Tucker & Dale vs Evil
Details: (M), 88 mins, Canada, English
Synopsis: Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and his best buddy Dale (Tyler Labine) are sensitive, kind-hearted hillbillies, but strike fear the college kids camping near the duo's shack deep in the Appalachians. In turn, the fratboys decide attack is the best form of defence.
Hillbillies strike back with horrorshow.
SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL: Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs Evil seeks to redress the cinematic imbalance that has unfairly positioned the good native folk of the West Virginian backwoods as inbred, bloodthirsty sadists. In doing do, it also manages to counter the notion that great film comedy is a thing of the past.
Trading on the instantly recognisable clichés of the ‘college-kids-in-hillbilly-peril’ splatter-pics that thrived in the ‘70s grindhouses and the ’80s video-nasties, Craig and co-screenwriter Morgan Jurgenson reverse the menace in their hilarious deconstruction of the genre. It is truly astonishing that the film, shot in 2009, has struggled to find distribution outside its homeland; with mainstream big screen laughs now largely relegated to self-referential animated hits and the rom-com oeuvres of Kate Hudson, Drew Barrymore, et al, a brilliantly original work like Tucker & Dale vs Evil should walk straight into multiplexes the world over. If only….
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and his best pal Dale (Tyler Labine) are finally starting to get ahead in life. Tucker has just purchased the ideal fixer-upper – a rundown log cabin deep in the woods, which represents a new direction in life for them both. While stocking up on supplies at a remote gas station, they bump into a group of snotty college types: arrogant jerk Chad (Jesse Moss), the beautiful Allison (Katrina Bowden) and various other skimpy-short wearing hotties and muscly hunks.
Never a hit with the ladies, Dale is convinced by Tucker to just mosey-on up to Allison and say ‘Hi’. Really, what’s the worst that could happen, right? But things go bad when Dale’s awkwardness comes across as menacing and the co-eds flee to their campsite, fearful of the crazed locals that they now believe are stalking them. Tucker and Dale are confused by the encounter, but couldn’t really care less about the out-of-towners. That is, until they rescue Allison from a near-fatal fall and care for her in their cabin, with the intention of taking her to a doctor at first light. Her friends, fuelled by prejudice and gung-ho machismo, see her internment differently and set out to rescue her by whatever means necessary.
Craig maintains a laugh-a-minute momentum through acts one and two, as the college kids off themselves through acts of sheer stupidity, much to the amazement of the two sweet-natured hillbillies. Tudyk, a favourite with audiences since his drugged-out, naked role in Frank Oz’s Death at a Funeral (2007), gets some of the biggest laughs of the year as he struggles to reconcile the loss of his dream home with the escalating carnage; Labine provides the soft centre of this frantic farce in his lovely scenes opposite the delightful Bowden, but gets just as many comedic opportunities. His deadpan chemistry with Tudyk and their embracing of Craig’s all-or-nothing approach to the ridiculously-heightened level of gore ensures Tucker & Dale vs Evil delights, disturbs and surprises at every juncture.
There is a third-act hiccup, with convoluted plotting of details best relegated to throwaway asides. The final timber-mill showdown seems tacked-on and the laughs give way for some mundane heroine-in-danger moments. But it is a momentary diversion that Craig quickly dispenses in favour of a wonderfully feel-good final image.
Though reportedly a low-budget work, the Canadian production benefits enormously from John Blackie’s production design, which has inspired the set design team to create a vivid, detailed (and, eventually, blood-splattered) woodlands world that is captured in rich, crisp hues by veteran Canuck cinematographer David Geddes.
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