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Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

tn_tuckeranddaleTUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is a corny name for an enjoyable comedy that plays off of the ol’ slasher tropes in a clever way. It starts like a real slasher movie, with a group of college kids heading out to the woods for Memorial Day weekend. And for a minute it really could pass for an authentic modern day (but not necessarily good) serious non-comedy horror movie. When they stop at a gas station to get beer they have a run-in with creepy rednecks, just like I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE or similar movies. But of course the rednecks are the titular Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two completely innocent guys who just get nervous talking to women and come off as scary to kids like this. I wonder if that’s what the deal was with Leatherface?

The real trouble starts when Tucker and Dale are fishing and accidentally startle Allison (Katrina Bowden) mid-skinnydip. She falls in the water and hits her head. Dale jumps in and saves her life, but her friends see her being flopped into the canoe, take it the wrong way and run away screaming. I guess they interpreted “We got your friend!” different from how it was intended.

So poor Tucker and Dale are stuck with this unconscious girl, so they take her to their new “vacation home,” which to everybody else looks like a spooky rundown shack complete with creepy newspaper clippings about local deaths (courtesy of the previous owner). Actually from the outside it reminds me of the EVIL DEAD cabin, but on the inside it’s alot trashier. But way less evil.

mp_tuckeranddaleAllison’s friends are morons, but I’ll give them this: after their initial screaming and running they regroup, man up and come try to “rescue” her. But they continue to misunderstand things. And they have terrible luck so they slip up and keep accidentally impaling themselves and shit like that. Basically, graphic slasher movie death, but all self-applied.

It’s a ridiculous concept, but it continues to be funny the further they take it. In the end they sort of have to switch things up and have an actual bad guy (the ‘Evil’ of the title, I guess), and that’s not quite as interesting in my opinion, but I don’t really know a better way to do it. They still do a surprisingly good job keeping the momentum going. I love that the more things happen the more absurd it gets for them to explain what happened. We know they’re telling the truth but of course nobody should believe them.

These filmatists (writer/director Eli Craig [an actor who was in THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 and played the young version of Tommy Lee Jones in SPACE COWBOYS] and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson [who probly saw the movie SPACE COWBOYS {uncredited}]), seem pretty perceptive about horror movies, I believe that these filmatists know the genre a little better than some of the other people making these postmodern horror comedies. I’d still rather watch the real thing, but if you like this subgenre you should definitely check this one out.

It also has a very light coating of class issue satire because of the assumptions these nitwits (always addressed as “college kids” by Tucker and Dale) make about “hillbillies.” These guys couldn’t be friendlier but they scare the shit out of the college kids. And they’re intimidated themselves because they think they’ll be judged for their lack of education (which should be the least of their concerns, it turns out).

Tudyk has a lifetime nerd following ’cause he was in the show Firefly, and he’s always pretty good. But the secret to the movie’s success is Labine as Dale. Physically he’s sort of Jack Black-ish, a big guy with a big beard, a vacant look in his eyes, but a total sweetheart when he starts talking. And he has a weirdly good chemistry with Bowden as Allison. She’s one of those cartoonishly good looking girls they got in Hollywood, blond and sculpted by the Lord into an almost off-puttingly ideal depiction of American beauty standards. You expect her to play dumb, like her character on 30 Rock. Instead she’s the only one that listens and understands what’s going on. And it’s hilarious to see her trying to sit down both parties and create a dialogue between them. It should be easy to explain that they saved her from drowning and did not try to kill her, but unfortunately one of the college kids has heard about Stockholm Syndrome. In this situation a very small amount of education makes them overeducated.

Allison turns out to be so likable that I almost believed the far-fetched romance between these two opposites. It’s surprisingly sweet for a movie where the gory deaths of a bunch of kids are played for laughs.

I wonder which other horror situations were just misunderstandings? Probly not CHILD’S PLAY.

currently playing in some theaters, on video November 29th

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, October 31st, 2011 at 12:41 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

15 Responses to “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil”

  1. See? Told ‘ya it was a good one. I totally agree with you about the accurate beginning. I’m sure when someone catches it on TV without knowing anything about it, he might be fooled for a few minutes.
    I was also surprised how good the “Vs Evil” part worked. I groaned hard when it became apparent that they had to fight a real villain sooner or later, but when this part of the movie started, it totally worked.
    And Tyler Labine is great! I hope this guy has a bright future. He was hilarious, although a little bit one-note, in the unfortunately way too early cancelled show REAPER and even shows some acting skills here. I saw him in the trailer for RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES OF THE, so I guess some casting agents already took note of him.

  2. Isn’t Eli Craig the son of Sally Field?

  3. I thought the Evil College Kid let the whole film down considerably. Not that I could figure out how to do it, but it would have been more fun if they’d just made that guy a real prick and stuck with the “it’s all a misunderstanding” thing right to the end. But the performances made it wortwhile nevertheless.

  4. Taylore Labine is GREAT! He was friggin awesome in that movie about a guy who rapes computer cases – CONTROL-ALT-DELETE I think it was called. Amazingly funny movie that goes places no other movies went — kind of like this one.

  5. I’m glad they had the college kid turn evil, they stopped that minunderstanding joke at the right time. Although I thought they would have revealed that the psycho kid had arranged the trip in order to murder everyone anyway. So in a sense things could have come out the same, he was crazy, all of those other college kids would have been dead, and the blonde would have been the final girl.

  6. this right here is top tier horror comedy. Leonard Maltin is on a crusade to promote it at the moment, which was surprising enough. I caught the unfinished screener when it leaked earlier this year. looking forward to watching the real deal again soon. good pick Vern.

  7. I somehow missed that you reviewed this until just now. It’s already out on DVD over here, and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t have a problem with the “VS EVIL” part except for how SPOILER

    The very beginning of the movie is a flashforward till after everything’s happened, and shows the villain. Arguably you might not recognise his character at that point, but it is a bit spoilerish, and it creates the expectation that after everything seems to be over and Tucker’s in hospital and Dale and Allison are on a date that he’s going to pop up again for one last scare, but it’s just left hanging.

  8. I want to see this, but if Maltin is supporting it that kind of takes the fun out of it. I’ve generally considered his negative reviews to be the most reliable indicator of a film’s awesomeness, so I’m not sure how to take him getting behind this one.

  9. Y’know, from time to time even the grumpiest critics come across a movie, that even they can’t resist.

  10. It’s just that he generally hates anything that not all sweetness and light. His reviews are full of backhanded compliments and kneejerk moralizing. He’ll say things like “exciting but violent” or “scary but bloody,” as if these things are somehow contradictory, or that the latter is something that is to be ashamed of. So to hear that he’s supporting a movie that takes pleasure in the pointless vivisection of young people, even if it has a sense of humor about it, seems out of character for him.

    Did he have a stroke or something? If so, was the blood vessel that popped the one that fed the part of his brain that made him a joyless twat?

  11. Stu – END SPOILERS



    That was one thing I thought was clever about that movie that I didn’t mention in the review. A normal horror movie would have to show that the villain was still possibly around. This one takes care of that in the opening scene, then pretends everything is fine, but you know it’s not if you remember the opening scene.

  12. for the record Maltin was talking about this one on a comedy podcast, so I’m sure he pulled the “most fun movie for young people” recommendation out of his bag.

    regardless, ur bound to enjoy this one unless u have no interest in comedy or horror.

  13. The Original... Paul

    September 5th, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Well, just seen this one. I have mixed emotions.

    I thought it was pretty good in parts. I liked Levine, I liked the girl, and some of the jokes worked. I think it succeeded solely on the strength of doing the right things with the setup that it had (there’s one part involving a woodchipper that made me laugh like a loon) and making the leads likeable enough.

    As for the “evil” part… I’m more where Mathias is on that one. Not so much when the kid goes completely off the rails, as what happens before he gets there. This movie is basically about likeable characters caught up in a ridiculous misunderstanding, so to have a single character who’s that unlikeable just threw me a bit.

    And I gotta say, as one of those Tudyk fans Vern mentions in his review… I think the guy is wasted. I honestly don’t know what he’s doing in this, he doesn’t bring much to the role. Of the three leads, he’s the one that I could take-or-leave, and I didn’t expect that.

    I give this movie major props for making the usual protagonist pair of straightlaced-but-needs-to-learn-to-enjoy-life and loud-guy-who-needs-to-learn-responsibility a lot more likeable than in, say, “Role Models” (a movie that I would have unashamedly loved if I hadn’t had to spent almost the entirety of it with two annoying douchebags). But would it maybe be too much to ask that of the next hundred or so mainstream American comedy movies that make it over here, maybe more than one of them DOESN’T feature these exact same two white male protagonists, altered slightly according to the setting that they’re in? I mean, I wasn’t crazy for “Bridesmaids”, but at least it was trying something new. I’m sure there are other movies that break the mold coming out, but we don’t seem to get ’em over here in the UK. Or if we do, I seem to have missed them.

    So yeah… liked this one. Did not love it. Didn’t think all of it worked. The bits that did, though, worked really well. I’d recommend it more to fans of slapstick / absurdist comedy than horror, given that it’s those specifc parts that worked the best for me.

  14. Caught this on a Netflix Instant double feature with Cabin in the Woods. Not sure if I liked this one better or not, but I definitely cared about the characters more. I’ve always though Labine was the poor man’s Jack Black, but he’s great here, and there’s real chemistry between him and Bowden. They’re better than most couples we have to deal with in romcoms.

    As for the eventual villain, I’m glad they switched to him because honestly I was getting a little tired of all the accidents. It was clever but started to get repetitive. I understand why they threw his reveal at the beginning too (for the reasons Vern mentioned – the final scene in the bowling alley is sweet and charming and a nice note to end the movie on) but it’s sort of counterproductive to the structure of the movie and should have been left as a post-credits scene or something.

  15. Ummmmm I dunno. This one kind of fell flat for me. Nothing really clicked – the class warfare, the deaths, the bad guy, it was all just kind of tedious.

    That blonde chick though, holy crap is she hot. I always thought when watching 30 ROCK, why the hell don’t they show that chick more? Well here ya go. But on the other hand, seeing a romance develop between her and the chunky redneck guy, no matter how sweet and nice he is, just doesn’t work even in the movies. I don’t really need a realistic romance in my silly redneck killer horror comedy movie but I’m sorry, a slightly less hot but more on the cute side of things girl would have worked a bit better for me in the role.

    Another gripe – the gore is pretty non-gory. Sure, it’s got half a body being dragged around but I’ve seen pictures of halves of bodies after motorcycle accidents and they are a hell of a lot grosser and gorier than what we see here. It’s sanitized gore. I’m pretty sure that the front half of the body would have some dangly bits and disgusting pieces hanging off of it after what it went through. What was this rated, PG-13?

    I did like the blonde guy’s line after this death though… “Are you okay???” or something like that. I cracked up.

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