with a rifle in his hands (14:22). It seems something had forced him to climb up the tower and stay there for days till he died of thirst.

2. LOCK IN (End of Act One)

After Edger, more and more people are attacked and killed by something unknown: farmer Old Fred (MICHAEL DAN WANGER), Doctor Jim (CONRAD BACHMANN) and his wife Megan (VIVI BESCH), and two Mexican road workers. The residents of Perfection have no idea about who or what did it and try to call the Bixby Police for help. But the phone is out, the road is blocked by landslide and the mountains are screening the radio signal. They are completely cut off. Valentine and Earl ride horses to Bixby; on the way their horses are attacked by something under the ground and throw them off. And then they see a creature breaks out of the earth. It’s a fierce monster with a giant worm-like body and snake-like tentacles in the mouth! (32:56). Val and Earl run their asses off for life. The creature chases them and almost make a lunch out of them. Luckily it smashes against a concrete ditch’s side.

3. FIRST CULMINATION (Midpoint)

Val and Earl meet Rhonda. They dig out the dead creature and study it. Rhonda declares it an undiscovered prehistoric creature what lives under the ground. It has no eyes and feels things by vibrations. While Val, Earl and Rhonda are celebrating for their million-dollar discovery, more creatures appear. They escape back to the town. The creatures follow them and begin to attack. The shopkeeper Walter Chang (VICTOR WONG) is eaten by them – he just named them Graboids. Most of the people climb on the roofs to avoid the graboids. But anarchist and weapons fan Burt Gummer (MICHEL GROSS) and his wife Heather (REBA McENTIRE) hide in their basement. A graboid breaks in the basement but it comes to the wrong people: Burt and Heather launch raging fires at the graboid with every weapon they have got and finally kill it with an elephant gun. (61: 02). 

4. MAIN CULMINATION (End of Act Two)

Burt’s elephant gun can’t get the other graboids under the ground and those creatures are getting more and more skillful and smart. Now they have known how to destroy the buildings. There is no time. The people decide to go to the mountains because the grabiods can’t move through rocks. They take a bulldozer-dragged semitrailer and head to the mountain. The graboids are hovering around their caravan, but can’t damage the Bulldozer-semitrailer which is strong like a tank. So the creatures dig a trap under the road. The bulldozer-semitrailer falls into it and the group is trapped in the half way. (77:17)

5. THIRD ACT TWIST

The people abandon the semitrailer and run to a big rock. They are surrounded there by the last two graboids. Earl gets an idea. He baits the graboids with explosive and blows one of them up. Val tries it again, but the last graboid sees it and spits the explosive back to the people. The people split out of the rock to avoid the explosion. After a deafening bang, Val, Earl and Rhonda find they are still alive but have been far away from the rock. And the graboid has blocked their way. A flash light suddenly hits Val, he turns around and runs for the cliff (87:45). The graboid follows him closely. Val stops at the cliff’s edge, throws out the last explosive and leaps aside. The explosion deafens the graboid and disables it from sensing the cliff. It keeps going ahead and falls down the volley, exploding on the jagged rocks at the bottom.

The Resolution: The people of Perfection are excited for the chance this great biological discovery will bring to their town. Val and Earl continue their plan to Bixby. Before they set out, Valentine gets up his courage to show his love to Rhonda. He succeeds.


For all the latest from The Script Lab, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.

And become a member of TSL 360 to enjoy the LARGEST screenwriting education content library, featuring masterclasses, deep-dive interviews, and lectures from Academy Award-winning screenwriters, TV show-runners, producers, literary managers, agents, studio executives, and leading educators – all in one place.