It’s automatically hard to take a movie titled “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” seriously. But to be perfectly honest, that’s a good thing. With a budget of under $5 million dollars and almost no studio support, “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” made a strong impression at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It finally got a very limited theatrical release in September of 2011 and now it’s available on DVD. It’s an unfortunate example of a good film that was shunned by the studios but that deserves an audience.
This is a movie that’s all about parody. It pokes fun at every splatter movie cliché and gimmick you can imagine while also packaging in a load of genuinely funny dialogue and hilarious gags. As I was watching the film, it offered me funny takes on so many movies including “Deliverance”, “Evil Dead”, “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and several others. But while there is certainly a horror element to the movie, this is essentially a comedy and a very funny one. In fact, I would say that it offers more clever and well delivered humor than most of the stuff that comes from Hollywood’s comedy favorites.
The movie’s lead characters (as you probably can guess) are Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two simple-minded hillbillies heading up in the West Virginia hills to fix up an old rickety cabin (or as they call it, their new summer home). Also in the hills is a group of stereotypical slasher movie college kids who are on a camping trip. You’ve seen them all before. You have the beautiful shapely blonde, the full-of-himself preppie, the nerdy guy, the pot smoker, and your token kids who are mainly there to add to the body count. They act stupid, do ill-advised things, and leave you wondering how they could ever pass a college course. But co-writer and director Eli Craig has a lot of fun with them. He’s clearly spoofing them but he doesn’t overexaggerate. Instead he injects some really funny lines and gags into these basic, cookie cutter characters.
Tucker and Dale first meet the kids at a gas station and through a hilarious misunderstanding they don’t leave a good first impression. The misunderstandings mount up after they cross paths in the mountains and the kids conclude that Tucker and Dale are psychotic hillbilly killers. This results in a bloody and often times rollicking chain of events that’s so cleverly put together. The good-natured back and forth between Tucker and Dale, even in light of the horrific things happening around them, will leave you laughing and Tudyk and Labine are believable from the first moment you see them. They may not be big household names but they are very good here.
This certainly isn’t a movie for everyone. The blood and gore is gratuitous but intentionally so and it sometimes plays a big part in the parody. This may turn some people off but it’s easy to forgive considering how it’s used. The movie does stumble a bit at the end. There’s a big showdown at an old lumber mill that also gives us our big revelatory moment. It was pretty anti-climatic and didn’t work for me. Again, it was soaked in parody but it still felt a little too conventional, something that can’t be said about most of this film. “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” isn’t a movie you can pigeonhole and that’s a real strong point. It’s bloody and hilarious and you may find yourself grimacing and laughing at the same scene. It’s truly that funny.