Thanks to the revolution of the information age, there seems to be an endless amount of ways in which human beings are now able to interact. With this in mind, it is laughably ironic that despite all these recent innovations made in communication technology, we persistently fail to understand each other and make complete arses of ourselves anyways. Director Eli Craig illustrates this paradox in his subversive 2010 American horror-comedy “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” in which the pitfalls of presumption and misinterpretation prove to be as deadly as they are hilariously awkward.
The essential constructs of your average cabin-in-the-woods flick are presented right from the get-go: a group of token college kids makes a pit stop at an ominous-looking convenience store in West Virginia, where they run into a pair of dirty hillbillies aka Tucker and Dale, played by Alan Tudyck (“Firefly” and “Serenity”) and Canada’s own Tyler Labine (“Breaker High”). While the plots of past films such as “Wrong Turn” and “The Hills Have Eyes” have famously trudged on from this juncture to have their own slew of sexy youth eventually slaughtered by variations of hillbillies, it is instead revealed that Tucker and Dale are as harmless as the flies buzzing over them.
Rednecks they may be, yet beneath the unwashed exteriors and high school equivalencies are two civilized, loyal, relatively intelligent friends looking forward to a weekend of construction up at their newly purchased fixer-upper cabin. But try explaining that to the skinny-dipping college kids, who would rather automatically assume the worst than give the benefit of the doubt when their friend Allison (Katrina Bowden) goes missing. It turns out that soft-hearted Dale has innocently taken her in to help her recover from a head injury, which makes his and Tucker’s confusion all the more entertaining as their makeshift home is suddenly under siege by an army of 20-somethings clad in Abercrombie and Fitch.
Of all the punchlines of the film, the one that packs the ultimate wallop is how half-witted most of the supposedly educated characters are. For all of their bachelors degrees, they somehow can’t bring themselves to tell the difference between an overused horror movie stereotype and reality. Even when they’re literally impaling themselves on it, these kids still fail to comprehend the sharp point that money and diplomas do not necessarily draw the line between good and evil or smart and stupid, and that perhaps they should give thinking for themselves a try before someone else gets needlessly killed. The antics may be a bit far-fetched, but the message is clear and can be applied to all aspects of life: before resorting to hostile action, take the time to connect with others and learn their side of the story. A whole lot of slapstick death could be avoided if only these students paused for a second and put themselves in Tucker and Dale’s trucker hats, but then the fun of the film would be lost, so it’s best to sit back and enjoy learning from their bloody mistakes.
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is like the Passion Flakie of recent horror movies: proudly humble, it balances satisfactory substance with flaky simplicity, and it is filled with just the right amounts of red stuff (by which I mean, gore) and fluff (by which I mean, an unlikely romance between dopey Dale and the hot blond psychology major). I’m a stickler for any adage that dictates we never judge a book by its cover, and I’m also fond of self-deprecation. These are two elements this film manages to deliver simultaneously. As a spoof, it is by no means frightening and aside from the subversion of roles there is no sort of memorable plot twist, but this doesn’t seem to matter. The movie was produced as an independent film on a modest budget, and seems content just to boast its finely compiled cast and overall good intentions. It may not make you tremble with fear, but this is one horror movie that will definitely leave you with a smile on your face.
Overall Rating: 8/10