Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Man, I'm behind on movie reviews! I saw Tucker and Dale vs Evil nearly a week ago, and I've GOT to get something down about it before this weekend's crop of releases! Oh, fall movie season, you wear me out!

This movie is going to be available on DVD and for download soon, I think before the month is out, and if you can stand gore and like something a little different in your horror now and again (plus ALAN TUDYK OMG), I cannot say enough good things about it. I will, however, say a few good things here for posterity.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is not a conventional horror film by any means. It's a spoof, but it's not even a conventional spoof. What it's specifically spoofing is the "hillbilly horror" subgenre, occasionally (depending on the film) known as "Hicksploitation." But if you think this movie is another case of dumb kids go out into the sticks and have bad things happen to them at the hands of scary inbred rednecks ... well, you'd only be partially right. Because what this is, and what makes it so dang clever, is a truly brilliant twist on that whole setup.

A bunch of college kids (I can't even remember how many now, six or seven?) go to the woods for some camping. At the same time, country bumpkin BFFs Tucker and Dale are on their way to their new vacation home, which looks like the setting for chainsaw murder and mayhem (complete with ominous news clippings about missing persons and found bodies), but which Tucker and Dale see as paradise. On their way there, they stop for gasoline and supplies and see our young "heroes." Dale is immediately taken with Allison, but his inept attempts to flirt with her (and his bucolic appearance, of course) convince the group that he and Tucker are crazy murdering hicks. This prejudice is helped along by the "leader" of the group, Chad (who reminded me forcibly of a young Tom Cruise, only with 100% more douchebaggery), who is especially prejudiced against rural folks since his biological parents were the victims of killer hillbillies (I think his story is the event that's in all the clippings at Tucker and Dale's cabin).

It couldn't be more clear, meanwhile, that Tucker and Dale are as sweet as can be. They get to their cabin and they're all excited about how they're going to fix it up. That evening, they go fishing, and they happen to be near where the kids are going skinny dipping. Allison sees them and, startled, falls into the water, hitting her head on the way down. Dale jumps in and saves her, pulling her into his and Tucker's boat, but what the kids see is their friend, in her underwear, being dragged off by the scary hillbillies.

Dale takes care of Allison at the cabin while Tucker does some man-chores outside the house, and though Allison is scared at first when she wakes up, she immediately realizes that she's safe and starts to bond with Dale (having been raised on a farm herself and hence an appreciator of rural life). She also reveals that she's majoring in psychology, specializing in communication, because she believes that most problems are caused by people not listening to each other and jumping to conclusions - an idea that sadly bears fruit in the fate of her friends.

Oh yes, her friends. Because while she's chilling with Dale in the cabin, the rest of the group have become convinced that they are characters in a hillbilly horror movie. Misunderstanding after misunderstanding ensues, and the kids end up accidentally killing themselves all around Tucker and Dale's cabin. The men are seriously befuddled by the chain of events and can only conclude that these kids are part of some suicide cult. They try to explain and make things right, but the more they try, the more accidental carnage piles up due to the kids persistently misinterpreting Tucker and Dale's motives.

What kills me about the whole story is that I've seen countless horror movies with dumb kids in them - kids who take unnecessary risks, kids who have positively life-threatening curiosity about strange noises and the like, and kids who recklessly poke a situation they don't understand until you're almost gleeful to see it bite them in the ass. I read a comment from a critic who said something I very much agree with - that a movie about people so annoying and horrible that you can't wait to see them chopped up is not horror. I'd say it's more like gladiator-style bloodlust. This movie seems to agree, and it doesn't feel the least bit bad for throwing dumb, prejudiced teens into woodchippers and practically shrugging its shoulders and saying "Hey, hate destroys, man."

The teen actors in this (or actors pretending to be college-age, to be more accurate) are about what you'd expect, though Katrina Bowden who plays Allie turns out to be better than most "pretty-face" heroines. But Alan Tudyk (Tucker) and especially Tyler Labine (Dale) own this movie, as well they should. I heard someone on my way out of the theater explaining to a friend that Labine was "like Larry the Cable Guy, only a good actor." That sums it up rather nicely. (No offense to Larry - he's a comedian, though, not an actor. I'm sure he'd agree.)

I won't spoil any more of it, but this is an absolute gem of horror comedy and closes on a comic rather than a horrific note. It is ridiculously gory, so if that's absolutely not your thing, you might want to stay away. For my part, I love it to pieces and can't wait to own it. Thankfully, I won't have to wait too much longer.

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