Good friends are hard to come by- however if by some misunderstanding one ends up in the clutches of a hillbilly then they are nothing but horror movie gore fodder. Not very many people would come out of a horror comedy and talk about how charmed they felt at the end, but that’s exactly what I’m saying right now. TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is a buddy movie wrapped in a comedy that’s also wrapped in a horror movie. The thing to take away here is that in the midst of all the blood and hillbilly jokes there is a real heart and lots of charm to go around in this film.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are best friends that are headed out to a vacation home that Tucker has purchased. The plan is that the two are going to fix it up and do some fishing together and just have a good time. The problem is that while they are out fishing a group of college kids are out skinny dipping and one of the girls hits her head on a rock and Dale goes in to rescue her, but her friends assume he is kidnapping her so they run. Tucker and Dale attempt to nurse the girl back to health and wait for the friends to come and get her, but a series of misunderstandings lure the kids to believing the friends mean them harm- so they attempt to fight back but end up killing themselves in horrible accidents.
The concept itself is pretty great fodder for a horror comedy and in fact it all works exceedingly well. The set ups lead up to some great gags and while the film itself gets better as it goes along the actual group of kids becomes dumber and dumber- which felt like part of the joke to me. The group of kids are nothing but caricatures of spoiled college kids in a horror movie making dumb decisions and one alpha male that puts on his best Mike Dexter mixed with hardened action hero face and hams it up- which makes for great comedy when mixed with the personalities of Tucker and Dale’s characters.
The best part of this movie is Tyler Labine- his character is so likable and he plays it so well he winds up being hilarious, charming and even intimidating at times. The friendship between him and Alan Tudyk in the film is just pitch perfect. The two play off each other very well and the message of the film is portrayed in such a fun way given the events that take place. The performances by the two leads are great while the roles of the college kids are good but are a bit thankless since they are basically asked to do little but be cliché horror movie victims.
The script is great with some very good jokes, set ups and a theme of friendship and diversity that is actually quite touching. The set up all comes from people’s preconceptions and judgment upon others and in turn end up being the architects of their own demise. Who would have thought such positive and insightful points could be made while watching people get impaled and shredded in horrific ways. Aside from that the film is incredibly funny- the deaths are often funny but made even more so by Tucker and Dale’s reactions. The dialogue for the two leads is pretty sharp and both get some pretty great comedic lines to dish out amidst the insanity which will add a great deal to the film’s replay value.
The violence in the film at times is slightly graphic but really I was surprised how tame some of the deaths end up being. It’s not really to the film’s detriment but just something to be aware of. Don’t get me wrong, there’s blood but truthfully the restraint makes some of the emotional payoff at the end more satisfying- which again is so weird to say for a horror comedy.
If you sit down to watch a film about hillbillies and dead college students the last thing you might expect is wit and heart but TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL has both in spades. In many ways the film itself is the perfect example of not judging a book by its cover which is the basic message on display as well. It’s also got a bit of a message for any underachieving horror movie out there- that you are better than you think you are. So while I believe there’s merit to watching college kids massacre themselves this is a message hidden in a movie that may not be the best choice for your little ones. However, if you’ve got a pair of overalls you’ve been too scared to throw on for fear of ridicule then break that sucker out, grab some chew and enjoy the hell out of TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL.