Movie Review: “Tucker and Dale vs Evil”

Written by Alicia Kaiser December 03, 2011

“Evil is in the eye of the beholder” – and pure joy is in the hearts of this film’s viewers

I’ve always been drawn to cheesy, gory horror flicks and I’m always committed to spreading the joy of culty campy brilliance when its presented. Tucker and Dale vs Evil is absolutely no exception. You know you’re in for a real treat when you overhear in a public space: “Holy cow! I watched this movie last night: __________ ; I laughed so hard I [insert bodily function here].” You know, after hearing said outburst, that you’re going right home to hunt down this gem and you’ve been wishing all day long that you were the one who’d heard of it first. Though this film has slipped under the public radar as a limited release this year (it was also shelved for almost three years after being filmed in 2009), Tucker and Dale vs Evil is unquestionably a must see for horror/comedy enthusiasts (or pretty much everyone ever, for that matter).

As the name suggests, the film follows two simple-minded best-pal hillbillies Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) as they celebrate the simple things in life by collecting all of their savings and buying a “fixer-upper” vacation home in the middle of the woods. Tucker and Dale’s adventures are mirrored by a group of party-crazed college kids venturing to the woods for your conventional horror-movie gigs including sex, drugs, debauchery and impending doom.  While T&D mind their own business – fixing up their shack, fishing, drinking, and participating in general every-day man-time stuff – the college kids become increasingly agitated by their presence. The plot thread of hillbillies versus college kids is developed with such clever ease until the tension brilliantly culminates in absolute gut-busting, scream-laughing hilarity.

The film takes on an array of perfect misunderstandings to keep the plot moving and which never seem to be that farfetched. For example, in one scene, Tucker is outside cutting a fallen tree with a chainsaw when he punctures a live wasps nest living inside the tree. Tucker is all but consumed by wasps and is understandably freaked and flailing as he tries to get away. At this exact moment, one of the college kids takes it upon himself to investigate the “creepy forest shack” only to be greeted by a presumably crazy-flailing-chainsaw-man running at him from behind the house. This is both a terrifying experience for the college kid and an unfortunate misunderstanding for the wasp-wounded Tucker.

A reason why I think this movie has been so celebrated (pulling in an impressive 86% on Rotten Tomatoes) is the way creator Eli Craig (writer/director) takes the clichés of traditional heroes and villains and completely upends them. Craig takes one of the most commonly remade motifs – innocent (but sexy) kids going into the woods and being picked off one by one by the evil inbred hillbillies (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Wrong Turn, Rob Zombie anything, I could go on) – and instead tells the story from the point of view of the hillbillies. Tucker and Dale are constantly placed in unintentionally incriminating situations which force the viewer to think about how this would be so scary in any other movie if we didn’t already know that these were just two sweet, simple dudes. The viewer is let in on the joke as the film parodies this common horror theme.

Unlike most parodies; however, Tucker and Dale doesn’t reference the jokes outright (Scary Movie) but instead weaves the parody into plot so the film is still allowed to be serious; allowed to be moving; allowed to be deeper than just jokes – much like what Edgar Wright did in his cult classic Shaun of the Dead. And to boot, this film is gory as hell.

The only aspect in which I found the film lacking is timing. The first half of the movie is so fast-paced – so much good stuff crammed into forty-five minutes – that the subsequent half feels to be wanting by comparison. The second half focuses more the love interest as Dale and one of the college kids Allison (Katrina Bowden) find themselves in a very adorable, morale-boosting attraction. This subplot is by no means undesired or poorly constructed but does feel somewhat disappointing by the simple misfortune of having to follow the first act. The hillbillies, specifically Dale, are given the opportunity in the second half to transcend the role of static stereotyped hillbilly and instead to become something of a role model – something for the viewer to cling to in their hearts.

One of the ultimate underlying messages in the film is of judgment; judging too soon and without cause. Tucker and Dale are immediately ostracized as total creeps by the college kids because of their appearance – that they drive a beat-up pick-up truck, wear ripped plaid and dirty overalls and eat pickled eggs. It is way unjust. Though the film refuses to take itself too seriously, it still manages to be slightly touching (for all those sappy at heart) because it posits the importance of believing in yourself and going after what you want – whether that be going after a nice, smart, hot girl; beer, or getting away from bees. It’s truly something wonderful.

Overall, Tucker and Dale vs Evil has very quickly become at the top of my “annoyingly tell everyone I know about this movie” list. It’s got laughs. It’s got cheese. It’s got gore. It’s got originality and most importantly it’s got heart. And I guarantee the next time you see stereotyped hillbillies in a movie you wont be able to fight the thought that maybe they’re just misunderstood.

My rating: 8.5/10


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About Alicia Kaiser

Alicia Kaiser

Alicia Kaiser: University student; Movie enthusiast; Nerd. She enjoys reading, writing, partaking in shenanigans and making sweet crafts. Currently, she is simultaneously employed by and a student at the University of Victoria. While she moseys towards her degree with Major in English Literature and a Minor in Professional Writing, she can be found in UVic Marketing doing cool, grown-up stuff. For Alicia, watching movies is comparable to (if not more important than), eating, sleeping and physical activity. Her reviews are full of passion, pizzazz, analysis, and introspection. Enjoy.

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