Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010) Directed by Eli Craig. With Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss and Philip Granger.
Co-penned and directed by Eli Craig, Tucker and Dake vs. Evil is an amusingly inverted teen-slasher movie with more than a few genuine laughs up its sleeve. Taking the established tropes of the genre (John Boorman’s Deliverance is invoked early on), the tone edges towards that of a spoof – but without over-stepping that particular mark. The titular Tucker and Dale are Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, two stereotypical “hillbillies” – wrongly stereotyped as backward, uncivilised murderers by a group of “college kids” on a spring break retreat in the backwoods (where else!?).
Written with a solid understanding of the genre – and despite frequent bouts of gore, it has a surprisingly amiable centre about the power of friendship to encourage self-esteem. Amid the frankly ridiculous events of the film, it seems all the more impressive to have woven in such a beautiful message -albeit a gigantically exaggerated one. Yet, with two fun central performances, it subtly succeeds on a level above its level.
Of course, familiarity with the genre up for pastiche is essential to unlocking much of the comedy on offer. The film almost expects you to be in-step, with many of the gags loaded with mocking clichés. Labine and Tudyk delight in sending-up the stereotypes, creating some fine chemistry as their bewildered characters stumble from one misunderstanding to the next. One chainsaw gag, like much of the humour, is funny because it is preposterous – but it also ties in beautifully with other movies the film is attempting to subvert.
Inevitably, the joke wears a little thin towards the climax, but thanks to a sprightly 89-minute running time and an enjoyable first two acts, you shouldn’t feel too disappointed. Knowledge of films like Deliverance, or perhaps Wrong Turn (for a more recent generation), help identify the source of the humour – yet there’s still fun to be had with the two leads who make for a lovingly witless duo. 3.5/5