After debuting last year at the Sundance film festival and playing numerous festival dates, the horror comedy Tucker & Dale Vs Evil is finally making its way into a limited theatrical release this weekend.
In his Scream series, Wes Craven found a fun way to play with the conventions of the modern slasher film by turning meta-text into text. Eli Craig’s debut film Tucker & Dale Vs Evil does something similar but sets those conventions on their heads and the result is a rather fresh and funny take on the standard “college kids stranded in the woods fighting against a psychotic killer” trope.
A group of college students lead by the obnoxious Chad (Jesse Moss) head out into the woods for a weekend of camping and partying. One of their number, Allison (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden), almost drowns when the group goes skinny-dipping but is rescued by two hillbillies, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), who happened to be fishing nearby. However, when Tucker and Dale call out to the college kids “Hey, we got your friend here!” they immediately jump to the conclusion that Tucker and Dale are psychotic hillbilly killers and run away. Puzzled, the pair takes the unconscious Allison back to the lake side cabin they are in the process of fixing up. Meanwhile, Chad and his friends, try to figure out a plan of attack to save their friend from a fate that their imaginations have conjured fueled by having watched too many slasher films.
A solidly comical film, Tucker And Dale Vs Evil smartly reverses many genre conventions. Much like in Scream, the college kids think they know what’s going on thanks to having seen numerous slasher films. However, the movie shifts perspective and shows us that Tucker and Dale are pretty much the polar opposite of the student’s preconceived notions. They’re just a couple guys who happen to be entirely outside of anything the students have ever encountered before in real life. And thanks in part to Craig’s screenplay, co-written with Morgan Jurgenson, and Tudyk and Labine’s acting, they don’t come off as just a pair of dimwitted caricatures.
While this could easily have been a rather one-note idea on which to build a movie, Craig has managed to keep twisting and turning his script and moving things along at a good clip. He is obviously a fan of the genre and knows it genres well enough to spin them off in a new, hilarious direction. There are also some winks and nods that slasher movie buffs will get. But the in-jokes are anything but exclusionary and those who aren’t horror movie fans can enjoy the film for its comedy of errors and splatstick. In fact, this movie might play better for non-horror fans as it will surely fly in the face of many preconceived notions they might have about the genre.