Procrastrospection: Tucker & Dale vs Evil

I promised last week that I wouldn’t continue to post reviews of movies that are as old or older than I am. At least, not all of the time. Sure, by posting those reviews, there’s really nobody out there who can complain that I spoiled things (I mean, “Rosebud”. Am I right?). But sometimes I want to dive into something a little fresher. And that’s what I’m going to do this week, as I present another round of Procrastrospection!

Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010)

October just screams for more horror, which is part of how the Paranormal Activity and Saw franchises were both able to last as long as they did. Although technically this week’s movie being reviewed didn’t premiere in that hallowed month, it certainly carries forward a lot of the traditions presented in movies that we surround ourselves by during that 31-day span.

Well, on the surface it does. Provided that you both forget that it’s mainly a comedy, and that it’s told from the perspective of the backwoods characters who often find themselves cast as the villains in this sort of tale.

Now, just because it’s a comedy, don’t think it skimps on scare tactics. After all, Tucker & Dale vs Evil has both feet firmly entrenched in the horror genre, it’s just taking the time to make light of a lot of the situations. Both Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are presented as your typical horror hillbilly, short on intelligence and long on anger. Well, they’re presented that way in the eyes of the college kids who have planned a camping trip where, as it turns out, a generation before, a bunch of people were killed by, yes, you guessed it, hillbillies. Clearly, when you’ve got the site of some horrific murders, that just screams vacation spot (see my review of The Evil Dead), but that’s key to part of the humor of T&DvE. I mean, if it was just an extended episode of Backwoods Home Crashers, it might not have been worth watching. Oh, who am I kidding? It’s got Alan Tudyk, and he gets my viewing interest, even in bad things.

The whole movie really kicks off when Tucker and Dale meet the college kids. The students, after completely misreading the situation, automatically assume that Tucker and Dale are dangerous, and they get creeped out. Truth be told, though, if you ran into a man the size of Tyler Labine who was chuckling nervously while holding a scythe, you might have second thoughts, as well. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Anyway, the boys get back to their new cabin, which is in complete disrepair, and start working, all while Tucker is trying to convince Dale that maybe, just maybe, he should get up the nerve to talk to Allison (Katrina Bowden). One skinny-dipping moment later, and suddenly Allison is found in the care of the two hillbillies, which naturally leads the rest of the college kids to assuming that she’s been kidnapped for nefarious purposes (it’s like they all majored in Incorrect Philosophy, and only made it through the 101 class). A comic mishap involving bees and a chainsaw leads to another of the college kids dying horrifically, which spurs Chad (Jesse Moss) to not only enter full-on creepy mode, but to convince the rest of the kids that they’re battling for their lives, and the life of pure, innocent Allison.

The rest of the movie plays out pretty similar to most horror movies, with kids dying left and right in terribly gruesome ways. The difference that Tucker & Dale presents to the audience is how it’s all a misunderstanding, that the rustic setting has created a serious case of mistaken identity, and how one overpowering personality can twist the perceptions of everyone around them. Each accident that results in death only fuels Chad’s rage, and, because of the circumstances surrounding each one, nobody seems willing to believe Tucker or Dale. The movie plays a lot with perception, and toys with the concept of the rural characters being hell-bent on destroying their urban counterparts, as seen in movies such as The Hills Have Eyes.

Naturally, we eventually learn that there is a dark force in the woods during that weekend, and it’s Chad. His character’s back-story is a bit convoluted, and he isn’t even made aware of it all until near the end. The final confrontation, between Dale and a deranged Chad plays out in much the way that the standard horror movie final battle plays out, but even here, the creators couldn’t quite keep from throwing in a twist. In some ways, it hearkens back to the old “Twas Beauty that killed the Beast” concept, except this time, beauty got some help from a respiratory condition.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a movie that plays off of horror tropes, putting us on the side of the supposed killers. It plays with perception, and does so to good effect. While there are definitely moments where the movie isn’t quite as strong, the overall concept, and the performances delivered by Tudyk and Labine, really help deliver a solid package. It’s easy to write this movie off as yet another in a long line of movies that poke fun at the horror genre, but that is doing it a disservice.

Besides, it’s rather comforting to find films where Tudyk actually makes it to the final credits.

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