Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011)

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Tucker & Dale vs. EvilStarring Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss

Directed by Eli Craig

Next to remakes, the horror-comedy has been one of the most prolific subgenres of late. And like remakes, I can count the good ones on one hand. For every Shaun of the Dead there are dozens of lousy Sam Raimi/Peter Jackson imitators and even bigger hyped titles like Dead Snow, Jack Brooks, and Zombieland I found forced pastiches of much better movies. So imagine my surprise when a backwoods redneck comedy with a title like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil managed to defy all expectations and completely charm me in the end.

The concept is so great I’m surprised no one thought of it sooner: Just like every post Texas Chainsaw horror film, we begin with a van full of vacationing teenagers who stop at a secluded gas station and are promptly freaked out by the scary backwoods locals. It is here that Tucker & Dale shifts the action over to the hicks – and as it turns out, they’re simply misunderstood good ole boys. The film is mostly told from the perspective of our title characters: two lovable dimits whose only goal in between beer runs is to renovate their “dream home” (i.e., a crappy cabin by the lake). And this time, in a brilliant role reversal, the dumb preppy city kids are inadvertently the villains.

When Tucker and Dale rescue one of them from drowning during a late-night skinny dip, the paranoid teens confuse them for psychopathic Deliverance types and waste no time starting a fight for their lives. Of course, Tucker and Dale are just trying to help and completely oblivious to their situation, which unleashes a gruesome comedy of errors where the entrails go flying.

Co-writer/director Eli Craig is clearly a big fan of the genre, and he’s knowledgeable enough to deliver a loving homage without resorting to obvious self-referential jokes. Half the fun is how the script takes the oldest of genre clichés and gives you a hilarious new perspective on them. It’s a simple, broad comedy but one that never outstays its welcome and keeps the gory (and largely practical) set-pieces flying at a frenzied rate.

The success or failure of a movie like this all boils down to the likability of the protagonists, and Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine make for the perfect comedy team. Under normal circumstances a couple of country bumpkins would be difficult to relate to – especially in this genre – but these sweet-natured heroes will have you rooting for them every step of the way. This is mostly because their characters aren’t stereotypes; they’re completely genuine with a great rapport and never go for typical Dumb and Dumber/ Jeff Foxworthy style jokes. They’re more like the dysfunctional types you’d see in an early Coen Brothers flick, and it’s especially refreshing to see two leads in a horror-comedy who aren’t self-aware movie geeks or bad Ash clones.

It should be noted that Tucker & Dale vs. Evil falls a tad short of “instant classic” status. It’s a fairly one-joke affair, and once the gags get rolling, it’s pretty easy to spot the punchlines before they happen (although to be fair, they’re the exact gruesome pay-offs you want to see). It also peaks a bit early with a finale that isn’t nearly as inspired as the rest of the film. That said, it’s still one of the best horror-comedies in ages, and these characters could easily launch a series worthy of Abbott & Costello.

3 1/2 out of 5

Discuss Tucker & Dale vs. Evil in the comments section below!

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  • Vanvance1

    I think this is a spot-on review. 3.5 knives is fair but having said that this is an easy, light and fun watch. Some might go as high as 4.

  • Terminal

    Great review. I’m saving this one for October horror month. Thanks Mr. Kasch.

  • nazo

    Next to remakes, the horror-comedy has been one of the most prolific subgenres of late. And like remakes, I can count the good ones on one hand.

    I started thinking, and yeah, there haven’t been a lot of good ones (though the same could be said for most other subgenres). Most of the horror (intentional) comedies from the past several years that I’ve really enjoyed (Fido, I Sell The Dead, Behind The Mask, Murder Party) have flipped the usual story around somehow, creating a premise original enough to both keep me engaged and make opportunities to tell jokes I hadn’t heard a million times before. The only ones that seemed kind of familiar that I still really enjoyed were Slither and Dance Of The Dead. Based on that, and the appearance of Alan Tudyk, this one looks interesting.