Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Microreview [film]: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

The Meat

Let's be honest, even the best horror movie is only millimeters away from being a comedy. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, after a lunatic murders all of her friends, the lone, teenaged survivor is made to, you know, sit down to dinner with the killer's family. In Rosemary's Baby, a New York social climber sublets his wife's uterus to Satan. Suspiria is about a coven of witches that run a dance academy, for Pete's sake. So I like it when filmmakers are able to smartly foreground the humor -- gallows humor, to be sure, but humor -- inherent in the horror genre. That's a big, dumb, pretentious way of saying I like me a good horror-comedy.

But good ones are hard to find. I made one, which was far more comedy than horror, so I know how hard it is to strike the right balance. But Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is just such a rare bird. In it, a group of rich kids head out to the woods for a fun party weekend, and encounter two "scary-looking" blue-collar guys at a gas station on the edge of town. These two are Tucker and Dale, who are themselves heading out to the woods to start renovations on the vacation home Tucker just bought. In their rush to cast Tucker and Dale as the murderous hillbillies of so many horror movies, the kids misinterpret the situation when Tucker and Dale rescue one of the friends from drowning. They quickly decide that the hillbillies must have kidnapped, killed, and likely eaten their friend. Hilarity ensues. Bloody, bloody hilarity.

Seemingly every horror movie with a teenager in it involves a series of increasingly poor decisions that result in increasingly violent deaths at the hands of whatever evil entity is on hand -- serial killer, resurrected hockey player, etc. But in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil the only evil entities on hand are stupidity and unfair stereotyping. Part of the fun, then, is watching how the kids' increasingly poor decisions result in their increasingly violent deaths at their own hands. As these kids start dropping all around them, Tucker and Dale believe they've stumbled upon some type of college suicide cult, and that the kids are also trying to kill their own friend Allison, the girl Tucker and Dale saved from drowning and who is mostly unconscious inside the vacation home.

The leads are uniformly great. Tucker is the awesome-in-everything Alan Tudyk (of Firefly fame), Dale is played by Tyler Labine (from the under-appreciated and short-lived Reaper), and Allison is Katrina Bowden (the hyper-vacant Cerie from 30 Rock). The three of them bring a surprising amount of credibility to the actual emotional storyline.

The Math

Objective Quality: 7/10

Bonuses: +1 for actually having an emotional storyline; +1 for the cast; +1 for the line "I should've known if a guy like me tried to talk to a girl like you somebody would wind up dead."

Penalties: -1 for a third act that goes a little too over the top; -1 for an odd pre-credits sequence that confuses me.

Cult Film Coefficient: 8/10. "Well worth your time and attention."

[For an explanation of our scoring system, head on over here.]