From the Vaults: Tucker and Dale Vs Evil

I enjoyed writing this review just as much as I enjoyed this movie! I’ve always had a soft spot for horror-comedy of almost any kind though. But, this one does things a bit differently.
Tucker and Dale
Two country brothers face an evil greater than anything they could imagine… COLLEGE STUDENTS!

Over the years, many horror tropes have become commonplace. One of the most overused plotlines is the “summer trip to the country gone wrong, because inbreds/cannibals/fanaticals/rednecks/members of the Tea Party!” Perhaps in the trope’s inception, it was more metaphoric timepiece? In the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the Sawyers were a frantic inversion of the culture at the time. Hitch hiking was common, some were still clinging to the ideals of the 1960s, and the world was still wrapped in fear. However, many film makers wanted to jump on the bandwagon and played off the fears of a society so different and backwards, they were made the obvious horror villain choice.

So, in the year 2010, we get a film that tries to break that mold: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil. The plot revolves around two simple men, aptly named Tucker and Dale. Both of them just want to live a good life after obtaining a rundown cabin. Tucker favors hard work, while Dale dreams of finding romance with a girl. Staying true to the trope, as parody so often does, these Tucker and Dale aren’t exactly the brightest of characters. Instead of being menacing with their oafish traits, they’re bumbling and lovable.

The antagonists of the movie aren’t so much characters, as much as they represent metaphysical concepts such as hatred and ignorance. Both of these issues drive the conflict between the college friends and the two hillbillies throughout the film. The fanaticism of the characters, especially from Chad (whose parents were murdered by hillbillies in a massacre), proves to send these young adults into a justice-driven rage (not too different from the radical approach seen on Tumblr.) However, unfortunate circumstance as well as the college students’ ineptitude creates murderous mishap after mishap.

As we first open, a frantic murderer in the woods leads an attack on an innocent reporter. Three days earlier, we encounter one of our favorite tropes: douchebag college kids. Not unlike the beginning of many horror movies, especially Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever, our unlikable college group stumbles upon some “creepy hillbillies”. Of course, these hillbillies are none other than Tucker and Dale. Due to the social ineptitude of the brothers, they scare away the college kids twice in the same day! As a result of the second scare, one of the girls, Allison, nearly drowns as the rest abandon her. This panic is made worse when Chad relays a story about a massacre that happened in the same woods years beforehand. Dale wakes her up and takes care of her, while the others assume that the brothers murdered, raped, or used Allison for their presumed nefarious plans. They then go on a crusade to destroy the “evil” hillbillies so the can never “hurt another innocent” again.

Blinded by rage (like your typical social justice warrior,) their stupidity results in comical deaths like flying into a wood chipper to jumping into a spiked metal pole. With all the death happening around them, poor Tucker and Dale get the impression that some crazed suicide cult is after Allison. First, the brothers consider calling the cops to report these kids, but figure the story is too unbelievable as they’re backwoods hillbillies versus a group of college kids.

The boys try to defend this girl by themselves, only to learn that her friends’ judgmental behavior had been fueling this affair. This doesn’t stop one of the college “friends” from reporting Tucker and Dale to the police. Well, this goes as well as you’d think, leading to another comical fatality. Chad ultimately ends up kidnapping Tucker and severing two of his fingers. Dale, the ultimate hero of the story, leaps into action to save his brother, while Chad and one of the others try to “rescue” Allison.

After Allison tries to inform the crazed friends that they have the boys all wrong, she is accused of having “Stockholm syndrome.” The boys subsequently return to the house. Allison, the psychologist in training (in other words, using that “and how does that make you feel?” approach) tries to get them to talk out their problems. Chad becomes hysterical after revealing the story of the massacre was real. The other friends catch up and they too try to “rescue” Allison, only to set the house on fire. Everyone except Chad, Allison, Tucker and Dale go up in the flames.

Allison and the boys try to flee as Chad goes into a mad frenzy. He captures Allison and brings her to a saw mill, like any cliche cartoon villain would. Dale barely catches up in time, and reveals old newspaper clipping showing that his father wasn’t murdered, but that he was the actual killer and also raped Chad’s mother. Chad goes berserk over the news he’s “half hillbilly”, leading to his apparent demise. After a news team arrives, a story about “a suicide cult trying to sacrifice Allison” hits the airwaves. Tucker is recovering in the hospital after a surgery to reattach his fingers, albeit they may be the wrong ones. The story wraps up with Allison and Dale celebrating their survival over a game of bowling.

If you wonder what happened to Chad… Care to read the first sentence of the synopsis again?

Among many other points, this film proves that a small budget can pack a powerful punch. Tucker and Dale has its fair share of convincing enough gore from gruesome gouging to brutal impaling and immolation. Of course, even if the bloodier scenes were less realistic, it would still compliment the ironic nature of the film. And for Director Eli Craig, this was one hell of a debut! A small film shot in British Columbia has emerged into quite the sensation.

The real joy in this film is the brilliant acting chemistry between Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, the actors for Dale and Tucker respectively. These two alone helped to carry an otherwise good performance from the rest of the cast. Equally important acting performances came from Chad, played by Jesse Moss, who as the chief cause of the story’s conflict through his paranoid, prejudiced feelings. Besides brilliance performances from acting talent old and new, the film had quite a few excellent bits of jokes and humor. The characters’ interactions,set ups, and pay offs for the death scenes garnered the most laughs.

Despite being such an entertaining film, the marketing could have been done better. For one, the film was attributed as being an intentionally stupid horror parody. Craig, on the other hand felt the film to be more so a dark comedy. Though, this picture is more so a “bromance gone horribly wrong” rather than a horror film anyway. Another obstacle that Craig dealt with was producers to allow him to keep the character deaths as morbid jokes, which ended up as part of the positive reception.

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is an awesome Saturday night popcorn flick with a simple message, don’t be judgmental towards others. The characters may be over the top, but their paranoia and ignorance is easily relatable in our fearful modern world. And in the end, the brothers just wanted to have a good time.

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil gets an 8.5 out of 10 from me!

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