The marriage of horror and comedy is fraught with danger. Get it right and you get “Evil Dead 2”, “Shaun of the Dead” or “An American Werewolf in London”. Get it wrong and you have a “Scary Movie”, “Lesbian Vampire Killers” or “An American Werewolf in Paris” on your hands.
Thankfully, Eli Craig’s “Tucker & Dale Vs Evil” is very much of the former camp.
Set in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia, the film pits hard-working, blue-collar Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) against an increasingly paranoid band of holidaying college kids who’ve gotten the idea that the two local boys are actually creepy psychos with designs on snuffing them out.
Tucker and Dale’s best efforts to make peace with the group are undone when Dale accidentally causes Alison (Katrina Bowden) to bang her head whilst skinny dipping. Dale’s rescue is misinterpreted by the kids as a kidnap and things get progressively bloodier, blackly comedic and deliriously absurd from then on with the guys’ simple desire to fix up Tucker’s dilapidated vacation home being thwarted by disposable teens flinging themselves at the putative backwoods murderers before they meet bloody ends courtesy of the axe-handed hillbillies.
If you think of this movie as a slasher movie for people who can’t stand the sub-genre, you wouldn’t be far wrong. The film’s primary conceit is that the characters who would normally be depicted as the antagonists in a “Friday the 13th” sequel – the conspirational, untrustworthy rednecks – are the heroes whose naivety and unwordly nature contrive to give them the appearance of grisly serial killers.
It’s hard not to think that Jason Voorhees and Victor Crowley (of the “Hatchet” series) would have done better to adopt a similar approach and allow the drunk, dope-smoking, pre-marital sex-having teens of their respective series to behave with such forehead-slapping stupidity and hasten their own demises. Crystal Lake’s favourite son could put his mask up, chill out in a lounger and never have to unsheath his machete again.
Performances are universally wonderful, with Tudyk and Labine endearingly hilarious as guys utterly bewildered by what fate is flinging at them – it’s a treat to see these perenial supporting players given the chance to lead a film and the college kids are equally fun. “30 Rock” siren Katrina Bowden gets to do more than totter around in tiny outfits for a change and Jesse Moss makes for a splendidly hateful antagonist in Chad, the frat bro with a dark family secret he’s not aware of.
My horror-averse wife enjoyed this film tremendously, despite the free-flowing gore and dismemberment on display, which may give those of you with scare-phobic spouses another film to add to your Halloween movie countdown. It’s certainly worth your time.