Tucker and Dale vs. Evil Reviews
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two gentle and likeable hillbillies who have purchased their own "fixer-upper" holiday home in West Virginia. With the beer and fishing gear packed they head there to relax and enjoy their new surroundings. On the way though, they encounter a group of spoiled college kids who judge Tucker and Dale on their rough exteriors. What ensues after that becomes bloody and messy and it's not at the hands of the likeable duo.
On occasion, while commenting on films, you can find yourself being overly critical because it's not normally the type of material that you're interested in. When doing this, it can often be overlooked how well the film is actually structured or shot. I tried to be aware of this when I sat down to Tucker and Dale. Despite being a fan of Bill & Ted, I now think of myself a little too old to enjoy similar types of films anymore. Any that I do still enjoy, I put down to nostalgia. Of course, this is complete nonsense and now and again I should let myself loose a little and drop the critical barriers, so to speak. Well, in some ways, I did with this. I can obviously see it's ridiculous premise and nature but there's no denying that it's actually rather fun and deserves recognition for putting a fresh spin on the usual horror conventions - the hillbillies are good, being hunted by bad college students. It's a very appealing horror parody and is served well by two endearing leads in Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk (in roles originally intended for Zach Galifianakis and Bradley Cooper before hitting the heights of "The Hangover"). They share a similar comradery to the aforementioned excellent dudes, Bill S. Preston esquire and Ted 'Theodore' Logan and without their appeal, this film just wouldn't work anywhere near as well as it does. I had admiration for the director and actors working on it's tight budget and even the effective comedy of error moments. However, at a short running time, I still found it to overstay it's welcome and towards the end, it became the very type of film it was sending up. Although the brand of humour isn't entirely to my tastes, there will be an audience out there that this will most certainly appeal to. I don't happen to belong to that audience but I can't still appreciate the effort and talent involved. Not to mention, some good humour.
This was a film that didn't receive much marketing and as a result featured in very few cinemas. It did, however, please audiences across the board at several film festival screenings and is no doubt a cult classic waiting to happen. Think Bill & Ted dicing with the Evil Dead and you pretty much get the drift of this one.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil may be taking aim at the slashers of old, but it does it with much greater skill than the Final Destination series or I Know What You Did Last Summer. Eli Craig's debut effort takes a single, interesting idea and plays it through for 90 minutes, inverting horror clichés as it goes and producing several barrel laughs along the way. While not as enjoyable or as ground-breaking as something like Shaun of the Dead, it nonetheless cuts the mustard as a proper horror-comedy.
Being a spoof, the film nods to horror clichés and conventions very readily and without apology. The setting of a cabin in the woods, and the implication of several obnoxious, pulchritudinous teenagers, is a direct nod to the Evil Dead series and more recently Cabin Fever. The killing-off of said teenagers one by one in increasingly gruesome ways nods towards Hallowe'en and more specifically Friday the 13th, a comparison reinforced by the skinny-dipping sequence.
The clash between townsfolk and hillbillies is as old as the hills surrounding them, with Deliverance being the biggest touchstone during the scene in the gas station. And the final showdown in the sawmill has hints of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in Tucker's entrance to do battle with Chad, which in itself is a passing reference to Motel Hell. The deaths of the teenagers also nod towards past horror-inflected works. The scene where a guy is speared by a tree branch while running from angry bees is a possible send-up of Macaulay Culkin's death in My Girl, while the wood-chipper sequence takes the ending of Fargo and wittily reverses the roles.
This last example indicates the first big feather in Tucker & Dale's cap. It is completely conscious of how absurd the slasher genre has become in the way it disposes of its characters, to the point where the absurdity undermines what there is in the way of narrative integrity. It follows the mould of slasher movies by introducing obvious props which could be used for slewing, only to put them to totally innocent use and then playing the resulting accidents for laughs. There is something just plain funny about a guy tripping over a rock, spearing himself on a stick and slowly sliding down on top of a man as he lies on his back in a deep ditch.
The central gag of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is that the characters we would normally think of as the villains are in fact completely harmless. The two hillbillies, Tucker and Dale, bear no ill will to Chad and the others at all: they just want to enjoy their new holiday home and spend some time bonding over a fishing trip. It is the skewed worldview of Chad and prejudices of the group which leads to their sticky ends (no pun intended). The film is essentially a farce, in which one misunderstanding leads to multiple misunderstandings and no-one gets out in one piece (again, no pun intended).
While the film isn't seeking to make any kind of deep point about social prejudice, it deserves plaudits for backing up its jokes with some genuinely enjoyable and rounded characters. The biggest plus-point about Tucker & Dale is its real sense of heart, with Eli Craig doing everything the hard way to build up the relationships between Tucker, Dale and Allison. He resists going for the obvious character developments in the relationships that matter, so that while everything else is being sent up or restaged ironically we still feel like we are watching real people.
Much of this appeal lies in the casting of the central pair. Tyler Labine gives Dale a lovable, teddy-bear quality, using his burly physique entirely to the character's advantage. We find ourselves really rooting for the character in his desire to talk to girls with confidence, and retain our empathy even when laughing at his simple mistakes (e.g. introducing himself to the teenage campers by walking up to them with a scythe in his hand). He also gets one of the best lines in the film: after a near-miss with a booby-trap, with a wooden stake just missing his privates, he mutters: "I never thought I'd say this, but I'm glad I'm not hung like a bear.".
Labine is ably complimented by Alan Tudyk, who may be familiar to movie-goers for his supporting roles in A Knight's Tale and Dodgeball. Tudyk is great at conveying repressed anger, and he has plenty of that in this role, putting up with Dale's every misdemeanour. His best scenes involve him running around with a chainsaw having just sawn through a beehive, trying to pull a body out of the wood-chipper, and best of all trying to explain to the local sheriff how it is that teenagers have, in his own words, "started killing themselves all over my property!".
What we end up with is a film which is simultaneously a full-on blood-and-guts horror movie, a bromance without any of Judd Apatow's sickening chauvinism, and a romantic comedy with genuine heart. It's hard enough to make a film which is both scary and funny, and Craig is very careful not to allow things to get too goofy. This is not, to quote Sam Raimi, a Three Stooges film with blood and guts standing in for custard pies, as The Evil Dead was. The film is closer to An American Werewolf in London in its set-up of comic characters who are then encroached upon by horror.
Like all films with such a simple premise, there comes a point where Tucker & Dale begins to run out of steam. Calling it a one-joke movie is doing it a great disservice, but once the characters sit down and start talking about their problems over tea, the film slowly grinds to a halt. The therapy scene is relevant to the plot, developing Allison's career aspirations as well as satirising similar scenes in more mainstream films. But like the ferry scene in The Dark Knight, there is an unavoidable loss of momentum even as we agree with what is being shown.
The other big problem is with the identity of the film outside of its appeal to die-hard horror fans. It's not the case that every horror film should be geared towards the mainstream, and there is nothing wrong with making a film that fans will appreciate. But once get past the send-ups, the film has to have something to give it a life of its own, to preserve its value in case its jokes age poorly. Tucker & Dale is a partial success due to the strong characterisations, but it lacks the distinctive visual look that Edgar Wright brought to Shaun of the Dead. Craig has the ability to be as good as Wright if he works hard, but at this stage he's not quite the finished article.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is an impressive and immensely enjoyable debut from Eli Craig, who has the potential to be a really good horror filmmaker. He makes the best of a good script, relatively unknown actors and a low budget to create something which is inventive, captivating, and which treads the line between funny and scary very well. Only time will tell how it holds up to the likes of Shaun of the Dead or The Cabin in the Woods, but for now it's a welcome addition to the horror-comedy canon.
All in all, it's a worthwhile entertainer while it lasts.
Director: Eli Craig
Siummary: Expecting to enjoy a relaxing vacation at their rundown mountain cabin, backwoods boys Tucker and Dale see their peaceful trip turn into a nightmare when college kids camping nearby accuse the duo of being psychotic killers.
My Thoughts: "I really like Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, they are hilarious on their own so I knew with them teaming up for this movie it had to be funny. And it is. The film is a very clever spoof on the several wood slasher flicks. The film unravels quite nicely with all the cliche's thrown in the mix. It was a great blend of gore and violence. I'm happy they didn't shy away from showing all the gruesome kills as well. Great comedy flick to just relax and shut your mind off and have a good time with. It's a fun movie I'm sure most will enjoy."
Dale: "Bring it phrat bitch!"
"The perfect love story... with a high body count..."
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is an extremely funny and well made backwoods horror spoof. The way Eli Craig uses all the standard backwood slasher cliches is a thing of beauty for horror fanatics. He works his way through countless cliches from the gas station to the house with bones hanging from the roof. This has to be the most intelligent spoof I have ever seen and quite possibly the best too. It's fun, it's hilarious, and it's genius.
The only movie this deserves to be compared to is Scream. These are the only two movies I've seen that have spoofed the horror genre in such a brilliant way. Unlike Scary Movie, which feels more like short skits; this plays out just like the movies it's spoofing. It looks like the standard backwoods slasher, that is if you turn your head during the kills. The kills look standard, hut they are anything but.
Two hillbilly buddies go out to their new vacation house that they are fixing up. They are two of the nicest hillbillies you'd ever meet. But looks are deceiving when a group of college kids believe they are psycho killers. When Dale saves their friend from drowning and takes her back to the cabin, they freak put thinking they are being put into a horror film. They try to save their friend, while Tucker & Dale are clueless as to what is going on.
This is such a wonderfully good time. It's creative in ways I haven't seen from a spoof. It never mentions the movies it's spoofing like Scary Movie or Scream. Instead it believes that the people who are watching it are horror fans and will just know. Like when Tucker has a mishap with a dysfunctional chainsaw and runs around waving it. Everyone knows what they are doing, so why say it?
Fans of the genre will fall in love with this ambitious film from the start. It's a treasure. The fact that I knew very little about it going in made it all the more better. I knew it was a horror spoof, but I didn't know any details about how it was going to play out. Watching play out without any details was one of the more enjoyable film experiences I have had in a long time. This will surely become a classic among horror buffs, just like Scream and Shaun of the Dead have become.