Ever since I heard (then saw the trailers for) Eli Craig’s “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”, I’ve been curious about seeing the movie. Certainly, it wasn’t because Katrina Bowden promises to go skinny dipping in bra and panties. Ahem. Not at all. The film promises something familiar, and yet radically different. In this case, our heroes wouldn’t be those hunky high school teens/college kids and their nubile and perfectly complexioned girlfriends, but rather the oft-belittled rednecks that populate the woods/isolated locales of most horror movies, thus giving us a horror movie that, for once, is told from the perspective of the country yokels. Now that’s new.
The Tucker and Dale of the title is Alan Tydyk (of “Firefly” fame) and Tyler Labine (“Sons of Tucson”), respectively, two good old boys headed out to their cabin in the woods for a little relaxation and beer drinking. Cause, well, what would two good old boys do? Along the way, they run across the comely Allison (Katrina Bowden) and her pals, including the uptight Chad (Jesse Moss). Allison is friendly, but young Chad is very wary of the locals, having endured some trauma at their hands many years earlier. Needless to say, the encounter does not go well, and the two sides go their separate ways. It doesn’t take long before Dale crosses paths with Allison again, but this time the little lass gets herself injured and the boys chivalrously take her back to their cabin for aid. Alas, Allison’s friends (spurn on by Chad) sees it quite differently. Soon the city kids are hatching a plan to retrieve their friend come hell or high water, forcing Tucker and Dale to stare dumbly as, one by one, the city slickers are chopped up, sliced, and fried to death — all thanks to their own stupidity.
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” opens in limited release today, and it’s definitely worth checking out, especially for fans of the horror genre who are sick and tired of the same old crap. And let’s face it, there isn’t a more stagnant genre in American cinema today than horror, with seemingly every other title tossing some city slicker types (usually “teens” played by people a decade removed from high school) into some rural locale to face off against some indigenous or supernatural evil. Eli Craig and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson are well aware of the tropes of their genre, making it easy for them to subvert them. In that respect, it’s a film that bucks the trend … while embracing the conventions. Still, it’s a hell of a good start.
The film is hilariously bloody, with each college kid dying in a variety of increasingly brutal fashion. All the while, lovable losers Tucker and Dale try in vain to figure out just what the hell is going on. Meanwhile, ol Dale’s doing his best to convince Allison that he isn’t the killer redneck she’s been told he is, a Herculean task given that, well, he pretty much looks like every hillbilly serial killer that’s ever appeared in horror movies about hillbilly serial killers. The fact that he resides in a rundown cabin in the middle of nowhere with a similarly shady looking hillbilly serial killer type like Tucker certainly doesn’t help matters. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is fantastically funny, and much of the credit goes to Labine and Tudyk, with Tudyk playing straight man to Labine’s slightly daft loser.
Certainly “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” isn’t lacking in the red stuff. Once the college kids get it into their heads that Tucker and Dale have absconded with their perky, pretty friend, the deaths come pretty hard and fast, each one more ridiculously bloody than the next. Sure, it all gets to be a bit much after a while, but maybe that’s the point. The kills are played strictly for laughs, so a scene of Tucker and Dale holding onto the half-sliced torso of one of their “victims” should elicit some howls. Once the crazy deaths start stacking up, and let’s face it, the college kid fodder starts getting pretty thin pretty face, the movie finally introduces a proper villain into the mix, forcing our heroes to pick up weapons and fight back. Luckily for them, having worked with their hands all their lives have made them pretty handy with power tools and the like.
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” spent most of its 2010 playing various festival circuits, looking for a distributor to take a chance on it. The film was made available on Video on Demand last month, before opening in limited release today. It comes very highly recommended, especially for fans of the horror genre sick and tired of the usual garbage. Go see it. Eli Craig and his producers deserve your patronage to ensure that they’ll be able to make more films like this in the future. Guys who can come up with something different, something new to revitalize a flatlining genre doesn’t come along very often. And if nothing else, you’ll be able to say that you saw “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” before it became a cult hit, a destination that seems well in range.
Eli Craig (director) / Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson (screenplay)
CAST: Tyler Labine … Dale
Alan Tudyk … Tucker
Katrina Bowden … Allison
Jesse Moss … Chad
Philip Granger … Sheriff
Brandon Jay McLaren … Jason
Christie Laing … Naomi
Chelan Simmons … Chloe