Post-modernism is all over the place these days. It is possibly the biggest creative force in artistic works of the last 15 – 20 years, especially in film. No genre has been through the post-modern cycle more times than horror. From Wes Craven’s first Scream film all the way through to Cabin In The Woods people have been taking a subverted look at the horror genre for new ways to twist it around for the younger, more culturally aware age. It’s a time where films are always letting you either peek behind the curtain or are flipping the curtain around to show you how it’s stitched. Does that make sense? I have no idea. Tucker & Dale Vs Evil everybody!!!
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil takes the horror sub genres of the cabin in the woods and the slasher and plays with the basic premise by asking the question “what if the killers were just some guys trying to have a holiday in the woods?”. Granted it’s not a question you’ve likely to have asked too many times but that’s pretty much the premise here. A group of teenagers head out to the woods for a camping trip, along the way they catch sight of Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two quite ragged looking red necks. Naturally they assume Tucker & Dale are evil psychopath killers. Truth is though tucker & Dale are just heading out to their new holiday home, a small cabin situated in the woods. When one of the teenagers, Allison (Katrina Bowden) takes a fall into a lake she is saved by the red neck pair. Only problem is her skinny dipping friends see a pair of hill-billies dragging her unconscious body out of the water and rowing off with her as they shout “we got yer friend!”. Not a great first impression admittedly. From here the teenagers assume Tucker & Dale plain to murder them and they, lead by genuine psychopath in training Chad (Jesse Moss), decide it’s time to take action against the red neck pair and plain to get some juicy, albeit misled, revenge.
Essentially what you have is a comedy of errors set around a role reversal on traditional horror movie tropes. The film takes an absolute joy in taking you through the various clichés of the average horror flick and even doing some nice little parodies of classic horror moments. A stand out moment being early on when Tucker, after sawing into a beehive, is swarmed by said bees and inadvertently chases one of the teenagers down in a sequence that’s near shot for shot a recreation of a chase scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. When Tucker passes the teenager the look they share as their eyes meet is priceless.
The teenagers get dispatched fairly quickly leading Dale to believe that they’re on some crazy mass suicide pact. Dale doesn’t cope well with these situations but as the film moves on he learns to stand up for himself and is really the centre of the films story. Meanwhile Chad is getting more and more violence obsessed and really is the whole reason all these teens keep dying. Allison, being the only one to see behind Tucker & Dales perceived curtain… well… planks of wood over the window, is having quite a fun time just playing boardgames and getting to know Dale. Despite all the gore the film keeps things quite light hearted and the humour is largely spot on the whole way. The success of the humour comes down to just how well the character interactions are played out and just how good the core casts performances are in playing out their given character tropes.
The film does lose a little steam as the second half comes around becoming less about Tucker & Dale trying to have a stress free holiday and more about just falling into the usual horror movie climax format. You could say this is playing into the films parody but at the same time I kind of expected something a little more inventive for the films final half. That said the quality never drops too far down and the jokes are all driven by the plot and characters, unlike a hell of a lot of modern comedies. I mean that idiotic shite put out by cretins and frauds like Adam Sandler and Friedberg & Seltzer, who I’m convinced don’t actually exist. I reckon they’re a pseudonym used by a group of humourless producers who have convinced themselves that they know comedy because they asked a few 5 year old kids and a monkey what they thought was funny.
I spent a large portion of the film thinking Katrina Bowden was Elizabeth Olsen for some reason. She has an uncanny resemblance. Oddly I spent quite a while watching 30 Rock thinking her character in that was played by one of the other Olsens. Whatever though cos she is one lovely looking lady. She’s also quite a capable comedy actor. Her character is comically prone to getting knocked out which thankfully doesn’t come with the brain damage such an affliction would realistically bring. That little running gag could have done with a small establishing moment, like her bumping her head on the car door maybe, but it’s a running gag that plays into the story quite well.
Tucker and Dale themselves interact in a way that you’d expect best buds for life to. Their interactions are snappy and full of fun little lines that build up the impression that they have genuinely known each other since childhood. They’re so easily likeable that you’ll have no troubles rooting for them from start to finish. They’re almost a classic comedy double act and I’d like to see more of them. That probably won’t happen though because the type of characters they are is so intrinsic to the horror genre that they’d feel out of place in any other setting. You wouldn’t want a retread of this film after all. They really do have true Bill & Ted levels of charisma though. Tucker & Dale In Space maybe? Maybe not.
Overall Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is a hell of a lot of fun and a very well executed parody. It’s good to see an actual parody film too seeing as these days crap like Epic Movie and other such films from that stable of manure is what we’re generally shovelled. It’s like no-one ever watched Mel Brooks films. It would be hard for any fan of horror to struggle to enjoy this film on some level and the charm of the titular pair is strong enough to maintain the attention of anyone who is not a fan of watching teenagers get killed in many gruesome ways. Dunno who wouldn’t be a fan of that though.