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

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image