Chainsaws, gore, and girls in daisy dukes. Put them together and what do you got? The classic formula for some of horror’s most iconic and beloved films! Add a heaping dose of comedy to the mix and you have a hilariously clever take on the tried and true tropes of the horror genre. Tucker & Dale vs Evil does just that with its charming lead characters and simple yet compelling plot that pays homage to classic horror while also offering some refreshing commentary on the genre itself. It’s hard not to feel invested in the wild and fantastically disastrous situation that Tucker and Dale find themselves in, so you can bet that I enjoyed every bloody minute! As this was director Eli Craig’s first film showcasing his penchant for combining comedy and horror, it’s not without a little roughness here and there. But even with its flaws, this film offers a fun and madcap spin on something we’ve seen time and time again.
The film is a comedy of errors with the whole story riding on the horrific consequences of miscommunication. It’s simple really, hillbilly pals Tucker and Dale try to fix up their vacation cabin in the woods but are harassed by a group of college kids who think that they’re psychotic backwoods murderers. Misunderstanding ensues and of course that leads to deaths left and right! It’s a great idea and its simplicity makes for a lot of hilarious moments. Alan Tudyk (Tucker) and Tyler Labine (Dale) have such amazing delivery and chemistry that the way their characters react in each situation feels authentic and amps up the ridiculous humor. They’re extremely likable guys and you just can’t help but root for them as they battle it out against some of the dumbest college kids around. Seriously, they’re all so so dumb. Of course, the film embeds the story with horror clichés that are all played for laughs. You’ve got the ominous music leading up to what’s supposed to be a jumpscare, but in reality, is simply a startling moment that has nothing to do with scariness. You’ve got the dramatic music in tense moments of the film where the characters feel threatened or paranoid. And what’s a horror film without a bunch of stupid decisions being made? These are all tropes that are handled well and they each offer a different type of comedic affect that helps push the story along.
While I do really enjoy the overall concept, it does result in the film being fueled by a single running joke until the very end. Tucker and Dale do something well-meaning or harmless, college kids see and take things waaaay out of context, then sweet, sweet ill-fated confrontation ensues. Personally, this repeated plotline didn’t bother me all too much. I thought that the script was funny enough to keep each confrontation feeling different and interesting. Maybe I just really liked Tucker and Dale and didn’t mind seeing them get into similar problem after problem. The movie even points out this running joke a few times, so its self-awareness only added to the humor and made the repetition bearable. The only part of the film where I felt a disconnect with the plot was towards the end. Without spoiling anything, there’s a climactic fight that makes up the finale. In the moments that lead up to it, there’s a complete shift in tone where the movie goes from being campy and comical to being rather slow and more action based. There aren’t as many jokes or even quips from either of the leads and it just feels like this bizarre dry buildup to a fight that ends without much fanfare. For being a final boss battle, if you will, there wasn’t a lot of high stakes or engaging energy to be seen.
There’s also some social commentary embedded within this wacky tale, believe it or not. Through the attitudes and development of its characters, the film touches on the idea of stereotypes, social class, and hasty assumptions. These topics are all handled rather well, and they don’t really hit you over the head with them either. They’re just interesting factors that bring a bit more realism into the story and gives you an insight on both sides of the situation.
Tucker: The poor dude just wanted to enjoy his vacation! Do a little fishing, down some cold ones, but no! Snobby college kids gotta ruin everything. The universe can be so cruel. And mind you, the universe was certainly cruel to Tucker. He seemed to get the short end of the stick most of the film. While he was the lead along with Dale, the film didn’t seem to place as much focus on him. I wanted more from his character because he was hilarious and offered a great straight man contrast to Dale’s lovable fool persona.
Dale: He’s like the iron giant but as a hillbilly human. Kind of. I don’t know, he’s just a really goofy guy with a big heart! Definitely a likable dude and watching him develop as a character throughout the film was great. His facial expressions and reactions were also super funny. He would do this deer in the headlights face every time someone confronted him, and I thought it was such a perfect quirk for his character.
Allison: The female lead of the film and a part of the snobby college group. I don’t want to say too much about her as it teeters on the edge of spoilers, but she was just a bit too lackluster for me. She was a nice girl, don’t get me wrong, but that’s really all she is. I didn’t feel interested in her enough to root for her nor did I feel compelled enough to really care about her character in general.
Chad: Of course there’s a frat dude named Chad, there just has to be! And if you couldn’t guess already, yes, he is a total douche. Again, don’t want to give too much away, but his character development, or rather character escalation, felt a bit too quick for me. But he was great at being a douchebag, with his popped collar and fringey hair. That’s not even a word but it feels right.
Other College Kids: I can’t remember their names for the life of me. But they were your classic panicked group of young adults who just can’t formulate a single clever thought in any given situation. The way they misunderstood the actions of Tucker and Dale were hilarious and just emphasized the rash thinking of the group as a whole.
There are some wonderfully gory kills in this film! The deaths are of course ridiculous in nature and often happen in quick succession. This makes for some fast-paced violence with blood, severed limbs, and head trauma galore! I couldn’t help but think of The Evil Dead while watching this, and sure the whole cabin in the woods thing was probably a contributing factor. But the visual gags of the deaths and just the campy look of the gore itself worked as nice tributes to classic horror. There was even a little nod to Ash in one scene that I thought was really cool. There’s also just an overall earthiness and almost grimy aesthetic to the film. The dull color palette matches the dark hues of the woods, which is where the entirety of the film takes place. It really makes you feel apart of the world that the characters are inhabiting, like you’re rolling around in the dirt alongside them trying to survive this whole ordeal. There’s not a single character in here that isn’t covered with either dirt or blood, their own or someone else’s, by the end of the film so that’s always fun to see.
Final Thoughts: 8/10 (B)
I’m a total sucker for comedic duos whose personas rely on good ol’ lovable foolishness, so this movie was an unexpected treat for me. I had never heard of it before and kind of just stumbled upon it in the horror section on Netflix. The name drew me in and I’m really glad that it did! I applaud the imaginative structure and overall charm that this film has to offer. It aims to point out techniques and plot devices that this genre utilizes all too often but does so without acting as a full-blown parody or spoof. It’s clear that Eli Craig loves horror, and his appreciation for the genre, even with all of its tropes, shines through wonderfully here. I’m surprised I haven’t heard this film talked about more because it definitely deserves some more recognition! You can’t pass up on some crazy hillbilly hijinks and college student shenanigans!
* Caution: You Are Now Entering the Spoiler Zone! *
Alright, let’s talk about that ending. Or more specifically, the climactic fight scene between Chad and Dale. As mentioned above, there was just a lot of build-up to so little. I was expecting a comically gory showdown with goofy quips from Dale and unhinged douchebagery from Chad, but all you get is a dull struggle and Chad falls out a window. Dale even has this moment where he puts on intimidating gear to hype himself up and pull off the ultimate rescue. But with such a lackluster result, there really was no need for all of his preparation! Which is too bad because they could have played off that a little more during the actual fight. I also thought the twist of Chad being related to a homicidal hillbilly was a little off. Sure, it’s a nod to how horror movies will often include this huge twist that’s supposed to be shocking but just ends up feeling completely random or sometimes even predictable. I felt that the film already had so much going for it in regard to pointing out tropes that it didn’t really need a twist. It wasn’t revealed in a funny way either, so it just felt strange and out of place.
Gripes aside, I just want to point out a few funny parts that I really loved. The bit where Tucker and Dale first get to their cabin and notice all the newspapers tacked onto the wall with gruesome headlines, yet they completely gloss over them in favor of a coupon for hot dogs or something was so stupidly funny to me. It was mostly the delivery and how these two seemed genuinely psyched about getting some discounted weenies that made me laugh. There’s also a great moment when Dale brings Allison some breakfast and she is freaked out since she’s just woken up in a strange environment. Dale proceeds to take her reaction as an indication that she just hates pancakes and then chastises himself for being stupid and tells her he’ll make something else. It’s a silly scene that indicates how much of a nice guy Dale is and how quick he is to put others first, even when he misreads the situation. Okay, one more part because I could just go on and on listing little moments that cracked me up. This one was super tiny and probably improv which makes it even better. When Dale is looking for Tucker after he gets taken by the college group, he finds his hat on the floor. He then puts the hat on even though he already had a hat on, so he’s just sitting there trying to figure out a plan to rescue his friend while wearing two trucker hats. That is just the dumbest thing ever, I love it so so much. I’m not kidding, that little action just took me out, it was so funny to me. No assessment of the scene, I just thought it was hilarious.
Hi hi hi there, you’ve reached the end of this review! Thanks so much for reading! What did you think of Tucker & Dale vs Evil? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and feel free to follow my review page on Instagram (@batcountrymedia)!