TBT Review: ‘Tucker and Dale vs Evil’ Is A New Classic
Like my “ParaNorman” review from last year, “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” may already have very good reviews. But once again… they’re not good enough!
Now right from the first trailer I thought this was a really clever idea for a film. I’ll link it at the bottom of this paragraph, but honestly I’m not sure if I should. It’s an okay trailer, but it’s one of those stories where it would be best if you go in knowing NOTHING. However, you still have to market it. So how do you do it without ruining the surprise and selling a totally different story? The simple answer is you can’t so if you haven’t seen it then I suggest you stop here. If you’ve already seen it or just aren’t sure then follow me down further as we get into the film. *Spoiler Warning.*
Cinematics (Plot, Acting, Cinematography, etc.) – 4
So only people who don’t mind being spoiled are here right? Because just explaining the plot is a spoiler. If you’ve seen a slasher film before then this starts off like any number of them. A group of college students are on vacation for spring break. They pass by some “creepy” rednecks on the road while they’re on the way to go camping. However, it turns out the rednecks are also there in their recently acquired cabin in the woods. While the college kids are doing some skinny dipping, one of them (Allison) gets knocked out. The two rednecks who were fishing nearby (Tucker and Dale) save her and take her back to the cabin to let her heal. So there’s our twist on the slasher film, the rednecks are decent nice folk trying to help. But the college kids misinterpret everything making them think the rednecks are sadistic killers. The rest of the film is just the kids trying to rescue Allison, but end up dying in hilariously graphic ways. Since Tucker and Dale are simple folk they think all the kids dying nearby them are part of a suicide cult.
The acting is all perfect from everyone. It’s probably why the rating for this section is as high as it is. The roles of Tucker and Dale are nothing complex or unique as we’ve seen dumb rednecks in countless films. First of all Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine have excellent chemistry. They really feel like old friends. Secondly, while they’re playing fairly standard characters, they somehow just feel more real than any other example I could come up with. In films hillbillies are either evil (like in “Deliverance”) or just punchline characters. The joke normally being “he-he they’re stupid!” So it is simply refreshing to see these two just act like regular guys for the most part. Yes they’re still not very smart and it takes them so much longer to catch up on the situation, but that’s the whole point of the joke. It doesn’t feel like mean punching down humor to make them rednecks is what I mean. The rest of the cast is all good. I really believe that Allison is falling in love with Dale and it’s quite sweet.
The rest of the… unfortunate teenagers all do a great job in their typical slasher victim roles. However, they actually manage to make them all seem different so you can still always tell them apart. You don’t hate them all which is so common for this genre. It’s not enough to not want to see them die because the deaths are just too damn funny, but still. I particularly like Chelan Simmons as the airhead (and tends to get the messiest throughout) and how she runs through the woods in her heels. I don’t why it makes me laugh so much it just does. Lastly, we have the stand out performance from the main college student Chad played by Jesse Moss. He is so funny and great as the villain. So in another horror film he’d probably be a hero, but here he turns so psychotic so quickly at the thought of defeating these hillbillies. The secret to this success is just how seriously he plays it. There is NO hint at all that he’s in on the gag. Again, a big part of why this film works so well is his performance which is like all of those old 80s bullies cranked up to 11. One little detail I liked was how in the beginning (when he seems normal) the collar to his polo shirt is down. But as he gradually turns into the villain and no matter how much damage happens to him, the shirt collar is always pristine enough so it can be turned up like all those old 80s villains.
Now the cinematography and direction is not terribly visually interesting. That may be partly intentional since it’s trying to spoof all those crappy slasher flicks you’d walk by at the video store. The quality comes more from the inventiveness of the gags and how well they’re staged. They do a great job of filming scenes to look like what’s actually happening, but also still look like what the college kids think is happening. Oftentimes in the same image, which is not easy to do. If I have one complaint, it is that the CGI blood looks fake. In general, CGI blood never looks real. In fact, it often brings the entire film’s production value down. I’d be lying if I didn’t feel a little like that here. This film was very low-budget so that does make some sense. Although the practical effects all look great and oftentimes more gory and violent than in actual modern horror films which only adds to the humor. I have to say most of these imperfections don’t bother me and add to the overall charm of the film.
Entertainment Value – 5
My aunt once told me “we all need some gallows humor once in a while.” Given that she’s a doctor I think that can be more true for her line of work than in entertainment. The sentiment is true nonetheless and is what this film really captures so well. If I were to explain some of the deaths you may be tempted to say, “that sounds really horrific!” However if you’re into dark humor, oh my lord you will be laughing so hard throughout. I’ve taken great pains not to really discuss them as I feel it would be a disservice. In many ways this feels like a film we needed for these movies of the 80s. I may not even watch all that much of this genre, but even I’m aware these clichés are everywhere and it feels satisfying to see them mocked. Although I think most horror fans will feel that this is all done in good fun. They’re have been spoofs like “Hell No: The Sensible Horror Film” and those GEICO commercials “Let’s hide behind the chainsaws!” But this is a spoof and form of humor we need and speaking for myself it was very much welcomed.
Rewatchability – 4.5
Much like “ParaNorman” this may still be a new film, but it has quickly become an annual Halloween tradition. No joke when I bought my copy recently the store clerk had to remark how good of a movie it is. This led into a full-blown discussion with the employees as they rang me up.
- Entertainment Value
Yeah, it's that good. This film seemed to come out of nowhere. But has already entered the ranks of such horror comedy classics like “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein," “Gremlins,” or “Shaun of the Dead." The clever subversion of genre conventions and the pitch perfect casting create a fantastic dark comedy. Just thinking of some of the gags makes me laugh to myself. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.
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