Notable Cast: Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden
Review: What’s harder: intentionally making a horror comedy, or unintentionally making a film so bad we have no choice but to laugh? Sure, writers like Sam Raimi make it look easy to grasp the funnier aspects of the horror genre, but then others like Diablo Cody completely miss the point (Jennifer’s Body?). But, the horror comedy scene is kind of my jam, and the concept for Tucker & Dale vs. Evil was one that grabbed my attention when it started gaining buzz around festivals. A role reversal comedy where the dumb college kids are exactly that and the creepy hillbillies are actually the victims? Never judge a book by its cover! Not to mention our fishing enthusiast protagonists were played by two highly underrated actors in Tudyk and Labine, which made Tn’Dvs.E a must catch for a genre fan like me. But how would it fare keeping in mind the majority of audiences who are much pickier about their horror films?
In Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, two friendly country folk think they’re getting away from the hustle and bustle of life, but instead come across some very confused college co-eds partying on vacation. Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) are retreating to Tucker’s newly purchased “vacation home” (a dilapidated “fixer-upper” cabin in the middle of nowhere) for some much-needed man on man bonding. At the same time, Allison (Bowden) and her friends are vacationing in the same deserted forest for some unadulterated college antics. But when some harmless skinny dipping turns dangerous, Tucker and Dale find doing the right thing sometimes backfires. As Allison is undressing, the boating duo startle her, and cause her to fall head first into the rocky water. Saving her, Dale jumps in and hoists Allison onto the boat. But all Allison’s friends see is two creepy backwoods figures loading their friend onto their boat, Deliverance style. What follows is the student’s attempt to “rescue” Allison with catastrophic consequences, while our protagonist partners try to figure out why college kids keep offing themselves around them. Catastrophic, and hilarious that is.
So, with that said, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil wasn’t perfect. I won’t paint it as the all-time best horror comedy as there were a few flaws. The story worked well in explaining the peculiar situation, the acting was fantastic, the kills were over the top…but something wasn’t right. Everything felt stretched and silly for my non horror/comedy fans. The worst part of a bad horror/comedy is forced story and bad comedy itself. Here, the comedy and writing were not forced in the least, but the situation as a whole felt a little put in place. I know, all was in good fun with the college kids killing themselves, but it was far enough for the normal film fan to think nothing of the story. The story in fact creates the perfect situation for each kill; a situation that would never align itself given a regular horror story. Each time, the perfect folly of errors created a death for one of our young adults, but something not all fans will buy into.
But getting to what I love, the writing flows so smoothly for some stupid horror/comedy, there was no choice but to love it for those who can appreciate it. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes the stereotypes we all know from the usual horror flick, and turns them upside down. The concept of a bunch of college kids killing themselves sounds like a stretch from the start to keep the film running, but the script has so much fun with it, the audacity of the situation is completely forgotten. Pretty much every horror cliché is addressed by the writers, and written in a way that makes you question all other horror films from the opposite point of view. Look at every other goofy horror film where a bunch of brain-dead teens venture into the woods, see the creepy villains lurking in the background, and then people start dying. Yeah, obviously Jason slaughtering camp counselors wasn’t an accident at all, but the set ups were too perfect to make our characters think of the same situations. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a ton of fun for horror nerds, making us laugh at the sheer ridiculous state our campy horror scripts are in. Maybe Freddy wasn’t such a bad guy, just a little misunderstood?
As most horror flicks go, I could give or take the college kids. Just your typical run of the mill wanna be newbie actors, except Katrina Bowden whom I love from “30 Rock”/Sex Drive. The perfect casting laid in both main characters though, pairing Alan Tudyk (“Firefly”/Death at a Funeral) and Tyler Labine (“Reaper”/Rise of the Planet of the Apes). Again, this more low-budget flick takes two extremely talented bit part actors and lets them carry a movie on their own. Now the world knows everything I predicted from the start; both men are freaking hilarious. Both hillbilly embodiments were a riot to watch, and the comedic chemistry between the two completely nailed it. For a low-budget cast, that acting wasn’t a sore point for once.
So yes, the obvious tag here is horror/comedy, but stress the comedy much more. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a satirical take on the horror genre, as well as a commentary. The writing was smartly crafted to exploit all the little holes that usually exist in such films. But the best part? The gore wasn’t forgotten either. Sure, it wasn’t to the degree of some sloppy Romero movie with special effects guru Tom Savini, but hey, Craig did what he could. For a first time director/writer, Eli Craig succeeded in a genre that usually kills most director’s careers before they start. Enlisting the help of two talented funny men was a good jumping point though, and signing Katrina Bowden as your resident smoke show wasn’t a bad choice either. My recommendation for the average viewer is to have an open mind when viewing, because Tucker & Dale might be too much of a jump. But for the hardcore horror fans, Tucker & Dale gets my full thumbs up.
Final Rating: 7.5 dead college co-eds out of 10
Yeah, I’m OK with Katrina Bowden being cast….