I’m obsessed with the film Tremors. When it came out, film executives went with the B-movie angle, and the writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock were severely disappointed with the film’s marketing. It was a nuanced script with humor and drama and thought. But it also had monsters, and the special effects team had just come off of working on Aliens, so the need for this to be a BLOCKBUSTER was apparent. But the marketing failed the film, and it was relegated to cult status. In the end, that’s not so bad, because they went on to make a few direct-to-video sequels, which retain a lot of the same charm and fun as the original.
S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock are also the geniuses behind Short Circuit, one of a handful of extremely memorable “children’s films for adults” in the 80s and 90s. Smart, with an adorable catchphrase (“Number 5 is alive”), it’s so likable and heartbreaking that it’s maddening the film didn’t get the same kind of promotion something like The Land Before Time did with its Pizza Hut tie-in deals. Wilson and Maddock explain it all very clearly in this rare interview.
The gist of all this, though, is that film executives have no idea where to put films like these. Their audience is ill-defined, in that it’s for everyone…but not really for everyone. Their films don’t often bend to the lowest common denominator, and if you read their scripts, you’ll find them full of simplicity, while still circumventing expectations. In the film market…where do you put them?
Rumor has it Short Circuit will be making a comeback, but could it be as good and smart as the original, especially if Number 5 is supposed to be more menacing now? I’d love it if we didn’t have to Dark Knight everything up. Also, could it maybe give the Indian guy (Fisher Stevens) a better part…like, less racist? (Probably not…) The film’s been in pre-pro for two years with no news of its release, so we’ll see. But I’m hopeful, because Wilson and Maddock are attached.
Take a look at this video of S.S. Wilson explaining the conception for the story of Tremors here. Then you can watch some of the other cool BTS stuff from the original Tremors release. S.S. Wilson, a true creative nerd, also seems to sell some of his work and his children’s books from this website, which is kind of weird because of all the John Deere tractors, but…If his children’s books are as great as his films, then you should definitely check them out.