Under the Radar?: “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”

“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is a horror comedy written and directed by newcomer Eli Craig in his directorial debut. The film made its premiere at Sundance in 2010, was given a limited release, and has now found its way to Netflix, DVD and Blu.

It stars Alan Tudyk (Tucker) and Tyler Labine (Dale) as a couple of Hillbillies with a cabin in the woods. When a group of college students cross paths with them, they begin to die off one by one…

Except this time, it’s not what you’d expect.

In describing this movie as a “Horror Comedy” it should be noted that this isn’t a movie that is alternately scary and funny, there’s really nothing scary here… Instead, it’s a comedy that derives its humor via a subversion of the deeply established cliches of the horror genre. Particularly the tired standby of a group of college kids that stray off into the woods and wind up hunted by a group of rednecks.

You see, Tucker and Dale are just minding their own business.

The two of them have worked hard and saved for a long time in order to purchase a vacation home for themselves – the aforementioned “cabin in the woods”. They plan to fix it up and clean out all the dust, so that they can come out, have a place to stay, and fish in peace. They’re actually a couple of sweet, harmless guys.

Unfortunately for them, their dream cabin used to be owned by your stereotypical Hillbilly serial killer. So when the camping collegians DO come, the legends of murderous Rednecks are out there already – through no fault of Tucker and Dale.

When the two harmless friends cross paths with the kids, a comedy of errors ensues, where the legends of the past and the history of the area cause the kids to assume the two are out to kill them. When the two help one of the girls of the group who was actually in danger of drowning (by taking her back to their cabin), the rest of the students presume she’s been “taken” by them to be tortured or killed or both.

And they decide they need to rescue her.

This leads to a string of misinterpreted situations, overheard snippets taken out of context, or glimpses of Tucker and/or Dale doing something perfectly innocent that looks… evil. The panic that follows leads the teens to act unsafely. Once a few of them suffer accidental deaths, the rest of them get their backs up against the wall and decide to fight back – against the two harmless hillbillies.

The script has been flipped. The college kids are the hunters and the hillbillies are the hunted.

I liked this flick, I found it very humorous and enjoyable. Tudyk and Labine are great as the eponymous duo beset upon by misfortune. They bumble their way into situations that are easy to misinterpret, and then bemoan and suffer comically when they’re finally besieged by the hostile students. It’s all very funny. It IS a little one note, or one joke if you will, stretched out over the course of the film, but it’s all done well enough that I don’t think anyone would mind.

I’d recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of horror especially, as they will particularly enjoy the in jokes and genre send ups. The fact that it is basically one long gag makes me want to keep this grade “right-sized”, though, so let’s just call it an enthusiastic

B+

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40 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”

  1. I knew that you would enjoy this film! I got it as a review copy and would not normally watch but I enjoyed it so much. It was gross at times, but so totally worth it!

    • You get review copies? Damnnnnnn Aidy, impressed w/you!! :D

      Yeah, it was good, right? I enjoyed it. It doesnt try to hard or anything, doesnt overstay its welcome… it just entertains for awhile and bows out. I liked it!

  2. No, it is from the site Gofobo. Anyone can go there and request free screenings for movies. I lucked out once and asked for review copies and that was one that came in the mail :) You can get RSVP codes and everything for movies. Best of all, its free.

  3. OK, I’ll bite. By Netflix standards lately this is high quality. Their low budget approach has gone to Bollywood, cartoons and the kind of foreign film even I would’nt watch(how bout that?). The exception is they’re getting into made for Netflix TV. “Lilyhammer” with Capt. Silvio(Steve Van Zandt) from the Soprano’s isn’t bad. Bada Bing!

    • Yeahhhh… not to turn this into a bash Netflix thread, but they haven’t had the best offerings.

      If you’re into documentaries, they kind of rule, but other than that and the Criterion collection (which I’m not even sure they still have on streaming) they havent had much. And certainly not anything in terms of recent release….

      This was good though I thought.

      • They’ve got some Criterion stuff on Instant. The Last Emperor, for example, and The Naked City and Army of Shadows. And Hunger and Fish Tank. Not a ton (there are other titles in between of course) but a good amount to go on, and all of it’s worth watching.

  4. This definitely fits the “under the radar” title, and it definitely deserves a lot of love from genre fans. I had a blast with this. It reminded me of the experience of watching Shaun of the Dead for the first time– though I know you’re a TOTAL WEIRDO and don’t like that as much as everyone else– though reduced. I don’t want to oversell Tucker & Dale vs. Evil; it’s nowhere near as good as that zom-rom-com classic. But it’s strong, and the combination of the relationship between its leads and its tongue-in-cheek humor and its gore definitely call Shaun to mind.

    I also think this has a lot of crossover appeal, meaning that anyone can enjoy it– even people who don’t love splatter-fests. It’s bloody and gross, but not to same extremes as the movies it’s aping, so it’s neither offensive enough to churn the stomachs of those who aren’t fond of slasher flicks nor clean enough to turn off the die-hard gorehounds. Really solid flick all around. Labine and Tudyk are great together.

    • Hahhhahhhhaaaaa

      “though I know you’re a TOTAL WEIRDO and don’t like that as much as everyone else”

      Hey man, I LIKE that flick. Just… somewhere, somehow, people built an altar to it, and I wasn’t involved in that planning committee decision.

      I recall you had reviewed this (T&D), which lent it a stamp of approval for me, I was like, it’s probably really good :) And yeah, I agree. I think it works well as a comedy even if someone ISNT a slasher flick fan. But I do think that Slasher fans would get that little something extra out of it…

  5. This is a fun movie for sure. I just wish I hadn’t seen the trailer beforehand — it gives away nearly ALL of the gags and death scenes.

    • Yeah… I never caught the trailer, but I did kind of feel as though just knowing the concept gave away half the flick. Thats why I didnt worry about getting to spoilery in my write up, you know? I felt like I knew what it was when I went into it and I still enjoyed it just fine, so…

      • I recall, the trailer was doing the round about a good two years before it was finally released. And yes, it is basically the film in a handy bite size chunk.

        Great film though. The film Deadheads is in a similar vein. ‘We’re zombies, but we’re not the evil ones’. However, it’s not a patch on this.

  6. For one who doesn’t typically enjoy horror all that much, this worked for me. It was silly, but had some good ideas and messages towards misconceptions of others.

    Nice review.

    • Ha! Thanks Sam.

      Yes, it certainly does have that underlying subtext of “not judging a book by its cover”, which is great. But it does make me chuckle to think of it as a message movie. Not saying youre wrong, by any means, I guess it goes to further the case against prejudging… just because a movie contains tons of gore and slaughter and Hillbillies as the lead characters, dont think there can’t be a worthy moral to the story! :D

  7. Under the radar, most definitely. I think the perception is that it’s some campy, idiotic B-movie like so many made before even though it’s actually ridiculously good and intelligently made. I share your opinion that’s it’s a bit one-note (I had issue with the somewhat repetitive nature of the deaths) but overall, definitely worth seeing.

  8. It’s great to see someone take a tired cliche and put a different spin on it. And to make it funny. The movie was hysterical. (Specially the bee sequence) But it would not have worked if Tucker and Dale were not likable. They were so likable I wanted to see more of their lives after the end credits. This was one of the best films I’ve seen in 2011.

    • For serious?

      I’d be interested to know what points of this actually even registered on that scale.

      To me, man? This was comdey straight up all the way.

      But then, I… well, since I’ve met Chris Tanski, my podcast co-host I’m careful about saying I’m a “Horror Guy” lol, but I do like horror flicks.

      • My fiancee was a bit freaked out a couple of times. However she did also freak out at the Devil Inside Me trailer….

      • I havent seen the Devil Inside, but I could see someone getting freaked out by the trailer. Its almost easy to make a horror movie look scary in a trailer, just pick the creepiest bits!

        Heard that movie stank though. Know a couple of people who kicked it around really bad…

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