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Movie Review: ‘Tucker & Dale VS Evil’

September 30, 2011
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I finally got to see Tucker & Dale VS Evil. It played last year at SXSW, and I didn’t have a chance to see it then—even though I interviewed the director Eli Craig following the premiere. The first thing he said to me:

Eli: So, how’d you like the movie?

Me: Uhh. I didn’t have a chance to see it.

Eli: Really? Oh man!

Me: [thinking how bad that sounds and how much of an idiot he must think I am for interviewing him about a movie I haven’t actually seen] Well, everyone who’s seen it seems to have liked it.

Eli: Really! Cool!

The interview picked up from there, thanks to the fact that Eli’s a really nice and enthusiastic guy who was perfectly content to talk horror movies. The fact that it was a gorgeous day in Austin and we were seated on the patio of one of its most pleasant restaurants—I forget the actual name, but it overlooks some water, has the décor of an old saw mill, and I believe has either the word “Tractor” or “Goat” in the title”—helped.

And the love of horror movies shows. Tucker & Dale is a sweet horror-comedy about two hillbillies, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) on vacation in the backwoods of some nameless Southern state. They meet up with a group of college students who are convinced that the two are the kind of bloodthirsty psychopaths one usually comes across in the backwoods of nameless Southern states.

One of the students, Allison (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden), has an accident, and Tucker and Dale take her back to their cabin to patch her up. Unfortunately, the rest of her group believes that she’s been kidnapped and launch an all-out attack on T&D’s cabin that ends up killing off most of the kids.

Most of the fun is in the strange and terrible ways the kids die—one, for instance, impales himself on a stick trying to run away, another has his body bisected—and, of course, loads of gore complement each offing. All of the killings harken back to the classic ‘80s-style dead-teenager gorefests such as the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street or Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchises, similar to Hot Fuzz. But they never feel especially creative or new. The focus and drive of the film is to come up with situations that can echo back to its predecessors.

Likewise, Tudyk and Labine are perfect as the leads. I’ve loved Tudyk ever since I first saw him as Steve the Pirate in Dodgeball, and, though I’ve never gotten to Firefly, he’s the kind of actor you’ve always noticed but never nailed down the name. Labine is just lovable as the good-hearted simpleton who falls for the cute girl. I don’t know if the hillbilly-with-the-heart-of-gold is a character archetype yet, but it’s a welcome change of pace from the mildly retarded fatboy-type that’s been way too played out.

In all, Tucker & Dale is a charming little film that’s short, sweet, and simple. The deaths, like I said, are fun, but not often laugh-out-loud funny. The ending is contrived (can we just do without the psycho teen?), and the premise doesn’t offer much beyond an excuse to reference old slasher films. The idea of taking on the perspective of the supposed villains is an inspired touch, but again, not much is made of it. Still the leads elevate it from your typical pop-culture inundated flick to a nice watch for a Sunday afternoon.

Rating: 2.5/5

Tucker & Dale VS Evil is rated R. Directed by Eli Craig. Written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson. Starring Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, and Chelan Simmons.

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