After nearly thirty years, Kevin Bacon is stepping back into the shoes of Valentine McKee, an easy-going handyman who helped lead his friends and neighbors to safety after their town was beset by gigantic prehistoric snake-worms in 1990’s Tremors. The original film perfectly combines a wry delivery and genuine tension to create a horror comedy that was woefully under-appreciated in its time.
In the years since the film’s release, Tremors has spawned four sequels and short-lived TV shows. The upcoming Tremors reboot has a real shot at success; after all, we are now living in a golden age of artfully-realized camp.
One of the best examples of resurrected cheese on TV is Ash vs Evil Dead, a series built on the back of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. The show follows series star Bruce Campbell as he gets back on the demon-hunting horse to extinguish an evil that he has accidentally unleashed, again. Dummy.
There’s a lot that Amazon’s Tremors reboot can learn from Starz’s Ash vs Evil Dead. The release date for Kevin Bacon’s grand return to the desert is still tantalizingly vague, but hopefully that just means the showrunners can take some of our suggestions into account before it’s too late.
Play to the Strengths of Your Leading Man
Let’s start with “tone”. Ash vs Evil Dead is incredibly charming, thanks, in large part, to its charismatic star, who’s capable of delivering lines earnestly while still seeming to give the material a knowing wink. He’s like a 1940s pulp hero who hasn’t realized he’s been stolen from his own dime novel and transplanted into a horror story.
Kevin Bacon, it should be noted, is not Bruce Campbell.
Kevin Bacon commits like a bastard to every role he’s ever been given. It’s one of the reasons we love him and it’s the only reason Stir of Echoes was watchable. Unlike Campbell, Bacon is always so immersed in his part that every situation in which his characters find themselves is treated as one hundred percent “this is happening” real. That method worked for the original film, in which none of the characters seemed to realize just how absurd their situation was, and it’s the only way to approach a new series.
Even though both shows tackle cheesy material, it would be a huge mistake to get Bacon trying to wink at himself.
Don’t Lean Into the Cheese
Tons of people make this mistake. The secret to artful cheese isn’t going in with a wink. That only works for Bruce Campbell (for some reason). No, the best way to do cheese well is to simply accept the fact that you’re dealing with a ridiculous premise and then simply own it.
Ash vs Evil Dead is a great example of this. Besides Ash, everyone else in the cast pretends like the brewing apocalypse is deadly serious, regardless of how many silly inanimate objects try to end their lives.
In other words, the showrunners of Ash vs Evil Dead are aware that the majority of their show is incredibly ludicrous, but they tackle the material as though it was deadly serious and simply let the cheese be the cheese.
Expand Your Horizons
Most of the nineties and the early oughts were spent establishing a straight-to-DVD extended universe based on the original Tremors. In the sequels, the giant worms morphed into a variety of smaller, more lethal variations.
The Amazon showrunners have chosen to disregard all that in favor of establishing their own mythology. That’s all well and good, of course, but the Tremors revival still needs to put in more than just big-ass worms. When Ash returned from his self-imposed trailer park isolation to kick some demon ass, he fell face first into a world filled with a variety of monsters, mystics, and shady cabals in pursuit of their own paranormal goals. Also, Lucy Lawless.
The Tremors reboot needs to give us more than the original. And that doesn’t mean amping up Kevin Bacon’s emotional process, it means finding new ways to scare the pants off of audiences.
Go Brutal or Go Home
While we’re talking about scares and violence, the Tremors people can ape one characteristic of Ash vs Evil Dead: it’s cartoonish brutality. Revving up the violence to insane levels adds to the humor of the situation, subsequently helping the audience unconsciously relax and enjoy the ride.
And it’s not like the original Tremors held back on the blood.