It’s hard to find anything to hate about Tremors, the much-loved sci-fi creature feature from 1990. It has a genuine sense of humor, impressive practical effects, and an array of likable and quotable characters that make up the small town of Perfection. The scene-stealers are, of course, Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward as Val and Earl. Their hilarious bromance and the beautiful way they work off of each other is top notch. But also right there in the forefront of the story is Rhonda LeBeck, the latest subject of my recurring feature Noteworthy Heroines of Horror. Rhonda is expertly portrayed by Finn Carter. She’s adorable, she’s smart, she’s likable, and she’s got the know-how to save an entire town from giant underground worms.
Rhonda is a grad student studying the seismological activity in the area of Perfection. She’s the first person to alert the characters and the audience that something is wrong because of the strange readings she’s getting from her seismographs. After her introduction, she disappears from the plot for the next 30 minutes or so, finally returning after Val and Earl manage to kill the first graboid. From then on, she becomes an integral part of the plot. Her initial reaction upon seeing the giant dead creature is not based in fear but is more scientific in nature. She immediately goes about examining the monster in question and figuring out how it moves and hunts. From studying the activities of the live graboids, she deducts that they can sense any kind of seismic vibrations, which becomes extremely important for the remainder of the film.
Rhonda does several smart things throughout the movie to either avoid a graboid attack or trick the monsters so that others can get to safety. Granted, she does not come up with all the answers in the movie, but if it weren’t for her, the townspeople would probably have caught onto the problem too late and there would have been many more casualties. In a very fun scene, it is Rhonda who comes up with the idea of pole vaulting between some “residual boulders” to get her, Val and Earl to the safety of her truck. When they get there, Rhonda practically leaps through the back window and manages to drive away quickly. She gets into some sticky situations later in the film, but always manages to think quickly on her feet to get herself out of danger. She shows great speed and agility when first tottering on top of the grocery store shelves, and then scaling up the water tower when seeking safety from a graboid.
Rhonda’s personality is simply that of a normal, friendly girl. She’s confident enough, and not intimated by anyone so it seems that she is very comfortable with herself. Though she’s probably got more book smarts that anyone else in Perfection combined, she never comes off as pretentious, and in fact, she fits in with the group quite well. She’s not afraid to say something when she knows it’s important, but she doesn’t overtake the conversations either, allowing for others to come up with some of the arguably better ideas that help defeat the graboids later on. Though she has a few moments of geekiness, her excitement over the discovery of the graboids and figuring out their nature is charming.
Rhonda is able to win the heart of hunky Val in spite of not being overtly sexy in the conventional sense. Early in the film, Val describes his ideal woman as having “long blonde hair, big green eyes, world-class breasts, an ass that won’t quit, and legs that go all the way up!” Then he meets Rhonda, who is practically dressed for a day in the desert – shorts, boots, hat, and a nice glob of sunscreen on her nose. Val is not immediately impressed but by the end of the film, he has completely turned around, now believing that he might not be good enough for Rhonda.
Rhonda LeBeck is not your typical hot, young final girl who runs around in a skimpy outfit. But she is relatable and real, and full of the passion and smarts that she and the other characters need to survive the film. Finn Carter definitely deserves more praise for portraying a smart, likable, and practical heroine of horror in a film that has gone on to be a major cult hit.