It’s sad that we live in a world where companies will throw millions of dollars are garbage like Captivity instead of recognizing good, fun films like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I get it, the horror comedy is a tough sell and Tucker & Dale maybe moreso because it doesn’t have any bankable stars and it doesn’t play up the T&A, but dammit, this film deserves to be seen. Though it’s not at all like Edgar Wright’s movies, it does have that same knack for character-based comedy and reverence for the source material that inspired it that made Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so successful. Maybe this is actually the first post-Edgar Wright horror comedy, where a talented filmmaker has taken a love of genre films and turned it into a loving homage! It might have more in common with Behind the Mask and Dance of the Dead, but Tucker & Dale is yards ahead of both of those films!
Tucker and Dale are two messy and socially awkward but good-natured hillbillies who live in the mountains of West Virginia. I was expecting gross caricatures but the film is too smart to fall into that trap. When they run into a group of partying college kids at a last stop gas station, the kids are freaked out by Dale’s clumsy attempt to make small talk. As they all head up into the woods, the kids get into typical slasher movie hijinks including a hillbilly-themed campfire story and a trip to the lake for skinny dipping while Tucker and Dale just get excited about fixing up their newly-purchased vacation home.
The role-reversal is perfect, as both Tucker and Dale are delightful and entertaining if a little rough around the edges. We want them to fix up the crummy shack they’ve just purchased so that they can end up with a vacation home that they can be proud of, and we’re pulling for Dale as he tries to put the moves on a girl that he firmly believes is out of his league. The kids are one dimensional but they are set up as the kinds of characters that SHOULD die in any good slasher film. Only here, there is no slasher, the hillbillies are horrified by the bloody events that follow, and the kids still manage to off themselves through a series of hilarious kills.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil was the fifth film that we watched in a long, long day of festival screenings, but it was still a riot. Usually at the end of a long day of movies, that last title is just washing over fatigued eyeballs, but Tucker & Dale actually gave me a jolt at 1 in the morning. It’s clever, it’s full of twisted foreshadowing (like a great scene at the store where Tucker and Dale are purchasing seemingly every item that’s ever been used to kill someone in a horror film,) and the kills all flow naturally from the story. It’s perfectly paced and there isn’t really a wasted scene; everything works to endear the hillbillies and to vilify the snotty kids, especially their off-centered leader.
Films like this must be hard to market. Tucker and Dale earns a hard-R rating with plenty of gore and profanity, but it’s amazingly light on nudity. In an alternate universe, someone would see the Scream-like potential of Tucker & Dale and push the hell out of this good-looking, well-made, low-budget film because the return on investment would be enormous. While studios are no doubt stepping over each other to find the next camcorder horror thanks to Paranormal Activity, the real goods are right here in an earnest, honestly funny, horror comedy that tells an actual story and ends with an actual message. Maybe this movie will at least find its way to an on demand slot through Fearnet, but I wish that it could make a splash in theaters. It’s a great audience movie, and even though the midnight screening at Actionfest was sparsely attended, everyone in the room seemed to love it.
Also from Actionfest: