Directed by Eli Craig
Distributed by Magnet Releasing
Here’s a little known fact about yours truly: I come from a family of hillbillies. My mom, the second youngest of 13 children, was born and raised in the hills of West Virginia, and I spent all of my vacations as a child there. As you can imagine, I absolutely love the killer hillbilly subgenre of horror (trust me, a lot of the time those movies aren’t too far off) so when I first heard of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, the hillbilly comedy-horror send-up starring Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the titular characters who are mistaken for backwoods killers by a group of vacationing college kids, I was absolutely on board with the concept sight unseen.
In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, we meet our characters – two longtime redneck friends with a simple dream of owning a vacation house in the woods by a lake. They end up sinking their life savings into a “fixer upper” cabin and proudly head up to their new place for the weekend to fish, drink beer, and get to work on repairing their new investment. On the way they cross paths with a group of college kids heading up to the same woods. Dale (Labine) is immediately taken by Allison (Bowden), but his surly appearance and inability to converse with the ladies gives Allison and her friends the impression that Tucker and Dale are two uneducated and creepy hillbillies that mean to harm them.
What follows in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a gruesome comedy of errors when Allison almost drowns during a late-night skinny-dipping excursion. Dale thinks the young girl is in danger after she falls in the water but never resurfaces so he jumps in to save her. Concerned for the young beauty’s well-being, he and Tucker take her back to their cabin, where they try to nurse her back to health.
Allison’s friends, led by stereotypical alpha-male douche Chad (Moss), believe that the hillbilly duo have kidnapped their classmate and set out to try and “rescue” her from Tucker and Dale; however, all they end up doing is killing themselves off (in true classic horror movie death style), providing some truly hilarious miscommunication to build between the co-eds and the rednecks that escalates to a hilarious and gory standoff between smitten Dale and psycho frat boy Chad during the third act.
A lot of people will say that blending horror and comedy is rather easy because the two genres prey on the same kinds of reactions from their respective audiences, but honestly, I’ve seen more bad than good horror comedies in my day. Thankfully, co-writer and director Eli Craig gets the formula absolutely right on Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, making it THE best horror comedy since Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead in 2004. The script is amazingly crafted by Craig and his co-writer Morgan Jurgenson, hitting all the right comedic beats as it takes every horror cliché we’ve grown to love over the last 30 years and turns them squarely on their heads.
In terms of casting, Tudyk and Labine are nothing short of brilliant with their heartfelt performances as earnest hillbillies who innocently get caught up in the midst of a blood feud with vacationing college kids who think the duo have kidnapped their friend. I’ve been big fans of both actors for a very long time (especially Tudyk’s work on “Firefly” and Labine’s work on “Reaper,” “Invasion” and the recent Rise of the Planet of the Apes) so seeing them here as leading men in a feature film felt like they were finally both getting some long overdue recognition. Their chemistry together is flawless, and if there were any justice in the world, both Labine and Tudyk would get some sort of award recognition for their performances here (Golden Globes comedy noms would be great), but we all know how award shows generally feel about genre films- let alone horror comedies.
As far as the supporting cast goes, both Bowden and Moss are incredibly strong, and the rest are pretty solid as well. Bowden, whom I’ve always enjoyed from “30 Rock,” really stepped up to the plate here and shined, and I enjoyed how Allison was given an actual character arc in Tucker & Dale vs. Evil instead of just being characterized as another empty-headed damsel in distress like you see in so many other slasher films. Moss, who’s perhaps given the meatiest and campiest role of the flick, is just balls-out insane, and the more he would chew the scenery with every line he delivered, the more I loved his performance of ultra-douche Chad. It would be great to see him return in a sequel if those stars ever align.
Many who haven’t seen the movie yet may be inclined to believe that Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is just a one-joke film, which is a fair assessment if you’ve only seen the trailer so far. But what I feel makes the flick so satisfyingly entertaining are the various riffs on slasher movie conventions, including send-ups of several iconic moments from movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Wrong Turn, Friday the 13th and even Final Destination. And while I wouldn’t say every gag bats a thousand, what I would say is that they all come pretty damn close to perfection in my book.
For those wondering… yes, the Blu-ray looks and sounds better than the DVD. Isn’t that a given by now? Moving on …
In terms of bonus features on the Tucker & Dale vs. Evil DVD and Blu-ray, Magnet Releasing delivers up a bevy of good stuff for fans of the flick. There are all the usual suspects here: theatrical trailers, outtakes and storyboards that are all really fun to revisit, but it’s the “Making-of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” featurette that takes the cake. So informative and entertaining, this mini-doc is absolutely worth watching if you dig the movie. The Tucker & Dale ARE Evil featurette was really fun to check out as well (it cuts the original movie down to 16 minutes, showing us the film from the perspective of the college kids), and the audio commentary track by director Craig and stars Labine and Tudyk is a downright hoot. (See? Hillbilly talk!)
On the verge of sounding downright cheesy, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is hands down the “feel good” genre movie of the year, and if you’ve yet to experience this film, do yourself a favor and pick it up immediately! It’s easily one of the most heartfelt and genuinely entertaining horror comedies of the past few years, and even if you’re not a horror fan, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with these two lovable hillbillies.
4 1/2 out of 5
4 out of 5