Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

31 Days of Horror: Day 3
There are damn few good horror-comedies.  Fact.  Sure, there are a lot of films that can be loosely categorized as horror-comedies, but most of them are either stupid spoof movies (Stan Helsing) or have very, very dark humor (American Psycho).  The last horror-comedy I can recall enjoying was Club Dread, and it has been a good long while since that came out.  I've tried a few movies that have attempted to master this unique genre blend, but I've had bad luck lately.  Oh, that reminds me --- Rubber sucks.  But then I saw this trailer and thought I'd give Tucker & Dale vs. Evil a try.

In case you didn't catch the gist of this plot from the trailer, here's the basics.  A group of coeds are going on a camping trip in the remote woods.  Following in horror movie tradition, these coeds are annoying douchebags.
Do you need more proof than the popped collar?
On their way to the the campground, the youngsters are frightened by some creepy hillbilly rednecks (I know, I know...Department of Redundancy Department).  The rednecks, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), aren't doing anything too scary --- just staring, making vaguely threatening conversation, and brandishing weapons --- but it's pretty obvious that the coeds are hearing dueling banjos in their heads. 
Okay, sure, I get that
Of course, it turns out that Tucker and Dale are actually two very nice best friends.  They're just hillbillies and they don't know how to communicate with preppie jerks.  The pair are going to their new vacation home, which looks like a murder cottage; they like to think of it as a fixer-upper.  Tucker and Dale's place happens to be on the same lake that the kids are preparing their weekend of unsupervised promiscuous fun.  It also happens to be in an area where, twenty years ago, a group of college-aged campers were brutally murdered by unknown hillbillies. 
Edit: that should read "brutally and awesomely murdered"
With that background, it was inevitable that there be a misunderstanding between the hillbillies and the coeds.  Pretty soon, the kids are acting like they are in a slasher movie with Tucker and Dale as the killers.  What are a couple of sweet country boys supposed to do when faced with that?
Is there a Plan B?

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil definitely relies on the acting abilities of its leading men.  While I wouldn't say that Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine are great actors, they were pretty entertaining here.  Both had a good grasp on the kind of timing needed for this sort of comedy and both were able to look surprisingly threatening when the script required it.  I was especially impressed with that last part, because neither actor has ever been particularly intimidating in anything else I've seen them in.  On top of that, Labine was pretty adorable.
Look at them.  They wouldn't hurt a fly!
Most of the coeds are played by actors without a lot going on in the talent department.  Jesse Moss and Chelan Simmons, for instance, were cannon fodder in Final Destination 3 and Brandon Jay McLaren was once a Power Ranger.  Katrina Bowden was good, though.  Her part didn't require much as far as line delivery went, but she did a solid job with the physical humor. when she became a giant and farted out Tucker and Dale.  Note: I'm not bilingual.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil was directed and co-written by Eli Craig.  If you're not familiar with his work, here's a quick refresher: you might have seen him as a young Tommy Lee Jones in Space Cowboys and...that's it.  He hasn't written, directed, or starred in any other feature-length films.  When you take that into account, I think Craig did a pretty damn good job with his first effort.  The nods to classic horror tradition/cliches are done well, the soundtrack and sets felt like they belonged in a genuine 80s horror movie, and the gore was very good for a movie focusing on laughs.
It's funny because someone died
The movie's pretty funny, too.  It's not all that witty --- the laughs tend to come from the death scenes and Dale trying to figure things out --- but it's certainly funnier than a horror spoof would be.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a comedy that is playing up horror cliches and turning them on their head.  This is clearly being done by people with a lot of affection for the genre, and that fondness for horror movies is obvious throughout the film.  However, this movie is, at its core, a comedy. 
Ha ha ha!  Die hipster, die!
Yes, there is a lot of fake blood, but this is a movie written and directed to make you laugh.  In that, it is fairly successful.  It didn't make me laugh out loud too often, but it was a very cute movie with some likable characters in it.
Exhibit A
And that's fine.  I'm not a huge fan of "cute," so some of that novelty wore off on me as the film wound down to the less amusing final act, but this movie was always enjoyable to watch.  Had it added some legitimate suspense or horror to the mix, this might have been a little better.  As it stands, this is a pretty clever comedy that pokes fun at some standard horror stuff.  It's not absolutely hilarious, but certainly worth a watch.  If you're trying to introduce someone to the funnier/campier side of horror and you don't think they're ready for Evil Dead 2, this would be a pretty friendly option.


  1. If you are looking for good horror comedies, Planet Terror is awesome and Zombieland is solid. And I am done.

    1. You know, I haven't gone back to Planet Horror since I saw Grindhouse in the theater. And, yes, Zombieland is pretty funny.