Short Ends and Leader

(Very) Good Ol' Boys: 'Tucker & Dale vs. Evil'

From the very first moment we understand where Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is going, the smiling starts


Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

Director: Eli Craig
Cast: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
Rated: R
Studio: Magnet Releasing
Year: 2010
US date: 2011-09-30 (Limited release)
Website
Trailer

The redneck. The hillbilly. The sour son of the soil. It's a cliché that's been carefully conceived and crafted since the wooded areas of the Deep South were discovered to be full of rapists, killers, and psychopaths. Forever undone by James Dickey's Deliverance (and John Boorman's big screen adaptation) and twisted and turned into a myriad of bad jokes, the supposedly stupider, more sinister members of the closet Confederacy are now a genre given. Put a bunch of baffled teens in the middle of a dire Dixie situation, and they are bound to wind up dead...or at least, that's the promising premise the hilarious Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is hoping you bring to the mix. With such a stunted mindset in place, this silly spook show satire becomes all the more magical.

After years of saving up, Tucker (Ala Tudyk) and his best buddy Dale (Tyler Labine) are headed up to their "vacation cabin" in the middle of the woods. There, they plan on drinking some beers and catching some fish. Unfortunately, while at the local general store, they run into a group of jaded college kids lead by the preppy Chad (Jesse Moss) and the sweetly innocent Allison (Katrina Bowden). These interscholastic idiots come to the conclusion that Tucker and Dale are dangerous inbred serial killers, and using all the lessons they learned from horror films, they intend on protecting themselves. Of course, our heroes are nothing of the sort, but that doesn't matter. When they rescue Allison after a swimming accident and take her back to their rundown shack, the gang are livid. Suddenly, Chad wants to slaughter these kind, hardworking guys, even if it means getting the rest of his camping party killed.

From the very first moment we understand where Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is going, the smiling starts. Once the brilliant byplay between Tudyk and Labine settles in and the various assortment of archetypical old school fear factor fodder fester and then go gonzo, the grins get even bigger. This is clever, funny stuff, a buddy picture where the goal is not getting to the next town or making it to the meet before the end. Instead, co-writer/director Eli Craig and his partner Morgan Jurgenson dream up an amazing twist on a tired old truism, giving us two dirty bumpkins bedeviled by a bunch of smart alecky kids who think they know better, and die trying to prove it. This is an accidental slasher film, a piece of memorable macabre where the occasionally gory deaths mask a far more meaningful attempt at wit.

By turning the tables, so to speak, by making our typical terrors the clueless victims here, Craig and Jurgenson enliven a tired formula. With Tudyk and Labine in the role, the reinvention is even more memorable. These two are a perfect pair, a lunkhead and leader that really don't mean anyone any ill will. All they want to do is work hard, play harder, and enjoy a life free from freaked out teenagers who think that all they care about is torture and terror. As recently as the rotten remake of Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, anyone below the Mason Dixon line has been portrayed as a predator, a bloodlusting lunatic who just can't wait to unleash his or her own internal demons. Tucker and Dale are different. They are decent, not diseased. In fact, they so thoroughly thwart the stereotype that said stigma seems stupid.

It all goes back to Ned Beatty, bare-assed, being sexually assaulted in a Georgia clearing. Indeed, Deliverance doomed an entire population to a sketchbook description that almost always doesn't fit. Add in TV, which takes concepts like the a 'Big Redneck Wedding' and turns them into snarky dismissals of eccentricity. Granted, few find the notion of serving squirrel and possum at their nuptials normal, but for a certain percentage of the population, raised in such a tradition, such choices make sense. It's this approach, this hillbillies are people too platitude that shapes Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. It turns what could have been a exhausted, obvious statement into something that zings and zips along.

The acting on the part of Tudyk and Labine really sell the send-up. They don't drawl like idiots or mangle the language in useless malapropisms. Instead, Tucker and Dale are just normal, intuitive guys. They enjoy board games and the occasional intellectualized pursuit. At heart, they're not heroes or harmful, but they will stand up for what they think it right. By protecting Ally, they becomes suspicious. Why? Because in the world of this wacko movie, no one would go out of their way for anyone else. It's a dog eat dog, cutthroat kind of situation, and the know it all college kids truly underestimate the extent of their own malevolence.

Craig is also excellent at channeling the genre's best. When Tucker comes across a bee hive while cutting wood with a chainsaw, the resulting power tool dance it a cheeky check on a certain Leatherface and his Texas Chainsaw mania. Similarly, anytime there's a cabin in the woods and a weird vibe surrounding it (they guys discover a wall set up as a kind of shrine to a long ago massacre), Sam Raimi's Evil Dead is automatically riffed. Sure, the expected splatter is a little underwhelming. After an incident with a wood chipper, the rest of the deaths are bloody but basic. Indeed, if the movie has one flaw, it's that it doesn't go as overboard in the grue department as it does with its deconstruction of the standard scary movie tropes.

Perhaps the best criticism of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is that it makes you want more...more of these two characters. More of them being mistaken for backwoods baddies...more of them reacting to said suggestion with shock and disgust. In a realm where it's hard to create classic comic characters, this movie does so. We might laugh when Tucker and Dale are misidentified and mistreated. Why we giggle says more about us - and the target of this take-off - than it does about a certain population of people.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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