By Joe Strange
I don’t usually go in for Horror movies, especially ones that aren’t set on the Nostromo starring Sigourney Weaver, but what I do like are films that take a genre, or an idea, and turn it on its head.
It’s one of the reasons I loved 2012’s Cabin in the Woods, a witty, gruesome commentary on modern horror movie tropes, but it turns out there was another cabin based film that was doing exactly that two years prior; Tucker and Dale Vs Evil.
Written and Directed by Eli Craig, who, in all honesty, isn’t known for much more than the failed Zombieland TV pilot, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is the story of a cabin in the woods, two hill billies and a group of college students.
The twist? This story is told from the perspective of the hill billies, Tucker and Dale. See, they’re not so different to us; they have relationship issues, they get judged by others on their appearance and they just want a nice vacation away so that they can fix up a cabin they got for a steal. (probably because it was the setting for a series of gruesome murders… BUT THAT’S BESIDES THE POINT).
Actually, it’s not, the fact that the cabin hasn’t been cleared out by its previous tenant (who was probably the antagonist in another horror movie) is one of the many huge misunderstandings that drives the film’s plot.
The drama is caused by the college teen’s presumptions of the red necks, who, I can’t say this enough, are just great guys, Tyler Labine’s (Reaper) Dale in particular is charming; he’s kind of a savant; remembering things he’s heard or read with ease, but just not so great with people. On the other hand Tucker, (played by Firefly’s Alan Tudyk) is the people person of the two, he cares dearly for Dale, but there’s some jealousy there.
The college kids are victims of horror movies, not in the way that they’ve been sliced and diced by a masked killer, but in that they’ve seen far too many of them; they see a pair of rednecks with power tools and dirty clothes and think the worst, scrambling to fill the roles that they think have been written for them by Hollywood.
The one truly sane character is that of 30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden, who plays a psychology student who sees the need for the two groups to communicate when things get heated. She’s the voice of reason in the madness, insisting that it’s all a misunderstanding, but some sides of both parties being so blinded by their misconceptions (and, in one case, savage mutilation) that they can’t listen, until it’s all too late.
Tucker and Dale isn’t just an entertaining satire of the genre, it’s also very funny; the script and physical comedy shines through with the main characters having both touching and hilarious moments.
At 89 minutes it’s not long, but it’s entertaining for those who like interesting takes on age old conventions, with a decent cast and a story that’s full of humour and satire as well as tension and action.