Anyone who has studied Horror 101 knows exactly what happens when a bunch of college kids head out into the woods and run into some seedy looking rednecks. Right? But, what if the rednecks were just good, honest, caring individuals who didn't want to hurt anyone? Well, let me just check the Horror 101 syllabus here… OK, if the rednecks are nice people then you ain't got no antagonists and therefore you ain't got no horror movie. Hang on… has Eli Craig read this?
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a couple of simple men (rednecks, if you like (bogans, to my fellow Aussies)) who've just bought themselves a "fixer upper" cabin in the middle of the woods. Their newly acquired piece of real-estate is a bit of a dump but Tucker & Dale think they've hit the jackpot with such a prestigious property.
On the first trip to their exclusive new abode they have one of those "horror movie" encounters with a group of "horror movie" college kids at one of those impossibly dingy "horror movie" gas stations. It's text book stuff until writer/director Eli Craig shows us the encounter from both perspectives. From the kids' point of view Tucker & Dale are a couple of creepy threatening looking rednecks straight out of the Horror 101 syllabus. But, from Tucker & Dale's perspective they're just a couple of regular guys out for a spot of fishin' and cabin renovating, while the college kids are aloof snobs.
After this initial encounter, the college kids and Tucker & Dale go their separate ways but, of course, their paths cross again in the deep dark woods. This triggers a series of misunderstandings and miscommunications that escalate into a full on blood bath.
The ever helpful Tucker & Dale search for legless college kid.
I'm very close to proclaiming Tucker And Dale Vs Evil as the second best horror-comedy I've ever seen. Writer/director Eli Craig's role reversal idea is so simple (yet so brilliant), you wonder why no one has thought of it before.
The horror-comedy subgenre is littered with duds, like Club Dread and The Tripper, that failed to make me laugh or give me a scare. Even the stupendously overrated Shaun of the Dead really didn’t do much for me (uh oh… was that the sound of BIQs very few regular readers storming out?). Horror-comedy is a tough thing to get right. Too often film-makers don't have a clear idea about whether a particular scene is supposed to be funny or scary and it ends up being neither. Eli Craig’s writing and direction virtually never misfires this way.
Admittedly, Tucker And Dale Vs Evil is mostly played for laughs and isn't particularly scary or suspenseful. There's plenty of gore, but it's principally a comedy movie made for (and by, I expect) horror fans. Craig subverts all the usual horror movie tropes mining for laughs and most of the gags are right on target. He's also very ably serviced by Tudyk and Labine who have perfect comic timing and delivery (particulalry Labine who virtually steals the show).
Given that Tucker And Dale Vs Evil went direct to DVD here with absolutely no fanfare, my expectations were low. I'd heard some positive buzz about it but I've heard good buzz about other horror-comedies in the past (yes, I’m looking you again Shaun) that have ultimately been disappointing, so I had no reason to think it would necessarily be any good. But, it was good. Very good.
If you’re a fan of horror and have a proper sense of humour you really shouldn’t miss Tucker And Dale Vs Evil.