OCTOBER 13, 2010
Sometimes you hear about a movie and wonder “How has no one thought of this before?” Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is one such film. At it’s core is a very basic, well-worn premise – some kids go into the woods, encounter two hillbillies, and they all end up dead. But the twist is – the hillbillies are innocent. The result is a hilarious, crowd-pleasing romp that, like Scream, will make it difficult for this scenario to be taken seriously for a while.
One of the best things about the film is the performances and chemistry of Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as the titular Tucker and Dale. Labine is the more dimwitted of the two, but also more of the hero, as it is he who falls for one of the college girls (which is what leads to most of the misunderstandings) and ultimately has to save her from the real “Evil”. I don’t know if the two have worked together before, or knew each other in real life, but they make for one of the most natural and enjoyable duos in recent memory, and it’s rare to see something that strong in a horror film – this is borderline Gibson and Glover, or Stallone and Russell level chemistry. The kids are a mixed lot (with the exception of Katrina Bowden, the female “protagonists” are particularly bad), but they more than make up for it. Their dog is great too.
It’s also fairly well plotted and structured, rarely stretching believability too far in order to keep the plot moving. Obviously, if anyone would just shut up for a second and explain, there would be no movie, but screenwriter Eli Craig (who also directed) keeps things moving without ever getting too contrived. And the deaths follow suit – the kids pretty much all kill themselves due to their gung-ho attitude and complete lack of survival skills. I particularly liked the bit where Tucker accidentally chainsaws into a beehive and begins running, waving the ‘saw around to try to swat the bees away. He runs toward one of the kids, who of course thinks he’s coming after HIM, and begins to run as well. At one point, Tucker actually runs right past him, at which point the kid realizes the misunderstanding – and then runs straight into an extended tree branch, impaling himself. Craig has a knack for coming up with different ways for these schmucks to get themselves killed in manners that could look intentional from a 3rd party. Not sure what else he could use that skill for, but it’s a good one to have all the same.
But the real draw is just how damn funny it is. I seriously haven’t laughed this much since maybe Macgruber, and I think T&D is even funnier. The ridiculous kills, the clueless reactions, Dale’s surprising wealth of trivia... these things kept me smiling start to finish, and the film was never dull during it’s perfect 85 minute length. It could have gotten repetitive, but luckily Craig manages to find ways to keep it interesting, whether by having Tucker and Dale try to clean things up precisely BECAUSE anyone would think they were guilty, or having Bowden (a budding psychologist) try to get everyone to talk things out over tea. It’s a great mix of subtle humor, over the top silliness, and pitch perfect parody of these particular movies. Early on, Dale tries to talk to the girl using Tucker’s advice to laugh after he talks (because it shows confidence), inexplicably carrying a sickle as he does. When the attempt went predictably awry, I nearly fell off my chair laughing, and it wouldn't be the only time.
I also liked that it (again, like Scream, or Shaun of the Dead) wasn’t laughing AT these sort of movies. At the post-film Q&A, Craig claimed to be a fan of the Chainsaws and Fridays of the world, and I do not doubt him for a second. The film very much plays out like one of those films, but with intelligence and reverence, not spite. The last reel is lighter on humor than the rest of the film, because Craig knows that the audience will want an actual climax to the film, not a big joke or some sort of inane twist (there IS a twist of sorts, but it’s kind of telegraphed throughout the film, and it’s a decent one on top of that). He also said that the eventual DVD might have an extra feature with the movie cut from the kid's point of view, which is interesting because for some reason that's how I thought the film would play out for the first half, and then start over from Tucker and Dale's perspective to see how we had looked at it all wrong. That might work for something more concerned with deconstructing the genre, but I'm glad I had the wrong impression, I think it was perfect to let us know right from the start that Tucker and Dale were not villains.
Speaking of the Q&A, the first question was pretty much the same one most of you probably have: “When is it coming out?” Apparently, they haven’t gotten a satisfying offer yet and are holding out to get one. I understand the desire to make back their money, but he mentioned something about a low up-front offer and a share of the profits – I think they should have taken it, because I cannot believe in a world where this movie wouldn’t be a big hit. It’s funny enough to appeal to comedy fans, and horror fans will love the fresh and creative approach to one of the most overused plot setups in horror history. Easily one of my favorite movies of the year, and I hope they sort out their distribution woes soon so you can all enjoy it before it becomes another casualty of “hype” that builds for too long of a time before the general public gets to see it.
What say you?
P.S. Loved the song during the end credits by Mass Undergoe ('I Dug My Grave and Walked Away') - I need it on Mp3 post-haste!