Admit it, you, just like 87.7% of the civilized world, think all rednecks look and behave like those in Deliverance and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre . It’s a tough stereotype to dispel, so why not use it to one’s advantage? After all, it’s one that, in the right hands, can be molded into comedic gold. And that’s exactly what Eli Craig has done with Tucker & Dale vs Evil. Taking the hillbilly ways and combining them with an ingenious spin at the teen slasher flick in the woods, he’s struck gold (or at least 99.999999% pure silver).
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are best friends. They’re not the smartest guys on Earth (probably not the smartest in their part of the swamp, either). They drive a beat-up American made pick-up truck. They wear overalls. And participating in the American dream, Tucker has just a bought a dilapidated shack in the woods to use as a vacation home. These guys are Swamp People through and through, and they wouldn’t want it any other way. But, breaking from convention, these guys are also the nicest guys around — Dale actually stands against fishing and hunting for food (roadkill is okay though).
The partying college teenagers from the big city wouldn’t know that about them though. Holing up near Tucker’s dream home, the kids — Allison (Katrina Bowden), Chad (Jesse Moss), Jason (Brandon Jay McLaren), Naomi (Christie Laing), Chloe (Chelan Simmons), Mitch (Adam Beauchesne) and Chuck (Travis Nelson) — believe the beer chuggin’ buds are serial killers. It is with this impression that writer/director Craig pulls the laughs from. As the teens muster the courage to retrieve Allison from Tucker’s and Dale’s clutches (Dale saved her after she hit her head and nearly drowned skinny dipping), they begin to die off in bizarre and gruesome fashion. Blaming the country bumpkins for their own undoing, the teens become increasingly agitated and set out to kill them at all costs. Seeing the teenagers acting in such a weird way, Tucker and Dale are convinced the kids have come to the woods to murder them and to seal a community suicide pact.
The ridiculousness of these colossal misunderstandings is made all the better by the fact that Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine were meant to play these parts. Tudyk, attempting to be the Laurel in this countrified Laurel and Hardy team, is hilariously confused by the circumstances going on around him. That doesn’t stop him, however, from maintaining as the pillar to Labine’s “simpleton” and coaching him on the ways of the world (even though he has no clue what in the hell he is talking about). Labine is especially good as the beefy, kind-hearted goofball. His awkwardness when trying to interact outside of his comfort zone (i.e., girls) is perfectly played. Same could be said for Jesse Moss as the total douchebag, college tough guy. If his performance doesn’t give you a reason to hate fraternities and preppies then nothing will.
But that is also where Tucker & Dale vs Evil loses its focus. During the third act, Eli Craig departs from the scenario that caused one to hold their sides from laughing so hard. With Chad in full freak mode, the film becomes one where a hero must rise up to save the day, culminating in an anti-climatic showdown. There is still a laugh or two to be found during this, but I figure another way could have been devised to tie up the loose ends and still keep the flavor of the movie intact.
That gripe aside, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, in turning stereotypes and horror conventions upside down, proves originality isn’t dead and buried in the film industry. With just enough blood and gore to please horror aficionados and more genuine laughs than, say, The Hangover Part II, this little nugget is one to watch out for (although I still recommend not camping in the backwoods of Louisiana).