Things have been awfully quiet in the place lately and it’s almost that way by design. I’ve been trying to find something, anything worth talking about here and in the past couple of weeks, when I’m not watching The Wire, writing a script or building a new website, I’ve been sitting through some real garbage that leaves me with nothing to say. There’s nothing worse than that, either. Writing a review of something like Alien vs. Ninja is a real pain in the ass when you spend two hours scratching your head, staring at the blinking cursor on the page, trying to find some way to kick off a review that isn’t a massacre of Sushi Typhoon’s latest excessive cinematic abortion. I’m tired of writing bad reviews, man. Sick and tired of it. I want to find a movie that I can heap praise upon endlessly and feel good about recommending to you, dear reader, because I sometimes find myself on these streams of reviews that leave with bad review fatigue.
Finally, after a two week dry spell, I finally found something I could get excited about. It’s not perfect and I probably won’t heap praise upon it endlessly, but I found that title I was looking for and feel like I ended the drought. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil turned out to be a decent approximation of what I was looking for. A horror comedy making the festival rounds, looking for distribution, made on peanuts and tons of heart.
Haven’t we seen this movie before? A truck load of horny coeds drives into the West Virginia mountains and comes upon the slack-jawed locals at a general store when they stop for beer. It is here that they cross path with Tucker and Dale for the first time, both on their way to their vacation home in the hills. Dale makes an awkward but well-meaning introduction to the group which pretty much marks him the mountain retard in the kids’ eyes and presumably that would be the end of it until slipping on a rock on the edge of pond leaves Allison unconscious and the only person who can save her is Dale. Tucker and Dale take her back to the vacation home – a rickety death trap that once housed actual hillbilly killers – to mend. While she recovers, her friends track her back to Tucker and Dale’s place and decide that the only rational thing to do to rescue her from what they think are a pair of mutant redneck cannibals, is to violently respond with extreme prejudice. Things don’t go well for them. Not because Tucker and Dale are a pair of inbred killing machines but because these kids aren’t too bright and there’s lots of stuff laying around for them to impale themselves on. Hijinx ensue.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is evidence of a hard thing to come by in the horror world: originality. The horror comedy is as predictable as the seasons and there aren’t too many people out there making comedies that aren’t fan-service spoofs with tongue so deeply buried in cheek that it’s never seen again. The recipe is always the same, too. Add zombies. Stage plenty of painfully self-aware gags. Reference, reference, reference. Maybe it’s because The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre are such vile, grimy movies that no one has ever considered for a moment that there may, in fact, be some yuks into those flicks to exploit. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil takes the entire notion of hillbilly killers, the campfire story, and spins it around portraying our heroes as a pair of well-meaning, pleasant dudes lacking in common social graces and the upstanding city-folk teenagers as the vicious, bloodthirsty killers and it works. This simple but unexpected juxtaposition mines the gag for a dog’s age and it never gets old.
It helps that Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is aided by a pair of funny and talented comic dudes. Dale, played by Tyler Labine may be recognizable to the ten or so people who actually watched Reaper on The CW as the show’s slacker foil, Sock and Tucker is played by nerd-culture demi-god, Alan Tudyk, a TV busy body best known for his role as Wash on Firefly. No strangers to comedy, their well-meaning dufus schtick and ridiculously gory slapstick comes off like the distant cousin of Evil Dead 2. Absolutely every possible situation goes horribly awry, almost always resulting in someone leaping into a wood chipper head first. Every attempt to rescue Allison is compelled by a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation and each time results in the cast being whittled down by one or two people in often spectacularly bloody ways all the while, Tucker and Dale are completely oblivious to what’s going on.
The gag does run on a little bit long and feels like it wrapped itself up half way through but the comic presence of Tudyk and Labine propels the picture through the second act slump and keeps it light and fun. Blood is spilled liberally throughout and each scene leaves you wondering who’s going to die and on what sharp object they’ll accidentally fall on since every single set piece is crammed with deadly implements of dismemberment. The comedy of misunderstanding is nothing new but it’s a proven formula for funny and Tucker and Dale vs. Evil proves that with flying colors. Gleeful spilling of blood and awful, stupid villains who get theirs frequently make Tucker and Dale the movie you need to see.