One thing I like about genre films is the fact that, whether they’re good or bad, they mostly accomplish the part about entertaining it’s audience. For the good to great ones they don’t just entertain but raise the genre to new heights. For the bad ones they seem to entertain in unexpected ways. How often have one watched a bad genre film, realize it’s bad and still just roll with it, laughing at it becoming part of it’s appeal. We wouldn’t have gotten years and years of Rifftrax and MST3K without enjoying the badness of awful genre films. Then there are genre films which takes the very well-worn tropes of the genre. The very things we as an audience groan and snicker at and manages to turn it into a love-letter to the very thing they’re making fun of.
The horror-comedy Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes the backwoods horror which has been a major staple of the slasher subgenre for over a quarter-century and tips it on it’s head to create a horror comedy that never runs out of laughs and still manages to show cringe-inducing death scenes. It stars Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine in the roles of Tucker and Dale. We have two well-meaning “hillbillies” from the backwoods of West Virginia on their way to Tucker’s recently bought “fixer-upper” of a vacation home who come across a group of obnoxious college kids looking to spend the weekend on the shore of the very lake our two intrepid heroes’ vacation also sits off of. Through some misunderstanding between the very sweet-natured Dale who tries to befriend one of the pretty college girls in the group we see the beginning of events that will see death and mayhem visited upon both groups throughout the film.
We get the mandatory story telling us about how twenty years ago during Memorial Day a group of similar college kids were massacred by a couple of hillbillies on the very shores of the lake with only one survivor to tell the tale. This tale becomes the reason why the college kids start trying to “defend” themselves from Tucker and Dale who they thought kidnapped one of the girls in their group when in fact they had just rescued her from drowning. One by one each college kid dies in horrible fashion in their attempt to take on the oblivious Tucker and Dale who begin to think the group were on a suicide pact and means to take them down as well.
The film really does a great job of playing on the well-worn conventions of slasher films and making each such scenario play out in a way that if someone caught the scene a few seconds after it had already started they would think Tucker and Dale were trying to kill these kids. Each kill have just enough gore to satisfy horror fans so used to slasher films, but also funny enough every cringe was followed up by laughs.
One thing the film also had going for it was the chemistry between Tudyk and Labine as Tucker and Dale. They play off each other quite naturally that it’s not a stretch to believe these two were truly life-long friends who would brave the rush of misguided college kids to save each other. Even the college girl with the heart of gold, Allie (played by Katrina Bowden), adds to the film’s good-natured fun as she tries to explain to her friends that everything which has been going on (all the death and destruction) was all just a misunderstanding. Another thing which helps make the two leads in the film quite sympathetic has to be how obnoxious the kids really were who look down on the so-called “mountain folk” of the region because of their appearance thus their lack of education.
Eli Craig took three years to make Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, but the end result was all worth the wait. The film follows in the great traditions of horror-comedies of the past by never winking cynically at the audience at how smart it is, but letting the basic premise of the story play out as simply as possible. It helps to have a great duo in Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine in the roles of the Tucker and Dale. This film may not make many critics running to proclaim it as a milestone in the genre but it does succeed in entertaining it’s audience and just ending up being one hilarious 90 minutes of campy horror.