Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Directed by Eli Craig
The horror and comedy genres are difficult enough to master on their own. When combined, they depend on a perfect balance of tone and timing—an assignment that often proves too demanding, producing results overreliant on kitsch or, as in the case of Raimi's Evil Dead series, slapstick gore. The formula was revitalized in 2004's Shaun of the Dead, where the splatter-fest took a backseat to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost's budding bromance and banal bickering. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes the same winning recipe and reframes it within another conventional horror set-up: the hillbilly slasher.
Tucker (Alan Tudyck) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two lovable friends from rural West Virginia who set out on a fishing trip at their newly purchased "vacation home," an unfortunate mess that looks like the abandoned remains of the Unabomber's cabin. But the witless heroes' world is turned upside down as a group of vacationing college students mistakes them for murderous rednecks.
A series of abrupt accidents a la Final Destination convinces the coeds that the unassuming duo is out for blood. At the center of the bloodshed is the beautiful Allison(Katrina Bowden), whom the group of college kids believe has been kidnapped by the nefarious hillbillies. Taking a cue from her role on 30 Rock, Bowden does a fantastic job looking irritatingly attractive—a cruel contrast to the movie's unkempt protagonists.. In fact, the appeal of the film rests on the disparity between beer-swigging Tucker and Dale and a group of kids that look like they've been pulled out of an American Eagle catalogue.
This introduces an interesting parallel discussion: Would horror films be as fun if the people getting killed weren't attractive douchebags? Would we shudder in nervous anticipation as a group of ugly teenagers is stalked in the midst of skinny-dipping make-out sessions? No. Slasher flicks work best when the characters getting sliced remind you more of the All-American quarterback who took your crush to prom. By turning the tables on our conception of the horror "victim," Tucker and Dale gives us the sort of gratuitous, abject pleasure of high school bathroom gossip. Audiences who cheered for Lindsay Lohan as she humiliated the "Plastics" in Mean Girls will laugh uproariously as Tucker and Dale's frat boys and sorority girls dive into a wood chipper, set themselves on fire and shoot themselves in the face. Faced with a decision about how seriously it wants to take itself, the uncertain third act errs on the side of plot, but before the half-assed character development kicks in the film is good, old-natured, mean-spirited fun.
Opens September 30