Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) Review
TUCKER & DALE vs EVIL
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Philip Granger
Directed By: Eli Craig
As an avid fan of horror films, I heard about this little film a while back. Sitting for what seemed like an eternity in my Netflix Instant Queue, I finally decided to give it a watch one night before bed. Finding myself overwhelmed by exhaustion, I saw around fifteen minutes before being beaten violently by the sandman. The next day I found myself telling my wife about the short amount of Tucker & Dale I saw and expressed how good I felt the opening was. The next day, we decided to give it a try and found a treasure in what we both considered an original breath of fresh air to the horror\comedy genre.
The opening shows a group of college fraternity kids heading out for a Memorial Day camping trip to the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia. Upon driving to their destination, they quickly remember they forgot beer. Stopping at a “last chance” style gas station to pick up their alcohol, they quickly realize they’re not in the city any longer. Running into Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two good ‘ol country hillbillies on their way to a vacation cabin they just bought for renovation, the college kids are quickly turned off by the southern charm Dale displays when he tries to be nice and speak to one of the girls named Allison (Katrina Bowden). Hopping into their vehicle to quickly depart the gas station, the kids can’t believe how creepy Tucker and Dale are. Their perception, as a constant theme with this film, turns out to be their own downfall.
Upon arriving at their new “mansion” in the woods, Tucker and Dale begin their renovation by drinking beer and night fishing. While sitting in their quiet boat at night, they see the college kids plunge into the lake in attempts to be rowdy kids and go skinny-dipping. Dale, seeing Allison taking her clothes off for a night-time dip, can’t look because he’s completely enamored and embarrassed. Tucker, giving Dale a hard time, causes a slight distraction and Allison catches them and believes they’re spying on her. Falling into the water, hitting her head and almost drowning, Allison is quickly saved by Dale. Unconscious, Allison is taken back to Tucker and Dale’s cabin so they can make sure she’s going to be alright. Seeing Tucker and Dale take Allison from the water causes panic amongst the college kids and they believe she’s in danger.
Trying to nurse Allison back to health, Dale does everything he can to be a gracious host and not appear creepy to her. The college kids, believing Tucker and Dale are a couple of hillbilly psychopaths straight out of Deliverance, they set out to bring Allison back and stop at nothing to make Tucker and Dale pay for their evil deeds. Led by the overzealous Chad (Jesse Moss), the kids unfold a vigilante style scheme that ultimately leads to mass confusion and mistaken identity.
The charm of Tucker & Dale is that not everyone is who they seem. Tucker and Dale, two country fellows of obvious lower education are genuinely good guys who are out just to enjoy life. The college kids, who seem to be out for a good time, quickly buy into misunderstanding, proving an education can’t overcome stereotypes. This, as a basic premise for the film, sets most of the events in motion and also delivers the most laughs. As viewers, we see roles reversed in an original way that pokes fun at other horror film cliche’s while staying tightly within those boundaries. Tucker and Dale, in most films, would be considered the villains whereas the college kids would be the unsuspecting victims. That’s not so in this case, as those two roles are reversed and Tucker and Dale are shown to be the victims. Watching this film was a breath of fresh air blown into the horror genre and gave me hope that there are people out there still wanting to make good, original films.
The script, as I’ve touched at, is brilliant. The whole “this is not what it seems” plot is worked well as the basic structure of the story, but it goes much deeper. From that basic structure, we’re given very good characters who we as the viewer genuinely care about. Out of those characters and their unfortunate circumstances, the comedy of the situation truly shines. This is more of a comedy-horror than a horror-comedy. Yes, I believe there is a difference in the two. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a comedy set in a horror world, which is our own world full of misgivings and stereotypes.
The directing is excellent. It’s very evident that Eli Craig (also one of the screenwriters) took a lot of care in bringing the script to live. Full of original camera work, great editing, and pacing that really moves the story along; it’s obvious that Craig did his absolute best in pulling out all stops for his first feature length film. If he’s this capable for his first feature film, I’m anxious to see what he does next.
The acting is actually really, really good. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine shine as Tucker and Dale. Their take on “hillbillies” is full of authenticity instead of stereotypes, which really makes the plot that much more interesting. Their friendship on-screen is believable and really propels the story forward. Both men are really talented actors, who together give two solid performances that screams for recognition. The rest of the cast, although relatively unknown, have been working in the film industry for long periods of time, which rounds out the stellar acting ability put on by everyone. Watching a cast of this caliber in such a great little film tells me that it was the story that drew them in and not the paycheck. This fact is evident while watching the film and it’s very noticeable in their performances. The cast really cared about and believed in the script which resulted in their actually producing an amazing end result.
The special effects are great, especially for such a small-budgeted independent film. From gross-out gags to blood and gore, the films is chocked full of awesome effects. One scene in particular involving simultaneous deaths from a wood chipper and an impalement was not only gruesome, but absolutely hilarious. I had to replay the scene (and the aftermath scene) over and laughed even harder the second time. Whenever something bloody happens onscreen, hilarity usually ensues. As good as the special effects and blood are and are utilized, they aren’t overdone and they aren’t trying to outdo the story. Both walk hand in hand quite nicely and give you a visceral and humorous ride for ninety minutes. The film boasts quite a heavy body count and all of the deaths are absolutely hilarious. From a wood chipper, two impalements, a brutal gunshot, a circular saw blade to the face, a machete to the throat, a fiery burning, and more, Tucker & Dale proves that you can have fun and be grossed out at the same time.
Overall, I was impressed with every aspect of this film. Before watching it on Netflix, I wondered why the rating was almost five stars (the highest you can get). Now I know why. This film not only met my expectations, it far exceeded them. To me, this is now an instant classic with me. I film I will watch repeatedly, show my friends, recommend to everyone, and enjoy for many years to come. After watching Tucker & Dale, I was left wanting more but felt satisfied and happy. If a sequel were to be made, although it’s not needed and I kind of hope it doesn’t happen, I only hope the filmmakers and cast put as much effort into it. I walked away quite impressed and felt that the film has stuck with me since viewing. Considering the amount of movies I watch, that’s a difficult task and I applaud everyone involved in the making. Their hard work, care, and dedication to the story and characters showed and I left as a die-hard fan of Tucker & Dale. If you miss this gem of a film, you’re doing yourself a great injustice.
Well, what are you waiting for? Go check this one out!
Stephen J. Semones
ORIGINALLY REVIEWED ON The Back Lot on 02-21-12.