On their way to a new vacation home in the Appalachians, two good old boys stop at the Last Chance Gas Station where one becomes besotted with a gorgeous blond college girl. Encouraged to talk to her, he meets with prejudiced horror. Later that night while fishing, they have chance to rescue that same girl from drowning, but her friends view it as something else in the escalating war that is "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil."
Producer Morgan Jurgenson had an idea, one which he brought to his college buddy Eli Craig to flesh out. Years later, Craig makes his feature directorial debut with a horror spoof that turns the murderous hillbilly genre inside out while poking fun at movies like "The Blair Witch Project," "Cabin Fever," "Friday the 13th," "Blue Velvet," "Fargo" and the granddaddy of them all, "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre." It's a clever idea, but while the film's yucks are mixed with R-rated gore, the movie eventually runs out of steam, its themes not explored and satirized quite as well as they could have been.
After a found footage prologue, we meet our boys on the road in their pickup truck. Tucker (Alan Tudyk, "Serenity," "Transformers: Dark of the Moon") can't wait to get to his new cabin in the woods with his bear of a buddy Dale (Tyler Labine, "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"), but when they're pulled over by the local Sheriff (Philip Granger), they're informed that up at Morris Lake 'There's nothing up there but pain and suffering like you can't imagine.' Meanwhile, a group of six college kids are headed in the same direction, with loud mouthed Chad (Jesse Moss, "Final Destination 3," "The Uninvited") clearly the group leader. When they pass Tucker & Dale, loud ominous music makes them appear like demented killers.
That idea is furthered when Dale tries to talk to Allison (Katrina Bowden, "Sex Drive," TV's '30 Rock') holding a large scythe and cemented when the gang see the duo loading her body into their fishing boat later that night. The next morning, Allison comes to and quickly comes to realize that these guys, particularly Dale, are real sweet, but her friends, bent on saving her, begin a violent campaign that begins a series of gory deaths.
This is pretty funny stuff for quite some time, but around the film's midpoint it begins to repeat itself. There could have been more satire, a riff on the couple who leave the group to have sex, for example, left untapped. Chad's funny as a college guy getting off on lawlessness, so the addition of a final act back story is not only unnecessary, it sucks some air out of the film. Still, the film's definitely worthwhile for the things it does get right. Tucker's vacation home turns out to be a fixer upper that looks like a long abandoned scout cabin, interior complete with bone mobiles and collage of newspaper articles on local murders. But our boys think it's a mansion and they have the power tools to transform it further, all the better for collegiate misinterpretation. Dale's idea of bliss is a 6 lb. jar pickled eggs, but he turns out to be smarter than he looks when he and Allison sit down to a game of trivia. Labine's charming in the role and the film's made better by the routing interest we have in his getting the girl. For every unfortunate cat that's been threatened in horror films, we have Dale's dog Jangers (Weezer), a massive one-eyed slobberer.
The guys behind the recent, awful "Creature" may have had Sid Haig, but they could have learned a lot more from Eli Craig. It's surprising how much the films parallel each other in their setups. But "Tucker & Dale vs. Evil" is intended to have us laughing and, for the most part, it does what it set out to do.
Robin's review will be published on opening day, 9/30/2011.
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