In the past year or so, I have become somewhat burned out on horror comedy. It seems like almost every horror flick that comes out these days has it’s tongue in its cheek and its head up its self referential ass. I was reminded of this at the Buried Alive Film Festival recently. There were a lot of great submissions, but very VERY few straight ahead horror movies. I was just getting sick of the glut of funny scary hybrids, well done or not. Then one came along and reminded me just how brilliant that combination can be when done right. Thank you Tucker and Dale vs. Evil for resurrecting my faith in the sub-genre.
Since I’m really not sure how to give you a synopsis without giving away any of the hilarity, I’m going to do something I rarely do; use the official synopsis. Tucker and Dale are two best friends on vacation at their dilapidated mountain house, who are mistaken for murderous backwoods hillbillies by a group of obnoxious, preppy college kids. When one of the students gets separated from her friends, the boys try to lend a hand, but as the misunderstanding grows, so does the body count.
This movie is how a horror comedy should be done. I wonder how, with the overabundance of parodies, send ups, satires, and skewerings of the horror genre recently, no one came up with the “maybe those creepy backwoods locals are the normal ones” premise already. The way the film turns the Deliverance/TCM/I Spit on Your Grave/Hills Have Eyes informed expectations of “the backwoods locals terrorize the city folk” flicks is nothing short of brilliant. Sure, once you know the central joke, you see a lot of the twists coming, but it doesn’t make them any less effective. For example, when you see the wood chipper, you know exactly what is going to happen. Someone is going into that wood chipper. No, that isn’t a spoiler, it’s in the trailer. How someone comes to find themselves in the wood chipper is the funny part. We know where this is going pretty quick, but it takes some unexpected turns, along with some “they’re not going to…holy shit they did” turns, to get there. Too often horror comedy devolves into telling a hackneyed story with a knowing, and often obnoxious, wink. Instead, this one inverts those old wilderness horror chestnuts in familiar yet fresh ways. The dialog is also well written, maintaining excellent comic timing throughout as well as delivering some lines that, while funny in general, will have extra significance to hardcore horror fans.
The strongest aspect of the flick is definitely the acting. Not enough can be said about the chemistry between Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine). They are the best comedy team to come along in quite some time. These two play off of each other so well that they really do seem like best friends who grew up together. They take turns being the straight man to the other’s buffoon. It’s pretty established that I’m picky when it comes to comedy, and one of the things I hate most is when it feels forced. Dale’s soft spoken delivery and Tucker’s hilarious facials add up to some of the most naturally funny moments in a long time. These two carry the film and I’ll be very disappointed if we don’t get to see the further misadventures of these two.
The rest of the cast pulls their weight and doesn’t overshadow the central duo. Jesse Moss as Chad goes a little overboard in the second half of the film, but it’s not terribly out of place in a movie like this. If a popped collar isn’t a sure fire sign that someone should die, I don’t know what is. That goes for real life too. Katrina Bowden is great in her role as the girl caught in the middle of the bumbling rednecks and her overzealous and misinformed friends. The rest of the cast basically play incidental bit parts and no one really has a chance to shine, but everyone is spot on.
The movie does lose a little bit of steam near the end. For the majority of the film, it’s more comedy than horror. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of gore, and it’s well done too. It’s just all played for laughs. When the film tries to get a little more serious, it goes from being great to being good. It only loses momentum for a moment though. The final sequence is old school horror with humor mixed in rather than the other way around. It still works, and the pitch perfect tone is restored by the end of the flick. It makes me wonder how the filmmakers would fare with a straight horror movie.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is the best horror comedy at least since Zombieland, maybe even since Shaun of the Dead. Yes folks, it really is that good. There isn’t anything that’s not to love about this movie, even with the slightly slow few minutes in the middle. The bar just got set much higher for independent horror comedy. Unless something drastic happens in the next 2 weeks, this is definitely a top 10 flick for the year. Two severed thumbs way up. Nathan says check it out.