Sometimes a film comes along that reminds you of why you started writing about movies in the first place. For me, that movie is “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil”. The set-up is simple (and well trod territory), a group of college kids decide to go camping in the wilderness far from the safety of civilization. This intro, as seen in nearly every every single SyFy Channel movie of the week is as stale and generic as they come. But, the makers of “Tucker & Dale…” are not content with a simple retread of well-known Horror tropes. They quickly switch perspectives to a new kind of protagonist, Tucker and Dale, the quintessential hillbillies. In any other movie these guys would be the villains, and in this film we see exactly why they are often perceived as such. Socially awkward, reserved, uneducated, and filthy, with staring glassed-over eyes and an almost unintelligible drawl, it’s clear why they are often painted as backwoods rednecks out for death, torture, and rapes (and not always in that order).
The college kids, brainwashed by years of Hollywood film releases of the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” ilk are so terrified of Tucker and Dale that they can’t think straight. These kids die horrible (yet hilarious) death after horrible (yet still hilarious) death, all while trying to flee the clueless hillbillies. It doesn’t help that the house Dale and Tucker are renovating used to belong to a serial killer and comes equipped with booby traps and a cashe of improperly stored gasoline tanks. For the life of them, Tucker and Dale can’t seem to figure-out why these kids keep dying around them. They eventually settle on the belief that the kids entered into some sort of suicide pact, and headed out into the wilderness to seal the deal with their blood.
Before you watch the trailer, I should say, you might enjoy the movie more by not watching the trailer first.
Of course, the kids are not trying to kill themselves and in fact are led by a rather high-strung leader who ties together a multitude of wrong decisions so well it’s a miracle he’s still alive, let alone made it to school. However this trait is foreshadowing the climax of the film and as such brilliantly reveals the true psychotic madman of the film.
Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil expertly references multiple film and serves as a parody while reminding us why we love them. It treats the slasher horror genre with respect while poking fun at the type of person who would put themselves into a situation where they could be murderously dispatched.
Regardless, you’ll likely get the feeling, as I did that some of these mistaken death were a little too convenient. Also, were it not for the pitch perfect performances of Tyler Labine (Dale), Alan Tudyk (Tucker), and, to a lesser extent, Jesse Moss (Chad) this movie would have fallen flat. The writing is just shy of witty and the story eventually settles into the well-trod territory mentioned above.
However, I still found the movie enjoyable and a delightful departure from common horror movie fare. It positions itself as a horror-comedy and barely manages to maintain that throughout the film. Some jokes soar while others are DOA. The opening sequence also smacks of executive meddling of the worst kind: scene re-ordering. Despite all this, it’s an impressive accomplishment for the first full-length feature by Eli Craig. You should check it out but you’ll probably find yourself, like I did, returning to the Evil Dead trough before too long. I give it a 7.5 out of 10.