Reba McEntire in "Tremors"
Universal Pictures

Decades Before 'Dune,' Reba McEntire Was Pumping Giant Worms with Shotgun Blasts in 'Tremors'

Reba walked so Timothée Chalamet could run.

Look, I appreciate the majesty of Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi cinema as much as the next gal. I nearly hollered in the theater when Timothée Chalamet got on board that giant sandworm, worshipped as the "Shai-Hulud," in "Dune: Part Two." But as a child of TNT movie nights, my mind was immediately drawn back to a more personally impactful image: Reba McEntire, in billowing cargo pants and a hunting vest, absolutely annihilating them nasty graboids in "Tremors."

With a shotgun on her shoulder and an Okie twang, Reba made her acting debut as Heather Gummer in "Tremors," Ron Underwood's 1990 cult classic with one of the best taglines of all time ("They say there's nothing new under the sun. But under the ground..."). Kevin Bacon and the late-great Fred Ward star as a couple sweaty bumpkins battling massive, man-eating earthworms in the desert town of Perfection, Nevada.


Universal Pictures

"Tremors" is a monster movie parody set in a trailer park, pretty much. It came six years after David Lynch's "Dune" (1984), and it did so well on direct-to-video that it spawned a franchise, if you can call it that. There have been six direct-to-video "Tremors" sequels, including 2020's "Tremors: Shrieker Island." But no one has seen those — save for maybe "Tremors 2: Aftershocks," which Fred Ward is in.

You don't really go to "Tremors" for the creature design, but you also kind of do? In contrast to the God-like Shai-Hulud that barrel through Arrakis, their mouths like gaping holes of existential nothingness or transcendence, the graboids of Nevada are ten meters long, give or take, and they have wormy tongues that primarily snatch-and-grab. That's how they gitchya.

Graboids don't produce hallucinogenic spice, and they're not worth worshipping. They're just insanely grubby creatures, which is precisely what makes them so much fun. And watching Reba wrangle the suckers? No joy like it on this Earth. At one point, she's in a basement, wide-eyed and groping for a gun, when one of them busts through the concrete wall. When her onscreen husband (played by Michael Gross) gets snatched, she saves him from certain death with perfect aim.

"Tremors" worm

Universal Pictures

Reba had the time of her life shooting the movie, too. In a 2020 interview with Esquire, she recalled her first-ever line delivery on film ("Ew, stinks too!") with fondness, and outright bragged about running with a fake elephant gun in-hand: "Man, did that make me look tough. That thing weighed five or ten pounds. Good lord it was heavy."

There's even a chance Heather Gummer and her red ponytail return in a "Tremors" reboot. When asked whether she'd re-team with Kevin Bacon and Michael Gross for another round of worm-wrangling, Reba said simply, "You bet. How fun would that be?"

Too much fun, that's what. No matter how many blue-eyed Fremen warriors successfully summon and ride the ancient and mysterious Shai-Hulud, our thoughts will always be with Reba McEntire waging holy war against the dirtbag graboids of Perfection, Nevada.

READ MORE: Reba McEntire's New Sitcom Sounds Like a Worthy Successor to 'Reba'