Movie Review—Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
A member of the Online Film Critics Society, Peter writes for Twitch, the Financial Times, and Rue Morgue. A contributing editor at Metro magazine, and a columnist on blockbuster movies for Screen Education, he also blogs on pop culture at School Library Journal: http://blogs.slj.com/connect-the-pop/. Get too-frequent updates about comics, books, movies, and TV via Twitter: @Peter_GutierrezView all articles by Peter Gutiérrez
Or maybe I should qualify that a bit. After all, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, which has garnered terrific word-of-mouth over the past couple of years, is not really a comedy meant for mass consumption. Its surprising sweetness, sure, makes it a better date movie than might be apparent at first blush. But really, at heart, its director and co-writer Eli Craig has fashioned a crowd-pleaser that has the horror crowd clearly in mind, preferably those who know certain tropes forwards and backwards and still aren’t sick of them.
That’s because for those of us who have put years of our lives into the genre, the film’s premise alone is of the head-slap variety—you wonder why no one ever attempted something like this before. Any by “this” I mean an inversion of all the classic, and usually classist, slasher-in-the-woods conventions. In fact, the “Evil” entity referenced in the film’s title has probably been unduly influenced into its malevolent ways by watching so many Wrong Turn-type flicks: its collective biases against our rural, undereducated protagonists (Tucker and Dale, ‘natch) are ones that the target audience itself is likely to share on some level. And if all of this sounds a bit vague and even confusing, good: I’m trying to write about the film without giving away too much of its twisty pleasures… unlike the trailer, which you should avoid like the plague if you haven’t seen it.
In fact, Craig does such a good job of making us laugh—and let’s give credit to the apparently effortless but hugely impressive work done by stars Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk—that it’s easy to lose sight of just how serious the film is in its subtext. In this respect, then, it joins my personal canon of smart, self-aware horror flicks that includes Behind the Mask and Rabies (Kalevet), the revisionist Israeli slasher that’s been wowing folks on the festival circuit this year. Here everything is much lighter, though, the laughs much broader. Indeed, when the film reaches its high point about half-way through it’s in a groove that mixes farce, physical comedy, and sight gags with such skill that the result is sheer giddiness.
The only problem is that once you have a sense of the plot’s overall trajectory, including its romcom elements (yes, it has those, too), there are no real surprises. I don’t mean there are no twists—there is, a big one, but it’s really a reveal about a character’s backstory, not a present-tense development. Instead, the romantic storyline plays out as you’d expect, and the two buddies end up with the relationship they’ve pretty much always had. Of course, I could be overthinking this: you see Tucker and Dale for its hilarious set pieces and its goofy charm, not for dramatic shocks or sustained suspense. In fact, it’s the kind of film that, when it plays on cable TV in years to come, you’ll be likely to drop everything just to watch certain priceless sequences again. I know that’s what I’ll do.
(Image courtesy of Magnet Releasing. All Rights Reserved.)
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