Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tucker & Dale versus Evil

NetFlix 4.2/5
IMDB 7.6/10
My Rating: 7.5/10

A group of college kids go vacationing in the back country and encounter a pair of hillbillies who aren't what they seem.


OK, I've seen my first great movie of 2012.  Tucker & Dale versus Evil is several movies in one - A laugh-out-loud comedy, an 80's slasher horror, and a surprisingly thoughtful look at stereotypes and how they affect our judgement.  Did I just say that, seriously?  Let's get back to that later...  First, here's what we've got.

The same standard group of attractive college students found in every "Camp Massacre" horror film are heading out into the wild country for their vacation/Spring Break/whatever.  As they begin to leave civilization behind for the land of cash-only gas pumps, they encounter a pair of grungy looking hillbilly redneck types and almost immediately run afoul of them.



Horror fans will be on familiar ground here, and we're waiting for this to turn into another Deliverance or Hills have Eyes-type flick.  The thing is, T&D isn't that movie at all - Here, Tucker and Dale are our heroes!  The "evil" of the title comes in two forms, a sociopathic frat boy and the college kids' own stupidity.  Assuming immediately that Tucker & Dale are cannibal country people, the yoofs manage to bungle every encounter they have through their own fears and assumptions.  See, all T&D want is to relax and fish... They've just bought themselves a "vacation home" (A sinister looking cabin straight out of Evil Dead) and they're ready to kick back and drink beer in their boat for the whole weekend.  What they're decidedly not counting on is this:
The college bunch freak out every time they encounter Tuck & Dale.  When T&D save one of the girls from drowning during the inevitable late night skinnydipping, their innocent arm-waving and, "WE'VE GOT YOUR FRIEND!" shouts inspire terror in the kids, who assume the crazed wildmen have claimed their first victim and are crowing for more.  Panic and lunacy ensue as the yoofs convince themselves that they're being hunted by banjo-wielding killers.  Meanwhile, the rescued girl wakes up in T&D's rustic cabin and we're introduced to the star of the movie:

Alan Tudyk's Tucker is a great character - Smart, forthright, and confident - but it's Tyler Labine that really shines as the goofy, insecure, "Aww shucks" Dale, a big, round rolypoly of a guy who's a lot more like real rednecks than city dwellers would imagine after forty years of films about inbred country folk with one eye and seven chainsaws.  Dale has NO idea what to do with the college-educated, stunningly pretty girl in their cabin, and there are a lot of laughs as she wakes up expecting to be raped and murdered, while Dale is terrified that his sausage and eggs won't be up to her tastes.  The two strike up a rapport and from there on, the movie doesn't let up as it balances the surprisingly sincere relationship between T&D and their "captive" as the rest of the frat pack scheme to kill them.  Yes, kill them...  While most of the kids are terrified lemmings, their leader is the sort of sociopathic team captain  type that's going to grow up to be Gordon Gecko, totally convinced he is the hero of his own story and absolutely reveling in the chance to prove his manhood in this wilderness clash.  Jesse Moss's Chad is downright creepy, the sort of guy who thinks date rape drugs are the pinnacle of medical progress.  He also does a terrifying imitation of a young Tom Cruise, bringing a walking, talking "I'm SO cool" attitude that shows off just what an ass Cruise's characters usually are when the whole movie isn't revolving around trying to present them as the hero.

Fortunately for T&D, most of the kids are as inept as they are frightened, and their repeatedly suicidal attempts to murder the unsuspecting hillbillies get funnier and funnier as their numbers drop and Tuck and Dale start freaking out over these 90210's hurling themselves into the woodchipper.  As the situation escalates, the conflict grows more direct and more intense - Tuck and Dale realize they're in a real fight, Chad goes right off the deep end, and eventually we get the most tense peace conference since Clinton tried to make Arafat play nice:


Aside from a lot of great jokes and some so-OTT-it's hilarious gore and a few genuinely horrifying moments late in the film, T&D vs Evil gives us a surprisingly thoughtful look at class warfare - The hicks are just good ole' boys, but they're intimidated by the brains and moneymaking potential of the city rich kids, while the yoofs have to literally be knocked over the head before they'll even consider that anyone in a beer cap might not be a cannibal.  Social insights are not unusual in horror films, but they're rare, and especially so in horror comedies.  The slow-dawning mutual respect and fondness between scary-yet-harmless Dale and psychology major Allison gives the movie a warm heart and a more enjoyable romance aspect than you'll see in a lot of 'serious' relationship films.  You can't help but cheer when goofball Dale charges to the rescue and right into the role of Movie Hero - It's like seeing John Candy finally flip out and kick ass.

Worth seeing.  Hell, worth buying - This will be the first DVD I've bought since Trick R Treat.


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