Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2011)

1 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

Remember how in “Scream” teenagers had seen “Halloween” and thus took it as a crash course in how to survive a horror movie? Well, the college students in “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” have obviously seen “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” and maybe “Deliverance,” and take what they can to survive a similar scenario…and yet they still die in many horrific ways!

Here’s the setup—a group of obnoxious college students (all of which you’d like to see get slaughtered by a psychotic hillbilly soon) go on a camping trip in the middle of nowhere. Along the way, they receive glares from passing rednecks in a pickup truck, and also encounter them again at the obligatory Wrong Gas Station—that rundown old gas station that looks like a regular end-of-the-line shack. Of course, those two same “hillbillies” are staying in a cabin near their campsite (which is also where a certain Memorial Day Massacre took place, wouldn’t you know it), and they happen to show up when one of the girls goes skinny-dipping. Their appearance frightens her, as she gets into an accident after which the two take her away.

To be sure, the two guys—Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine)—are not the psychotic hillbillies that serve as antagonists for this kind of movie. They’re just two dim-witted buddies who only hope to enjoy a fishing trip at Tucker’s cottage in the woods (though it really doesn’t help that the interior of the cabin makes the place look haunted and also has newspaper clippings of the infamous massacre reported). They’re only out there near the college kids’ camp because they were fishing, and Dale happened to see the beautiful young woman and became infatuated. When she has her accident, they rescue her and bring her unconscious back to the cabin. Meanwhile, the other kids, led by Chad (Jesse Moss), believe that she was kidnapped and because they’ve seen too many movies about psychotic mountain men, they…decide to fend for themselves and try and get her back instead of going straight for the police…

OK.

The girl, Allison (Katrina Bowden), quickly realizes that she isn’t in any danger from these two men, and even spends some time with Dale. They play board games together and talk with one another and start to hit it off pretty well. But that doesn’t make the others understand the situation as they race to “rescue” her. But the problem is (and this is a running joke), every time they attempt to make a move, they accidentally wind up killing themselves in horrifically tragic ways!

Many young people die in the most hilariously unintentional ways, but mind you, they’re the most gruesome ways as well. (I won’t even mention the woodchipper, but let’s just say that “Fargo” made it look dignified.) And thankfully, this is the first “slasher-movie” (if you will) in which you actually get your wish about the character you wish would die dies. They are not likable, and they are very obnoxious, but they are supposed to be that way. They are the butt of the running joke. And while the running joke is violent, it is still funny because of the clichés that they try to avoid and yet come back to, leading to their deaths.

Tucker and Dale are pretty likable, and are played with a great Laurel-and-Hardy rapport by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine. The pudgy Labine, in particular, has a puppy-dog likeability that you can’t help but sympathize with this guy. And that’s also why Katrina Bowden, as Allison, is appealing as well—she sees through the bullcrap that her friends always think they see.

Just remember this little message, you dumb college-student losers who decide to go camping in the middle of nowhere, where a “redneck’s” cabin happens to be…for whatever reason you would choose that location. “Hillbillies” are people too.

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