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TUCKER & DALE vs. EVIL (2011)

October 14, 2011

written by: Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson
produced by: Morgan Jurgenson, Albert Klychak, Rosanne Milliken & Deepak Nayar
directed by: Eli Craig
rating: R (for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity)
runtime: 88 min.
U.S. release date: January 22, 2010 (Sundance Film Festival), March 10, 2010 (SXSW Film Festival), August 30, 2011 (VOD, iTunes, ZUNE), September 30, 2011 (select limited theaters) & October 7, 2011 (at Music Box Theatre in Chicago, IL)


Sometimes the title of a movie will grab you just the right way. That’s exactly what happened for me with “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”, a delightfully hilarious horror comedy which made its debut back in 2010 at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, it’s appeared at a variety of festivals, but only recently has it became available to the masses. Over a month ago, I caught a screening at a local Horror Fest and since then, every time I think about it I crack a smile. Not since “Shaun of the Dead” have a found myself consistently laughing out loud and gleefully repulsed, making it a perfect candidate for a theatrical experience.
 
Since originality in the horror genre is almost impossible to come by any given year,  it’s refreshing to find a movie that flips age-old stereotypes and delivers something you immediately want to tell others about. It’s a satisfying mashup of silly and gruesome that combines fun slapstick with cringe-worthy shock.
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In the mountains of West Virginia a car full of college kids eager to get their party started in the wilderness,  encounter two rednecks at a roadside grocery store. They are Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), and they two are about to kick off a weekend involving beer and fishing, in Tucker’s new “vacation home” (aka, dilapidated cabin) in the same woods. TO these seemingly arrogant and cruel students, these two greasy and unshowered pals come across as the kind of murderous mountain men found in countless horror movies. After some encouraging from Tucker, Dale musters the nerve to talk to Allison (Katrina Bowden, “30 Rock”), but in his stuttering attempt, he unfortunately only comes off as slow and creepy (thus solidifying their stereotype), and is rudely brushed off by Chad (Jesse Moss), her obnoxious friend and self-elected alpha male of the group.

Later on that night, Tucker and Dale find themselves fishing near “those college kids” (as Tucker calls them), unbeknownst to the skinny-dipping gang. The next thing they know, the two find themselves rescuing an injured and unconscious Allison and taking her back to their cabin, an action that has her friends assuming she’s been kidnapped by psycho hillbillies. Dale solidifies his crush on a confused Allison as he tends to her head injury, while Tucker tries to locate her friends to let them know what happened. What transpires is a series of misfortune deaths as the kids wage war on the clueless pair, perpetuated by unfortunate misconceptions.

For a relatively simple plot, there sure is quite a bit to take in and enjoy here. Co-writer/director Eli Craig (son of Sally Field) excels at establishing the characters early on, playing to our own built-in stereotypes of these roles. It’s possible to go along and believe something is off about the titular friends, but thanks to a clever script and some fine performances, we see them as more than just white trash.

 
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Unlike the “Scream” series of films,  “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is thankfully much less blatant or self-aware about how it plays to conventional horror tropes (I liken it more to the “Evil Dead” series of films). Instead of characters talking out their actions or providing needless exposition, we’re given several enjoyable juxtapositions of brutal-yet-hilarious killings, as well as darling interaction between Dale and Allison. It’s a nice touch that Allison isn’t a ditzy bimbo or a mean hottie and it’s enjoyable to see these two playing board games, as Tucker is left to deal with the college kids.

The success of a movie like this rests on the talent of the two leads. Tudyk (“Serenity”) and Labine (TV’s “Reaper”) bring a comfortable ease to their lovable roles. These are actors who’ve been in bigger movies this past summer, Tudyk was in “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” had Labine, both providing two very different supporting roles, which only proves their versatility. So,  it’s a joy to see these two carry a smaller film with their effortless comedic chops (Tucker dousing his wounds in beer, for example) and charismatic presence (Dale could actually get the girl and become a hero).

If this sounds like something you’d check out, you’d do well to skip the trailer and just seek it out. Although, I usually prefer to see movies just stand on their own, I’ll make an exception here and say that seeing more “Tucker & Dale” misadventures would be a hoot.

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RATING: ***  

 
 
 
  
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