Tucker & Dale vs. Evil ***
Directed by: Eli Craig.
Written by: Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson.
Starring: Tyler Labine (Dale Dobson), Alan Tudyk (Tucker), Katrina Bowden (Allison), Jesse Moss (Chad), Philip Granger (Sheriff), Brandon Jay McLaren (Jason), Christie Laing (Naomi), Chelan Simmons (Chloe), Travis Nelson (Chuck).
Six attractive, upper class college students decide to go camping in the middle of nowhere. They stop on the way to get beer, and see two hillbillies in a truck staring at them – one of them even comes up and tries to talk to them, although what he says doesn’t make sense but is oddly creepy. We they get to their camping spot, one of them tells the story of how a similar group of kids was murdered right in these very woods, right on this very spot, exactly 20 years ago tonight. And then they go skinny dipping. The hillbillies in the pickup show up again, frightening one of the girls so she falls down and hits her head. She wakes up with in the hillbillies’ cabin and discovers… that they are actually two really nice guys, a little shy and awkward sure, but sweet and they were just trying to help. Her friends however, especially their insane leader, are convinced they have kidnapped her – thus setting up a battle to the death between the hillbillies and the college kids.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil gleefully checks off all the boxes of horror movie clichés about college kids running into insane hillbillies, and then turns them on their head. This movie has as high of a body count as those horror movies – and those kids die in gruesome ways, including impalings, fire and of course a wood chipper. There’s even a helpful cop who shows up, and dies in a gruesome way as well. But everything is just an accident – it’s all just a misunderstanding. But those kids are convinced that those hillbillies are evil.
The hillbillies in question are Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), who would be more comfortable as a comedy duo in the 1930s than in a hillbilly slasher flick of the 1970s. Tucker is skinnier, more uptight, more intelligent, and he becomes exasperated by his bumbling, oafish, but lovable and heavier companion. I kept expecting Tudyk to either smack Labine upside his head with his hat, or else turn to him or say “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve got us in!” His facial expressions pretty much say that anyway. The two actors work well together – play off each other nicely. They just came up to the woods to enjoy a quiet long weekend fishing at Tucker’s new “vacation cabin”, although admittedly, it certainly does look like the place you would be taken to by an insane hillbilly who wants to kill you.
The girl they “kidnap” is sweetly played by Katrina Bowden, who is convinced, even with multiple dead bodies already piling up, that everything can be sorted out if everyone just sat down, had a nice cup of tea and talked through their problems. The real problem is Chad (Jesse Moss), the leader of the college kids, really is insane and bloodthirsty.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is made with the same spirit, if not the same style, as Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. No, it doesn’t explode the genre it’s spoofing like that film did, but it sends up nicely. For fans of the horror genre, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a must – a cult film in the making.