There is a decent amount of horror films that attempt to deconstruct the subgenres or flat out destroy convention within recent memory. Where there is a slasher film, there is Scream. Where there is a vampire film, there is What We Do in the Shadows. Now where there is a hillbilly setting, there is Tucker and Dale vs Evil. A horror comedy that attacks the tropes of the setting, such as The Hills have Eyes or Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The type of films that go after our sense of judgement, creating terrifying situations from a side of life not many of us know much about. Tucker and Dale vs Evil attempts to deconstruct our thought process about this type of setting and reverse our thinking on judging another person simply because they are different. While that is an interesting idea for a film, does it effectively reach that level of understanding as a horror comedy?
Tucker and Dale vs Evil is exactly what the title suggests. We have Tucker and Dale who have bought a vacation home in a secluded area. It’s nice and quaint and a bit of a fixer-upper, but little do they know that this was the den of two deranged killers who massacred a bunch of college kids. Enter a new bunch of college kids who see Tucker and Dale and through a couple of instances now feel threatened by their very appearance and we see the dark comedy ensue. Tucker and Dale are just average guys, sure they look a certain way but when it comes down to it they have good hearts and don’t want to hurt anyone. They are just terrible at making people see them as nothing but a bunch of stereotypes with the weird antics they get up into such as sawing into a hive of wasps then running at the college kids a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre while only trying to escape from some wasps. It will play up the classics and the tropes for laughs like this where we as the audience know they are harmless but those college kids have their minds wired to this idea that they are crazy hillbillies that want to kill them.
From the perspective of a horror movie fan, this film is a hoot at times if not a bit played out by the end of it. It knows the setting quite well and utilizes iconic sequences like the one I just described for some unintentional fun. This isn’t Tucker and Dale facing off against college kids, but rather them facing off against the true evil of a sense of prejudice towards how they look. Though if a guy walked up to you with a scythe and laughed creepily while asking you what you are doing, your mind wouldn’t immediately go to “he’s not good with girls”. They only want to do what is right, but these college kids have developed this idea that they are villains in need of being defeated and by their own stupidity continuously put themselves in dangerous scenarios and killing themselves. It’s darkly comedic to a fault and thanks to the lead performances of Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, Tucker and Dale respectively, it sells itself far more than I was expecting.
These two loveable dolts are perfect vehicles to enjoy this dark comedy through. They try to rationalize the thought process of the crazy college, all the while are having a doozy of a day that they will never forget. Tudyk and Labine are both loveable and relatable breaking down the stereotype of the “hillbilly” in a horror film. Labine’s Dale is the loveable goof who needs to learn how to love himself and understand that he is just as good as everyone else, while Tudyk’s Tucker is the stern but fair friend who only wants what’s best for Dale. They make us want to root for them as nothing will go their way after putting themselves out there to save the girl Allison only to have the rest of the college kids trying to kill them. The farce goes on to hilarious extremes where we as an audience can understand why the situation is happening but it still doesn’t make us laugh any less. This is a film that plays off our expectation of horror clichés and the classic misunderstandings that the horror genre can create involving stereotypes.
The college kids are a collection of extras and stereotypes as well, adding to the meta nature of the film. You have the final girl, the alpha male, the coward, the prissy girl, the strong-willed girl and it goes on. Each of these characters are tweaked to add to the dilemma as the alpha male, Chad played by Jesse Moss, enjoys the ability to potentially kill Tucker and Dale. The more they go into his character the more contrived the plot becomes and the comedy starts to drain, but for the most part Chad plays the role of antagonist really well. It’s funny to see his worldview always proven wrong, but he is probably the only element in the climax that makes the film feel a bit too much. The climax kind of goes overboard with the deconstructing of tropes and really aims for the stars with its final few scenes. While there is some clever moments, it does nothing to offset the insane moment that kind of sours the climax. There is a lot of craftsmanship in this film, yet at times it feels a little too well-crafted as some jokes you can see coming a mile away. It doesn’t necessarily detract from when the jokes happens, but it certainly makes the film feel too clean or curated to specific moments of “oh here it comes” rather than grabbing you by surprise. This becomes more apparent in the second half of the film then the first half, and certainly detracts from the lasting impact this film has as a whole.
Yet at the heart of the comedy is something that easily offsets these flaws and that is the heart of the film, Dale. His tale of overcoming judgement and learning to respect himself is what really sells this film. His overwhelmingly negativity constantly halts him back from doing what he wants in life since of course the way he sees himself is how everyone else does, a creepy and dumb hillbilly. He shows himself to be anything but, destroying that stereotype with his kind nature and eidetic memory. Watching his journey over the course of the film and the relationship he shares with Tucker and the blooming love he has with Allison is more than enough to complement the trope-destroying comedy.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil does exactly what it sets out to do, effectively creating a heartwarming dark comedy. Its messages are timeless and even those not entrenched in the horror genre can appreciate its tale and humour. It is a film that went under the radar when it was first released in 2011, but it should have cult status and general acclaim. More people should know about this film than a lot of the other horror trite we get throughout the year. It’s more than just a horror comedy, and for that I would readily recommend it to those who just would want to have a fun time.
Always nice seeing good Canadian movies…makes you proud. If more horror comedies like What We Do in the Shadows or Tucker and Dale vs Evil came out nowadays I could easily go out to the theaters and watch a horror comedy. It’s sad that a lot of the good horror films are often the ones overlooked when they were first released and gain a following over time.
So have you seen Tucker and Dale vs Evil? What modern horror comedies do you think more people should watch? Feel free to leave a comment down below and don’t forget to have yourself an awesome day!