Written by: Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson
Directed by: Eli Craig
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk and Katrina Bowden
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"Do we look like a couple of psycho killers to you?"
Stop me if youíve heard this one before: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is yet another movie featuring stupid college kids going out to the woods to die. The difference here, however, is that this movie knows itís about stupid college kids dying in gruesome fashion. In fact, they actually become the antagonist here to our titular heroic duo, who are a couple of West Virginian rednecks the kids encounter on the way to their cabin retreat. You know, the types of hillbillies that are typically the product of inbreeding and have a penchant for hatchet murders and rape (usually in that order)? Well, thatís not the case here, but that doesnít stop these coed dimwits from thinking so.
Yes, thatís the big joke at the center of the film, and it is indeed stretched out into feature length. However, it mostly works thanks to the infectious nature of Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), who are on a vacation of their own that they hope will be full of fishing and beer. Thatís all interrupted when they happen to spy on Allison (Katrina Bowden), one of the college kids who decides to take a dip in the lake. That dip turns into a tumble, and the two buddies rescue her and take her back to their cabin to treat her. Meanwhile, her friends are convinced sheís been kidnapped and plan to rescue her from what they believe will be an horrific fate.
What follows is a shrewd, bloody comedy of errors full of impalements and the most grisly woodchipper massacre this side of, well, Woodchipper Massacre. An almost pitch-perfect spoof of these types of movies, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil wryly subverts genre expectations from the get-go--the first big false scare comes when the college kids discover that theyíve forgotten to stock up on beer. From there, the film cleverly finds ways to mock other genre high points as the group of students constantly trip over themselves in gory fashion (and much to the dismay of Tucker and Dale, who soon find themselves sitting atop quite a pile of corpses). This is a film thatís been made by a group of people who have obviously seen a bunch of movies where meet their gruesome ends in the shadow of the backwoods (and, like Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, many of those films were likely Canadian variations on the theme).
While the gore isnít exactly the centerpiece, itís difficult to deny the allure of the crafty methods of dispatch. After one kid accidentally stabs himself on a tree branch, youíll probably write it off as a solo gag, but by the end of the film, youíll be wondering just how one of these idiots will kill themselves next. Think of it as an even sillier version of Final Destination, complete with ridiculous, over-the-top mutilations that are touched up a bit by some noticeable CGI. Other than that, though, itís kind of blast to watch these dimwits constantly bumble into their demise, mostly because theyíre all so horribly vapid caricatures. Their leader is a perfectly coiffed, Darwinian frat boy with a popped collar (Jesse Moss) that represents every bro you ever wished to see get chain-sawed in half. Actually, an even better fate awaits him that I obviously wonít spoil; however, I will say that itís one of the filmís great subversive coups that completely turns the hero/villain dynamic on its head, all the while reveling in old genre conventions (letís just say that a decades old Memorial Day Massacre eventually comes into play).
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil could have worked just fine as a bit of demented, gore-soaked hogwash, but itís not content to stop there. Instead, it goes where few horror films of this nature will go by actually developing its lead characters into a couple of instantly lovable dolts. The types of yokels who are impressed by their decrepit cabin, theyíre both a couple of ďgood lookingĒ guys with ďdamn good hearts.Ē Tudyk is the bigger name of the two--you know him from small, humorous roles such as Wash in Firefly, and this type of humor is more or less similar, albeit with a bit more of a zany sensibility. However, Tyler Labine threatens to steal this show early and often as Dale, an awesome idiot savant with a third grade education and a cap that says it all: ďGiveíerĒ (which I can only assume is a reference to Canadaís own Fubar, another tale featuring a goofball duo, albeit without any decapitations). Labine and Tudykís chemistry is impeccable; in fact, itís so good that I would continue following their exploits in a straight buddy comedy.
Dale also develops a relationship with Allison, the girl that they fish out of the lake. Her friends of course mistake it as Stockholm Syndrome, but sheís a genuinely sweet girl that helps Dale realize he might not be the doofus everyone thinks he is. Maybe thatís a little trite, but itís the unexpected backbone of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a film that otherwise shows the splatstick chops of early Sam Raimi. Itís one of the finer horror comedies Iíve seen in recent memories and would probably make for a fine companion piece to Cabin Fever. Magnet Releasing and Magnolia will finally release it to DVD/Blu-ray on the 29th of this month, and fans who like a side of laughs with their backwoods splatter will want to pick it up. Instantly quotable and more fun than any real excursion into West Virginia would be, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil somehow makes rednecks heroic--and genuinely funny, which is quite a feat indeed. Buy it!
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