Review: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011)

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Rating

Director
Eli Craig
Screenplay
Eli Craig, Morgan Jurgenson
Length
89 min.
Starring
Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse oss, Philip Granger, Brandon McLaren, Christie Lang, Chelan Simmons, Travis Nelson, Alexander Arsenault, Adam Beauchesne, Joseph Sutherland
MPAA Rating
R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity.

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Review
If the title doesn’t prepare you for the film ahead, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil’s premise should. Bending genre convention to its will, Tucker and Dale explores the prejudice inherent in the horror genre while remaining entertaining.

As the frightening horror of the 1920s and 1930s yielded to the more horrifying aspects of human nature, the slasher genre was born in the 1960’s and continued to evolve through the 1970’s. By the 1980’s, with only a couple of unique pictures in evidence, the slasher genre became a tired bundle of stereotypes and cliches slaughtering sexy teens by the boat loads without examining why we were so mesmerized by the genre to begin with.

In the mid-‘90’s, Wes Craven brought us the first in a series of self-aware horror films designed to capture the cultural zeitgeist and drive it in new directions. The success of Scream eventually diminished and a return to commonplace narrative similarty became the norm again, even as the “torture porn” subsection of the slasher genre found success, but ultimately dwindled. Whle a handful of horror spoofs have come out in the last two decades, they all build themselves on funny characters instead of on truly funny situations. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil attempts to right that wrong by creating an intriguing blend of genre tradition and self-aware deconstruction. Not as astute as Craven’s Scream films, but it is nevertheless engaging.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two rednecks on vacation at their new vacation stead are mistaken for crazy murderous backwoods folk by an SUV full of impressionable teens out for a wild camping trip. While Tucker and Dale have no negative feelings towards the teens, their outward appearance and the common misperception about their natures lead to early and avoidable conflicts. After on of the teens, Allison (Katrina Bowden) bumps her head falling into the lake and the boys take her back to their cabin to recuperate, a poor vantage point and pre-conceived notions lead the pack of teenagers to believe Tucker and Dale are, in fact, crazed, psycho redneck murderers and they leap into action trying to save their perfectly safe friend.

As the teens forget where they are and perform utterly idiotic acts (such as running blindly in the woods or leaping at people standing in front of woodchippers), the teens slowly kill themselves off, yet attribute the heinous deeds to the hapless yokul pair.

The film even features a romantic twist between Dale and Allison that stands out as notably un-genrelike as the pair seem completely unsuited to one another, but work as a pair. This is a credit to Labine and Bowden who keep the outlandish theatrics to a minimum, something most of the slaughter-invoking teens can’t avoid. Tudyk, best known for his role on the short lived television series Firefly, its accompanying film Serenity and most recently seen as the ambiguously gay German spy in Transformers: Dark of the Moon is the most recognizable face in the cast. He plays heavily towards his strong comedic abilities and helps enliven what might have otherwise been a rather routine affair.

If you dislike the horror genre, aspects of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, most notably the copious scenes of violence, will not endear you to the film. However, if you are entertained by the genre, even at its most ludicrous, there’s something quite fascinating about how the film manipulates the tools used by other horror directors and creates a seemingly fresh take on the genre with seemingly little effort.
Review Written
November 18, 2011

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