Tucker & Dale vs Evil certainly seems to begin in generic enough fashion - dealing with hillbillies and attractive teens converging on an isolated cabin in the woods - but to dismiss it from its opening minutes only results in a more pleasant surprise once director Eli Craig flips the table on you, as he does rather quickly in this speedy, rather fun little 89-minute horror-comedy romp. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two polite and warm-hearted, if also clumsy and bone-headed hillbillies who have finally managed to buy their dream vacation home; a dank, dilapidated cabin in the middle of the woods. However, a group of college students disrupt their quaint vacation with a party, kick-starting a series of massive misunderstandings which sees the kids believing Tucker and Dale to be murderers, while the pair stand on utterly clueless as to why everyone around them seems to be dying in a gruesome and over-the-top fashion. While Tucker and Dale isn't the brightest tool in the shed, it is a successful subversion of the sorts of slasher films that it aims to slyly imitate, such as Friday the 13th. Through a combination of poor timing and social prejudice, the students presume these slow country bumpkins to be responsible for killing their friends, when in fact, the students are killing themselves through their own clumsy ineptitude, be it jumping onto an upended shovel, or falling into a wood chipper. This trope - of the lumbering Jason Voorhees-type character who mercilessly stalks attractive young people - has a spotlight shot firmly on it here, something that the teens seem somewhat aware of, while the gormless protagonists stare on in bemused amazement at what is happening. In intersecting these two stories, all of the gore is topped firmly with a fresh and knowing - if not at all subtle - edge. The most hilarious thing, ultimately, is that there is no real big-bad to speak of; the kids all off themselves through either their own stupidity or thanks to absurd breakdowns in communication. Much credit is due to Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, who do the dappy double act very well, which when combined with a situation that quickly becomes more and more absurd makes for plenty of outlandish happenings and big laughs. At the end of the day, yes, it is something of a one-note joke - about miscommunication and prejudice resulting in one very bloody night - but the film is agreeably short such that the gag doesn't become too tiresome by the time the credits roll. The telegraphed love story finally unfurled at the end does feel rather pat, though, given the director's clear keenness to subvert horror convention; that it really falls back on this too much at the climax does make it seem a little uneven and slightly disingenuous. Tucker and Dale vs Evil, much like the titular characters, is daft and doesn't much care for subtlety, but smart horror fans will laugh their way through this well-acted, subversive horror-comedy. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is out today in the U.K.
Frequently sleep-deprived film addict and video game obsessive who spends more time than is healthy in darkened London screening rooms. Follow his twitter on @ShaunMunroFilm or e-mail him at shaneo632 [at] gmail.com.