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Thursday, November 10, 2011

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL -- DVD review by porfle

One of those movies where I see the trailer and think "Whoa, I've gotta see this!", TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (2010) doesn't fully fulfill the promise of its premise but has a whole lot of fun trying to. 

The whole subgenre of city kids venturing into the woods and being terrorized by evil hillbillies is turned on its ear as a mutual misunderstanding between two well-meaning rednecks in their new vacation cabin and the usual group of rowdy teens on a camping trip becomes a bloody battle to survive.  Most of the humor comes from the way the good guys' actions are totally misconstrued as evil in the eyes of the kids, and vice versa. 

Tucker (Alan Tudyk, A KNIGHT'S TALE, 3:10 TO YUMA) and his chubby sidekick Dale (Tyler Labine, RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES) are doing some night fishing when a skinny-dipping college babe named Allie (Katrina Bowden) slips on a rock and falls into the water.  Already spooked by the "creepy" hillbillies, the other kids are horrified to see them hauling Allie into their boat while yelling "We got your friend!  We got your friend!" 

Allie recuperates in the cabin and begins a tentative romantic relationship with the smitten Dale while her frantic friends plot to rescue her from her crazed abductors.  Their initial attempts lead to the film's funniest scenes, with the hapless kids accidentally impaling themselves or diving headfirst into a woodchipper while Tucker and Dale look on in horror, thinking they're witnessing a mass suicide. 

Another highlight occurs when Tucker disturbs a beehive while sawing logs and becomes, in the eyes of the kids, a chainsaw-wielding maniac on the warpath.  Debut director Eli Craig does a good job of wringing some solid bellylaughs out of these situations with the help of first-rate comedy duo Tudyk and Labine. 

Even though the skewed outlook and occasional hilarity of the film's first half eventually begin to peter out, the fun keeps chugging along as Chad (Jesse Moss, DEAR MR. GACY, WILD CHERRY), the frat-rat ringleader of the college kids, grows increasingly bloodthirsty for revenge against Tyler and Dale and rallies his surviving friends into a last-ditch attack.  The story takes a few twists and turns, with a flashback sequence explaining Chad's unreasoning hatred toward hillbillies, and finally takes on the form of an old-fashioned cliffhanger serial complete with distressed damsel tied to a log and headed for a spinning buzzsaw.  

With such lovable protagonists as the mutually-supportive, fun-loving Tucker and Dale, and shy Dale's sweetly endearing courtship of winsome Allie, TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is never quite the black comedy one might expect.  This makes the graphic death scenes seem rather jarring at first, although some familiar elements are so over-the-top--as when dumb blonde Chloe (Chelan Simmons) is drenched by one huge glop of blood from the woodchipper, or when Tucker and Dale gingerly drag the bottom half of an unfortunate teen out of said device ("He's heavy for just half a guy," Tucker notes)--that the effect is perversely delightful. 

The DVD from Magnolia is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby Digital sound and Spanish subtitles.  Extras include a fun commentary with director Craig and stars Tudyk and Labine, a making-of featurette, an HDNet promo short, outtakes, storyboards, trailers, and--my favorite--"Tucker and Dale ARE Evil: The College Kids' Point of View", which shows only the parts of the film that make our heroes seem like actual homicidal rednecks in the kids' eyes.  Watching this made me wonder if the film would've been more effective if it had started out this way and then flashed back to reveal what Tucker and Dale were really saying and thinking during those scenes.

While Tudyk and Labine's priceless reactions to the whirlwind of horror that has descended upon their peaceful vacation cabin are the best thing about TYLER & DALE VS. EVIL, the entire film has a skewed feelgood quality that's irresistible.  I didn't really feel like I was watching a cult classic in the making, but it's packed with so much goofy fun and lighthearted comedy--along with its grislier moments--that anyone who loves a good "city kids vs. hillbillies" horror flick should have a ball with this affectionate spoof. 

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Max the drunken severed head said...

Great review. Confirms my hopes for the film after seeing the previews a while back.

Thanks, porfle!

porfle said...

Thank you, Mr. Head!