Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
While not a new phenomenon, taking films like Young Frankenstein, Dead Alive and Army of Darkness into account, the Horror-Comedy genre has gotten a lot of love in recent years. The Scary Movie franchise is the lowest common denominator version of it, but other films like Shaun of the Dead and Attack the Block have built a dedicated cult following on their clever twists of the horror genre.
Now being released is the latest example, Tucker & Dale vs Evil. The story takes the classic horror convention of horny college kids camping out in the woods, only to be stalked and killed by inbred hillbillies, and turns the premise on its head. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two well-meaning country boys, headed to a run-down cabin Tucker bought as a vacation home. Their outward appearance and lack of social skills leads to a misunderstood meeting with a group of frat boys and co-eds, who only see the worst parts of Deliverance in the two title characters.
What follows is a truly clever and hilarious unfolding of events, as Tucker and Dale are mistaken as kidnappers and murderers by the kids; and conversely, the events play out to our two protagonists like the collegians have gone mental and have made a suicide pact of some kind. The deaths are a bit gory and brutal, but director Eli Craig manages to keep a humorous tone to the entire affair and audiences will be laughing just as hard as they’re cringing, if not harder.
What makes this premise work is Craig and the cast truly understanding what they’re doing. This isn’t straight spoofing (a la Scary Movie) but more of an homage to the situations present in films like this, only they make sure to add equal parts of comedy to the tragedy. The actors all play their parts with the utmost eye towards portraying the stereotypes audiences know are present in any backwoods slasher flick. Tudyk and Labine have a long track record of comedic roles; their chemistry with each other and total commitment to the roles hold the entire production together. Katrina Bowden and Jesse Moss are the main “couple” of the college kids and also deliver exactly what is required from roles like these.
Seeing this in a theater full of people was reminiscent of 2009’s Zombieland and this may be the most entertaining movie-going experience of 2011. Will it win any “major” awards? No, and that’s not the point. Will it make $500 million at the box office? No, and its very, very, very limited theatrical release schedule and niche demographic never made its creators/producers think it might. However, unlike a host of films that fit either of those categories, the legend of Tucker & Dale vs Evil will live on, with the home market the more likely place where people will track this down and realize the worth of its production.
As such, if Tucker & Dale vs Evil is in a theater near you, I implore fans of the genre to grab a bunch of friends and check it out on the big screen. This is the kind of movie begging for an audience experience. Sadly, it’s probably too clever (and definitely too under-distributed) to make that much of a reality but for once, you’ll be one of the lucky few to get into something cool before everyone else finds out about it. And you want to be cool, right? (And for all you contrarians/hipsters out there: Don’t see this movie, it’s cooler to say no to things).
Rated R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity.