Friday, March 2, 2012

"Tucker and Dale vs Evil" (2010)

Starring Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and Katrina Bowden
Written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgensen
Directed by Eli Craig
Rated R - Gory violence, language, scary images
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Trailer (Red band)

The time-worn horror movie premise of a bunch of hillbilly freaks capturing, torturing and killing pretty college kids has come and gone through many permutations.  But I don't think it's ever been quite so hilariously.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two hillbillies on their way to Tucker's new vacation home, a cabin in the woods near a lake.  On their way, they stop at a gas station convenience store where they encounter a group of young college kids going on a camping trip.  Dale is immediately smitten with a pretty young blonde named Allison (Katrine Bowden), but she's put off by his dirty appearance.

Later, the kids are sitting around smoking and drinking.  One of them, Chad (Jesse Moss) tells a story of the Memorial Day Massacre, in which a group of students such as themselves were murdered by hillbillies in these same woods.  The kids decide to go skinny-dipping, and Chad is rebuffed when he makes a pass at Allison.  Allison goes away from the group to swim by herself and ends up slipping and falling off a rock when startled by Tucker and Dale, who are going fishing.

The kids mistake Tucker and Dale's rescue of Allison as a kidnapping, and decide to do whatever it takes to get their friend back.  But each of their attacks is a disaster built on one misunderstanding after another. Tucker and Dale are two nice guys trying to help a girl in trouble, and think that these kids are part of some kind of insane suicide pact.  As the kids keep attacking, Tucker and Dale realize they'll have to do whatever is necessary to protect themselves and Allison from her insane college suicide friends.

This movie is a friggin' riot.  It takes all the cliches of the hillbilly horror genre and subverts them for comedy at every turn.  Tucker and Dale themselves are, despite their appearance, actually two intelligent if bumbling, lovable men who simply want to fix up their ramshackle cabin, but the kids mistake it for some kind of evil torture chamber.

Scene after scene of bloody confusion just builds in hilarity.  Tucker and Dale simply don't understand the situation they're in, unable to fathom that the kids are trying to rescue their friend.  Their repeated messages of "We've got your friend," meant to inform the kids to come visit them and pick up Allison, are instead misinterpreted as taunts.

The kills in "Tucker and Dale vs Evil" are hilarious in their own right, as most are simply accidents that are easily misconstrued as murders.  In one scene, Tucker, having cut through a wasp nest, runs screaming through the woods waving a chainsaw.  One of the kids, thinking Tucker is attacking him, runs for his life... and impales himself on a sharp tree branch.  The other kids think their friend has been murdered, and stage an even more ill-fated assault on the cabin.  Each encounter escalates like this, and it's a riot through and through.

Though I've been a fan of Alan Tudyk for some time, and he certainly does a fine job here, the focus is definitely on Tyler Labine as kindly oaf Dale.  He really owns the picture, with a lot of Tudyk's lines setting up Labine to pay off.  The two of them work extremely well off each other, delivering their lines with an ease and quick pace.  Katrina Bowden does well enough as the object of Dale's affections, though she sometimes feels like a fifth wheel.  She's pretty, and nice, and ultimately sees Dale for the kind man he is rather than the dirty hillbilly she assumed he was at the beginning.

The rest of the kids are, like in other films, merely fodder for gruesome deaths.  I'm not even sure I'm really aware of their names.  There's the black dude, the black chick, the dumb blonde, the nerd, the stoner, etc.  They're all just basic constructs - humans that need to die, but when they do, it's truly hilarious.  Keep an eye out for the woodchipper scene, which actually made me light-headed I was laughing so hard.  The only other one with any development at all is Chad, who essentially ends up being villain of the piece.  The actor playing him doesn't have too much presence, which is too bad, because it saps some of the energy out of the climax, but it's not a huge problem.

I can't recommend this movie enough.  It moves at a brisk pace, being only about 90 minutes.  It's fast, witty, gory and hilarious.