Directed by: Eli Craig
Starring: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden
In light of all the borrowing certain genre mash-ups must succumb to in an obvious effort to please, the individuals that strive to succeed in the realm of the mildly unoriginal either do or don’t, plain and simple. Even worse still is the fact that a majority of these experiments attempt to classify themselves as horror-comedies: films that neither make us laugh or jump with fear as they very well should (e.g. 2009’s Jennifer’s Body). As an auspicious debut, Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil employs many a teen slasher flick cliché that work wonderfully in its favor as the film boldly treads through some recognizable yet undeniably entertaining territory, establishing itself as both an hilarious spoof and consistently effective comedy that future productions should strive to imitate.
Utilizing the simplest of premises to achieve its desired effect, Tucker & Dale follows the pair of textbook rednecks as they encounter a group of narrow-minded college frat types on their way to a newly-acquired vacation property, of which just so happens to be a dilapidated cabin in the middle of the woods. Thanks to negative reinforcement by way of Deliverance-esque nonsense and a string of common misunderstandings, the college kids in question quickly brand the kindhearted duo as psycho killers without even once second-guessing themselves. What ensues is an incredibly clever mash-up of tastefully humorous, often gory mishaps and straightforward comedy that rarely fails to entertain while embracing the easily identifiable slasher film framework that emphasizes the sheer ridiculousness of Tucker and Dale’s ongoing predicament in terms of role reversal with their young assailants.
Realistically, all Tucker & Dale has going for it are these periodic bouts of unexpected mayhem, of which heighten the film’s sense of unpredictability and add to its appeal. It isn’t overly crass in spite of the aforementioned adherence to gore, and although we’re fed as much as we need to enjoy the proceedings on a base level, Craig deftly incorporates and eventually accentuates an underlying theme of brotherhood as we continue to realize just how innocent the two best buds really are. The moments in question remain oddly touching and rarely feel out of place even though the latter act itself pales in comparison to the film’s more absurd happenings, however it’s hard to deny how well-rounded the production is as both a contemporary horror-comedy and worthwhile homage to its obvious inspirations.
Tucker & Dale further excels on account of appointing Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as our two unlikely redneck heroes, of whom tackle their respective roles with side-splitting conviction and remain responsible for a vast majority of the film’s fabulous sense of humor. Even though the laughs begin to taper off as the film draws nearer to a close, Labine and Tudyk continue to steal the show and easily overshadow the efforts of those who portray the naive bunch of spoiled brats that take to desecrating their newfound vacation property almost immediately. For all intents and purposes, the casting choices are relatively spot-on and if anything serve to accentuate the film’s stronger suits now matter how basic they may be.
As a breath of fresh air within the ailing horror-comedy subgenre, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is precisely what the doctor ordered. Cleverly reversing convention while incorporating an excellent sense of humor amid an appropriate amount of slasher-inspired mayhem, first-time writer-director Eli Craig hits all the right notes in crafting what can easily be considered one of the more accessible and flat-out enjoyable cinematic experiences of this year. Although it inevitably loses steam as it trudges through its lukewarm finale, the sheer amount of enjoyability found throughout the bulk of the proceedings will be enough to satisfy fans and non-fans alike, proving that there’s still hope left for a previously sunk genre of filmmaking.