Review: Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil (15) / Directed by: Eli Craig / Screenplay by: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson / Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Philip Granger, Brandon Jay McLaren, Christie Lang / Release date: Out now
The backwoods hillbilly has been a staple of horror films for a long time now. Everything from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Wrong Turn to most of the recent French horror films have taken a dim view of country folk often painting them as inbred, moronic and cannibalistic psychos.
In horror cinema the sheltered beings from the country seem to lose it every time a nubile blonde cheerleader wanders into their territory and they set about eating or breeding with them. It’s about time someone took a stand for these folk and flipped things on their head so that we see things from the perspective of the good ole country boy. A film where we learn that country folk are amongst the most decent human beings on the planet and are simply misunderstood. This is the simple yet genius premise of Eli Craig’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil a film that gets a lot of entertaining mileage from this premise.
Our story begins with confident country handyman Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and his best pal, the gentle lummox Dale (Tyler Labine) setting off for a weekend of fishing at Tucker’s newly bought countryside shack which they intend to fix up. At the same time a bunch of shallow, dim-witted college fraternity types head out for the country for a weekend of camping and drinking (Guys with names like Chad and Jason, you know the type). The two parties cross paths on the way and the college kids, who have seen too many films get freaked out at the shabby dungarees wearing appearance of Tucker and Dale. Things get worse when Dale lays eyes on pretty and smart Alison (Katrina Bowden) and due to his shyness his attempt at talking to her goes rather wrong. Disheartened but not disillusioned, Tucker and Dale carry on to their country abode and set about tossing back a few beers and night fishing. Whilst out on the pond at night our heroes catch sight of the college kids skinny dipping. Alison falls off a rock and lands head first in the water knocking herself out. Tucker and Dale race to her rescue and bring her on board their rowboat. The rest of the kids see this and assume the worst and flee for their lives. Dale nurses Alison back to health and when she awakes although frightened at first she starts to warm to the gentle giant. The college kids meanwhile hatch a plan to get Alison back from the clutches of these two hillbillies. Misunderstanding and communication problems on a mass scale follow, often leading to college kids dying in increasingly gruesome fashion.
I can’t recall the last time that I saw a slapstick comedy that amused me that didn’t come from Hong Kong. For that reason alone, Eli Craig deserves a lot of praise. The way in which the college kids end up rapidly dispatching themselves by impalement and dismemberment by wood chipper as they ineptly try and fight what they see as a hillbilly menace is hilarious. There have been a lot of comedies this year that promised much but delivered little. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is so damn funny but at the same time very smart. It’s a simple idea and it’s a wonder that nobody has done something like this before. The script challenges horror conventions and clichés and flips them on their head whilst not forgetting the bloodlust of the horror audience. So people die in a very gory manner, tripping into wood chippers, burning themselves alive and shooting themselves in the head. It’s all played for laughs though and plays out like a Looney Tunes cartoon with tons of blood.
Alan Tudyk is one of Hollywood’s best kept secrets, often popping up in supporting roles and perhaps best known to genre fans as Wash, the pilot of the Serenity in the film of the same name and its inspiration, the TV series Firefly. Tudyk has a real gift for physical comedy which has not been tapped in previous films and the scenes where he is sawing into a bee hive and running from the angry bees and getting maimed all because of communication issues are genius. Tyler Labine is also a very likeable performer, best known as a slacker extraordinaire in the short-lived series Reaper. Labine playing Dale manages to make a credible romantic lead despite his large and hirsute appearance. Alison gradually falls for his vulnerable charms and it never feels false because of Labine’s innate likeability. The pair of Tudyk and Labine have brilliant chemistry and their reactions as they are surrounded by death are priceless, constantly believing that they are in the midst of some kind of mass suicide cult and still wanting to do the right thing in spite of all that is going on.
Sadly Tucker and Dale vs. Evil can’t keep up the momentum and once the first hour is up. It sadly lapses into standard horror fare, becoming exactly what it was initially parodying. It seems like a genius idea that sadly had nowhere to go and perhaps would have made a better short film. For the first hour though this is fresh, funny and inventive. Comedy fans will enjoy the performances and the physical comedy and gorehounds won’t feel short changed either. Now it is out on DVD and because it has not been given a proper release in cinemas this is bound for cult status and is well worth a rent.
Extras: Making of feature, photo gallery.