When you think about rednecks and hillbillies in film history , you are immediately reminded of characters who made Ned Beatty squeal like a pig in Deliverance or rubes who are too stupid to be considered human like Cousin Eddie from National Lampoon's Vacation series. You might also think of more established villains such as the bizarre backwoods families who sliced and diced teenagers as a hobby in countless slasher movies like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Mother's Day and The Hills Have Eyes. Throughout the years, the dim-witted psycho hillbilly has become a stereotype that is hard to shake, never appearing as a hero, savior or caring individual. Writer/director Eli Craig improbably squashes this stereotype in his 2010 horror-comedy Tucker and Dale vs.Evil.
Tucker (vet Alan Tudyk) has finally accomplished his lifelong goal by purchasing his own summer home and decides to take his longtime companion Dale (Tyler Labine) along for some needed R&R. Saying that his dream home needs some work is a bit of understatement, since it is decrepit, resembling the cabin from the first two Evil Dead films. They got their work cut out for them, but these two Virginia hillbillies have a cooler of beer on ice and are ready to make the most of it. On a stop at a general store along the way, they encounter another stereotype found in most horror films, a group of young college co-eds who are heading to the woods for some sex, drugs and rock-n-roll. Looking like your usual hillbilly slaughterhouse specialists, the kids get majorly freaked out by their appearance, especially when the portly Dale gets fixated on Ally (the ridiculously hot Katrina Bowden) and his shyness is mistaken for creepiness.
This is where the film turns a corner. Tucker and Dale are actually a fun-loving duo who have nothing but good intentions set on fixing up their new summer hang spot and are not as dumb as the usual rube you see in these kind of films. Tucker is the tough and strong-willed big brother to the giant teddy bear Dale, who is pretty timid and lacks confidence with life as well as women.
After Chad (Jesse Moss), the alpha frat boy of the group, tells a story of two backwoods killers who slaughtered a pack of teens several years ago on the very spot they are hanging out at, they all decide to go for a skinny dip. On their nighttime fishing trek, Tucker and Dale coincidentally see Ally stripping down to her panties about to take a splash into the pond, but awkwardly falls in once she catches them innocently spying on her. Once they realize she has not come up for air, Dale dives in and saves the unconscious girl from drowning. Her friends come over in time just to see the limp-bodied Ally being dragged into the boat. Thinking that she was attacked and being kidnapped by Tucker and Dale, they scream and run away even though the guys yell for them to come help her.
The next morning at the cabin, Ally awakens with an injured head and is frightened until she listens to Dale explain what happened while he nurtures her back to health. She realizes that Dale is just a simpleton with a heart of gold and he sees this as a chance to try to win over her heart as well. Meanwhile, our college kids deduct the whole situation to be similiar to that in Chad's story, with Tucker and Dale as two crazy murderers holding Ally as a hostage and now they must figure out a way to "rescue" her. Thus the stage is set for an unconventional film filled with many gruesome laughs.
Craig's genius flick plays out like an episode of Three's Company set in the horror universe, the narrative being filled with misunderstandings. While the audience is aware of what is truly happening the entire time, the kids are jaded by only being able to view one side of the story and their reactions led to many grizzly results - again, totally played for laughs. This hilarious formula is followed for the entire running time. The film plays on the downfalls of the reliance of stereotypes with the kids' mindset blinded to the same cliches that we as moviegoers have become accustomed and have translated into reality.
This satire's success stems from flipping the script on standard backwoods horror convention by having the usual psycho hillbillies act as our heroes and the usual youngsters as villains. Never before has a film maker taken two usually iconic antagonists and built them to be pure iconic protgaonists, without being labeled anti-heroes. On the other side of the fence, the kids' undoing is by their own hands and not by Tucker and Dale, a unique aspect that is reminiscent of another great indie horror flick, I Didn't Come Here to Die.
Tudyk and Labine are nothing less than phenomenal as our leads, containing genuine charm within their own individual characters and having genuine chemistry as a duo. Bowden is absolutely stunning to look at, but she also shows she can do comedy as well. Besides our headliners, there is not a weak link in the cast even though they all play the usual cliche characters found in most horror films. Moss is perfect as the douche frat boy with a bit of a razor's edge and it is good to see Brandon Jay McLaren (from the underrated Harper's Island), as the token "black" guy Jason, and Chelan Simmons (Final Destination 3), as the blonde bimbo Chloe, back on screen.
If you want to see a unique horror-comedy filled with hilarious situations and a bizarro version of what is found in the same ole' backwoods slasher flick, you need to see Tucker and Dale vs. Evil immediately. By film's end, you will be longing to see this duo embarking on more zany adventures in subsequent sequels. Craig has created two lovable characters who could be tagged as the Bob and Doug McKenzie of hillbillies.
|4 out of 5 Drunken Rednecks|