Sometimes originality comes not through flat out defiance of established convention but through embracing it; employing the iconography of the genre in a way that hasn't been seen before can be just as unique and innovative as producing a film that exists outside of known genre. In his feature film debut (credited as writer and director) Eli Craig
shows off his true understanding of hillbilly horror. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil
naturally follows Tucker (Alan Tudyk
) and Dale (Tyler Labine
), two hillbillies on their unwitting journey through the perils of miscommunication and hasty judgment. On the way to their newly purchased vacation retreat (a moody shack in the middle of a forest, which is home to a previous mass murder) they meet a band of preppy college kids bent on spending a sexually charged weekend camping in the woods. When Tucker and Dale rescue Alison (Katrina Bowden
) from drowning during the obligatory skinny-dipping scene, the college kids misconstrue this as a kidnapping. Believing Tucker and Dale to be chainsaw toting maniacs, the teens launch an all out assault, led by Chad (Jesse Moss
), with hilariously disastrous consequences. Its a deliciously personal idea, that I can imagine being explored with a devilish glee over many a late night writing session; what if the murders in Texas Chainsaw Massacre
and the like were all actually accidents, and had perfectly innocent explanations? You see, in Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, were watching a full on horror complete with every convention youd care to stack against it (isolated cabins surrounded by woods, jailbait chainsaw fodder, a suspicious cop the works) except were seeing it for the first time from the other side of the narrative fence through the eyes of the supposed redneck psychopaths. The carnage is still there in full force, but it plays by a whole new set of rules.
Tucker is bold and confident, while Dale is gentle, introverted; they form an almost symbiotic bond, in which the former feeds the latters need for validation and guidance. Tudyk and Labine turn this relationship with a fantastic on-screen chemistry and the pair play off each other to great effect. Tucker and Dales contrasting personalities align in all the right places, just enough so that you could really see this match working in real life (and does between the actors, if the Making Of featurette is to be believed). Both are genuinely compassionate and likeable everymen, although the college kids see only their exterior menacing awkwardness
and act based entirely on their observations. The supporting ensemble are a treat, with stand out performances from Katrina Bowden (of 30 Rock fame) as the cool headed Alison sanitys one representative in the college kid camp - and the intensely creepy Jesse Moss who takes the horror cliché stand and fight mentality to a whole new level. Without a great set of supporting characters, this entire concept would have fallen apart and its a testament to the scribing prowess of the two writers that it doesnt. Each member of the group makes an astute observation of the archetypes that usually fit into the role of victim, and each ridiculous flaw in character logic (another horror commonality) is examined in a fresh new light. Most importantly Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is funny; very, very funny. The joyful twisting of convention is expertly employed and as a life-long horror fan I was delighted by the fact that it never once strays into the idiotic; it goes farcical, nonsensical even at points but never asinine. With the story only ever spanning across four intimate locations this is a not a film driven by its plot but by love and implicit understanding of its characters and iconography.
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil receives an excellent transfer in terms of visuals on the Blu-Ray, delivering a satisfyingly sharp and visceral widescreen experience, with rich levels of colour saturation (and believe me, with the amount of red in the pallette, it needed it). The sound doesnt leave us wanting either and youll be squirming in your seat with every erroneous death, and feel as surrounded by banjos as the cast of Deliverance. For all its abundant victories though, its disappointingly lacking in terms of extras. With only a short Making-Of (admittedly interesting, but over as soon as it gets going) and a rolling production stills montage, its mainly just about the movie. But thats not necessarily the worst thing in the world with this particular movie. The box itself is beautifully presented, the cover image intriguing enough to make me consider watching even before the title sinks in; it looks great on the shelf and even better in the player. Its jittery banjo soundtrack accompanies you through the menus which animate nicely upon selection. Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is a great film, and one thats thoroughly deserving of the accolades that have been placed on it by the indie film community (netting awards at SXSW, Fantasia, Fantaspoa and Sitges). Maybe its lacking any substantial extras, but it looks and sounds fantastic and is a bargain at its mid-range pricing level.
A superior take on horror comedy, twisting convention and iconography into all shapes of awesome. Delightfully playful while still delivering heaps of gory pay-offs for the horror fans to enthuse over: a worth-while addition to any self-respecting Blu-Ray collection.
Sharp detail, rich colors and a great all-round sound mix make for a fantastic recreation of the cinematic experience; which is thankful as Im betting many of you missed this on its cinema run (there were huge issues in distribution), I know I certainly did.
There are slim-pickins to be found under the Bonus menu; the Making Of is devastatingly short, and the production stills are really just a supplement to the behind the scenes featurette. Get past this though, as it should never be special features that monetize the worth of a great film.
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is a regular doozy of a film, with slick presentation all round. Its a steal at its mid-range price and promises to delight hardcore gore aficionados and the casual film fan alike. Look no further for the next must-own cult horror release, its right here. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is available on Blu-ray from tomorrow