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  • 15
  • Comedy, Horror
  • 2010

Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Film4 Tucker & Dale vs Evil

Synopsis

In Eli Craig's funny feature debut, two amiably gormless hillbillies struggle to survive a woodland massacre perpetrated by evil college kids

About

While in today's politically correct cinema, virtually any ethnic group or culture will be accorded at least a modicum of dignity and respect, the one exception is the American redneck, who time and again has been subjected to the sort of on-screen fear and loathing otherwise reserved only for Nazis and off-planet aliens. The origins of this go back at least to John Boorman's Deliverance (1972) and Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), where backward yokels were the slaughter-happy manifestations of madness, mayhem and murder.

There is, however, a telling sequence in Hooper's classic hick horror where our preconceptions are turned, however fleetingly, on their head: after the monstrous manchild Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) has dispatched the third college kid to enter his house unannounced, he rushes in a panic to the window, clearly confused as to why he has suddenly fallen victim to so many unwelcome home invasions.

Made over a quarter of a century later, and set in the West Virginian Appalachians (although shot in Alberta, Canada), Eli Craig's feature debut Tucker & Dale vs Evil gets plenty of comic play out of a similar inversion, while doing much to recuperate the reputation of the humble hillbilly, so maligned in films from Wrong Turn to White Lightnin' to Winter's Bone.

Here sweet-natured good ole boys Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) just want to be left alone to a weekend of drinking, angling and refurbishing at their 'fixer-upper' vacation cabin by the lake - but when they rescue pretty psych major Allison (Katrina Bowden) from drowning in the lake, her preppy friends, led by hillbilly-hating Chad (Jesse Moss), are convinced that she has been abducted by a pair of backwoods killers. As Allison grows closer to the naive, girl-shy Dale, the college kids keep trying to get her back from her supposed captors, only to die one by one in freak accidents that seem to incriminate Tucker and Dale even further.

Co-writing with Morgan Jurgenson, Craig has crafted a hilarious comedy of errors, and a savvy inside-out reconstruction of an all-too-familiar sub-genre. The gory set-pieces and high body count of any 'co-eds camping in the woods' horror are all present and correct, but with the added twist that the young co-eds are victims only of their own extreme prejudice (and some very bad luck) - and here, urban, privileged, educated Chad becomes the unstoppable embodiment of evil, while Dale, despite his big beard and beer belly, is definitely the 'final girl'.

In a way this is a one-joke movie, but Labine and Tudyk enact it with perfect timing, considerable rapport and a great deal of charm, while leaving viewers to wonder whether perhaps all hinterland massacres have been rooted in mere misunderstanding. Time to dig up Deliverance, and rewatch it with fresh eyes...

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Jesse Moss, Katrina Bowden, Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Chelan Simmons
  • Photographer: David Geddes
  • Composer: Mike Shields

In a nutshell

In this knowing comic inversion of the 'co-ed camping massacre' subgenre, Tucker & Dale are the perfect (and perfectly hilarious) antidote to decades of fear and prejudice directed at rednecks. If it wasn't for those pesky kids...

by Anton Bitel

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