Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
A group of college kids goes into the woods, only to meet up with locals who are below average intelligence, and to get picked off in gruesome fashion one-by-one. If your mind went immediately to Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, Hatchet, Friday the 13th, Backwoods, Cabin Fever, The Forest, The Final Terror, Lunch Meat, Don’t Go Into the Woods…Alone, Malevolence, The Burning…okay, you get the idea. It’s an overworked theme, if you want to do it the same way it’s always been done.
Enter Tucker and Dale, and a whole new spin on the hillbilly slasher flick.
The braindchild of director Eli Craig (The Tao of Pong, Space Cowboys) and writer Morgan Jurgenson (Glass Desert) – Tucker & Dale is a 90-minute string of miscommunication and comedic violence that will have audiences howling. Think of a typical slasher flick, but replace it with one where the villains have no motive, no supernatural powers, and frankly, no clue about what’s going on with the group of vacationing co-eds.
T&D takes all the familiar elements of a slasher flick. There are plenty of hot college girls, the obligatory geek, the jock, the preppy worried about his dad’s truck, skinny dipping, campfire ghost stories, inept local cops, and even chainsaws. Only this time, viewers get entertained by killers so awkward and misguided that every other formula slasher flick seems like one more case study in copycat comedy.
The first encounter T&D have with the students sets the tone for the entire film. The co-eds cross paths with the rednecks at a lonely, Podunk gas station. Tucker tries to instill Dale with some confidence, and the result is an awkward, creepy exchange that sends the college kids running in terror. Key the banjo music, and set the scene for an incredible series of silly events.
Tucker and Dale inherit a vacation home, complete with fixer-upper appeal, and a series of cut-out news clips involving a mysterious killer. Just as the two hillbillies seek out the perfect vacation, the college kids camp out, and are treated to the story of the Memorial day Massacre; a flashback sequence where the last generation of teens was murdered in typical slasher-flick fashion.
Naturally, the film wouldn’t work if the college kids didn’t get killed off one after another, and these kids don’t disappoint. The first few deaths are silly, but Craig and Jurgenson know how to up the ante’ with each progressive killing.
Tyler Labine (Reaper, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Alan Tudyk (Firefly’s Hoban “Wash” Washburne) slip into the hick roles of Dale and Tucker (respectively) with a smirk. Labine’s Dale is a clumsy, loveable teddy bear. Tudyk’s Tucker is the sharper of the two, but not by much. They get (and promptly sell) the joke from their first appearance on screen as the creepy outsiders. Katrina Bowden (30 Rock) hams it up in her role as co-ed student turned captive. Jesse Moss (Ginger Snaps) is great as the macho, aggressive Chad, complete with popped collar.
The film bounces between hilarious physical comedy to laugh-inducing dialogue. Watching Dale and Tucker try to rationalize everything going on around them is a riot. Each of the college kids is such a fun, over-the-top take on the 80’s stereotype victims.
Tucker and Dale isn’t just written in the style of the slasher genre; there are specific call backs to many of the best known films. The film has no shortage of power tools, hand guns, explosions, and more of the fanfare that made slashers so popular. Tucker and Dale have a great chemistry. They’re like hillbilly versions of Lightning McQueen and Mater from Cars.
T&D set a path for success early, winning the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW, the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia, the Best Director award at Fantaspoa, and the Best Motion Picture Award at Sitges.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is now showing in select theaters and is also available on-demand. See the film’s official site for details. The film comes to DVD and Blu-ray courtesy of Magnet Films on November 29th, 2011. The film runs 89 minutes in standard format, with Dolby Digital audio.