The horror genre, like many other genres, has its tried and true formulas that make up its subdivisions. Hollywood, being the bloodthirsty (‘scuse me, money-hungry) machine that it is, will sometimes jump on a particular subgenre and exploit it until the audience, the filmmakers, and the investors feel like it has been drained of all its juice. But sometimes a miracle happens. A young up-and-comer or a seasoned veteran will take that subgenre, turn it on its ear, and give us a fun-filled, self-aware piece of celluloid. Normal theatergoers are wowed, while the writers in the audience are left scratching their heads wondering “Why the hell didn’t I think of that?” Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson did this with Scream, similar success was achieved by Edgar Wright with Shaun of the Dead. Writer/director Eli Craig and writer Morgan Jurgenson join the ranks with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, their send up of killer redneck movies.
The plot follows the titular hillbillies as they head up to their vacation home in the mountains. Simultaneously, a group of college kids are headed to the surrounding woods to do some camping. Through a series of misunderstandings, fueled by preconceived notions, the kids think the hillbillies are trying to kill to them while Tucker & Dale believe the kids to be a part of a suicide cult. As the body count builds up, so does the cloud of confusion, and the conflict escalates to a bloody resolution. What we’re left with is a fun-filled, self-aware piece of celluloid.
The film has a lot working for it. Tyler Labine shines as the lovably silly Dale while Alan Tudyk as angry hillbilly Tucker is lots of fun to watch. Their dynamic, with Dale following Tucker, while unknowingly being the more logical one, makes them a truly memorable movie duo. The rest of the cast, especially Jesse Moss as the maniacal Chad, are clearly having fun in their roles, which really helps draw the audience in.
The script is full of situations that go from bad to worse for our heroes (and funny to hilarious for the fans). From Tucker running with a chainsaw toward the kids as he tries to avoid bee stings to the botched disposal of a kid who accidentally died in a wood chipper, the viewer is constantly left feeling embarrassed for our heroes. The entire movie serves as an over-the-top lesson that most conflicts can arise from a series of misunderstandings.
What really shines through, above all, is the love these filmmakers have for the genre. This isn’t Scary Movie 4 or Vampires Suck, which are lampoons-of rather than homages-to the films that inspired them. Tucker & Dale respects its source material, while simultaneously poking fun at it.
And that’s why it works.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil opens Friday at the Ritz at the Bourse.