Tucker and Dale vs Evil

Rating:

LITTLE HOUSE IN THE BIG WOODS

Main Cast: Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine

Director: Eli Craig

zumba
This Zumba meeting needs more chiffon.

I am shattered, absolutely shattered. I have finally made it back to Hollywood and my beloved Casa Maine to find that the world I left some weeks ago has been ruined beyond repair. Apparently, some sort of new infectious disease – Cremona Virus? Cremora Virus? – has run rampant through our fair country during my absence in Alabama and other points south and I have returned to a tinsel town in lock down with no possibility of performing either on stage or for the camera for the foreseeable future due to some new concept of social dancing in public. I immediately called Joseph, my manager and Fajer and Hellman, my attorneys to set up meetings and received notice that they were conducting all meetings with Zumba rather than face to face so I immediately repaired to my in home dance studio to work on my moves so I could be ready to follow the instructor slide for slide when our meetings take place. I must admit that I am rather looking forward to seeing the dignified Mr. Fajer twisting and turning with me as we discuss the financial future of MNM enterprises. If American social interactions are going to be based around interpretive dance in the future, I need to get in on the ground floor as one of the country’s favorite all singing – all dancing stars for lo these many decades, even as I remain forever a youthful thirty-nine years.

face masks
Can you imagine the festive
embellishments!!

Leah, my ever-helpful gal Friday, came to the house the next morning and, as I came to the door, immediately handed me some sort of veil for my lower face which appears to be all the fashion rage these days. It was a rather undistinguished paisley print on some cheap cotton and I immediately told her that we needed to get an MNM brand of facial coverings into the stores in the finest chiffons with a wide variety of decorator colors. She whole heartedly concurred and, as I write this, Kim Dee and Mary Gee, my talented private seamstresses, are busy turning out prototypes in the west wing ballroom. We then prepared a pitcher of mimosas and repaired to the solarium where we could discuss things in private. With the theatrical world in stasis, my business revenues are falling, and we quickly decided that a certain retrenchment was in order. The first thing to do would be a strategic downsizing to economize on expenses. Casa Maine was really too large for me without Normy and his projects so I called up Mr. Jeffrey, my realtor, and told him to find me a suitable penthouse somewhere near the heart of Beverly Hills which would not only have enough room for splendid entertaining and for my many business endeavors, but would also be a cozy little domestic habitation for intimate salon gatherings. He promised to get right on it and would have some choices available within the week.

Feeling like I had accomplished something, I bid Leah goodbye and settled into the home theater for a film. A quick flick through the offerings on the Netflix landed me upon a self-described horror comedy from 2010 entitled Tucker & Dale vs Evil. Not having seen a teens fleeing from psychotic killers through the woods film for a while, I decided to tune in and spend a couple of hours feeling the occasional frisson of evil tingle my spine. The film, a Canadian indie that received minimal distribution in the U.S. on its release, ended up being a good deal better than it had any right to be, though still somewhat flawed in its execution.

The film opens with all of the usual tropes – a group of interchangeable college kids, balanced for gender and ethnicity, heads off into the woods of rural West Virginia for a weekend of camping, beer and skinny dipping. While on their way, they stop at a run-down rural convenience store where they run into a couple of local somewhat scary looking hillbillies, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine). Dale takes a fancy to one of the girls, Alison (Katrina Bowden), and tries to approach her, but it becomes readily apparent that he’s shy and something of a doofus. Unfortunately, the other kids interpret his actions as a threat and high tail it out of there. Tucker and Dale continue on to their new vacation cabin, a run-down shack in the woods, straight off the set of Deliverance. They pop some beers and head out fishing, only to run into the kids again, going for a night swim. Alison hits her head trying to escape from the threatening looking hillbillies who are forced to rescue her and bring her back to their cabin to recuperate. The other students assume they have taken her for nefarious purposes and gather their forces the next morning to rescue her. While reconnoitering the property, they see Tucker clearing brush with a chainsaw. Unfortunately, he disturbs a wasp’s nest and, while running away from their stingers flailing his chainsaw, he looks a little too much like Leatherface and the battle is on, full of misunderstandings. Soon our rather dim hillbilly heroes who wouldn’t hurt the proverbial fly, are in the midst of carnage with college kids shooting themselves, frying themselves, and running headfirst into woodchippers. A backstory of a Memorial Day Massacre from a generation ago that starts as a kids around the campfire ghost tale is explained and the real villain turns out to be… never mind. You can watch the film yourself.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil succeeds largely on the strength of the two central performances. Mr. Tudyk, long a stalwart supporting player in various Hollywood films is obviously having a ball as the somewhat smarter half of the Mutt and Jeff pair and finds a large number of places in which to inject a bit of wicked humor. The real revelation is Mr. Labine’s Dale. He manages to combine the character’s insecurity, lovable oafishness, and a dash of idiot savant intelligence into an interesting human being that we want to get to know better and spend more time with. The two of them apparently had so much fun working together and with the characters that they’ve been trying to get a sequel off the ground for years. The rest of the cast is relatively undistinguished. Ms. Bowden has a couple of good moments and Jesse Moss as Chad, the ringleader of the college kids, also has a good moment or two. But then, the younger cast is there to give substance to the tropes of 80s slasher movies and really aren’t allowed to establish themselves as people before being offed in various gory ways.

The film was written and directed by Eli Craig who seems to have made a niche out of horror comedy. Other projects include a television version of Zombieland and the comedic knock off of The Omen, Little Evil. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of call for such genre crossing projects and he doesn’t work as much as he might. He’s at his best when he’s reveling in the sheer ridiculousness of the original tropes he’s busy sending up. He’s less successful when he’s trying to create more serious moments or create psychological motivation for the real villain of the piece. He should take a cue from his two leads and just revel in the silliness of both the horror and the comedy.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a film that’s worth seeking out as it’s almost sui generis, has two greatish central performances and keeps you entertained while you wonder what piece of ridiculousness spurting gouts of blood will come next. It’ll be particularly entertaining if you’re familiar with the key slasher films of the end of the last century, so you’ll recognize where the various ideas come from – although Mr. Craig is ecumenical in his borrowings; there’s a key moment in the third act that’s straight out of Victorian melodrama. Give it a whirl and enjoy it with your teens – after the younger ones are asleep.

Rusty gas pump. Loose ceiling beam. Pancake breakfast. Outhouse digging. Gratuitous dog in danger. Impaled college student. Chipped college student. College student flambé. Gratuitous explanatory press clippings. Bowling alley kiss.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

zumba photo by Andrzej Rembowski from Pixabay

mask image by Mona El Falaky from Pixabay

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