This cheerfully stupid horror/comedy hybrid may not have the clever sophistication of a fanboy fright-fest like Shaun of the Dead, but it definitely knows how to deliver a great woodchipper gag.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are good-natured but not-too-bright hillbillies excited about getting their first look at Tucker’s vacation home in the Appalachian backwoods. Clueless college kids who stop for gas at a ramshackle general store get the wrong idea the two might be serial killers. Dale doesn’t help matters when he awkwardly tries making time with one of the girls while carrying a scary scythe. As he later observes, “I should’ve known if a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody’d end up dead.”
Although Tucker’s cabin turns out to be a dilapidated dump, he and Dale think it’s paradise. One of the movie’s best sight gags (and there are plenty) is that neither of the two rustic rubes notices that dozens of newspaper clippings filling one wall all feature stories about murders and missing persons.
The preposterously preppy city kids unknowingly make camp close to the cabin. Chad (Jesse Moss), an arrogant ’80s-throwback in a pastel polo shirt, has the very unrequited hots for blond beauty Allison (Katrina Bowden, best known as the sexy secretary Cerie on TV’s 30 Rock). When Tucker and Dale see Allison slip off a boulder and knock herself unconscious, they take her back to the cabin to recuperate — but her friends think they’ve witnessed a sinister abduction.
The rest of the movie consists of similar misunderstandings and misjudgments, with ridiculously violent consequences. As the fatalities mount, the campers become more convinced that Tucker and Dale are murderous fiends, while Tucker and Dale reach the conclusion that the college kids intentionally are killing themselves as part of some weird suicide pact.
In one of the best horror-fan in-joke incidents, Tucker doesn’t realize a huge nest of bees is inside a log he’s sawing. When the swarm attacks, he runs from behind the cabin. Crazily swinging the still-running chainsaw, he looks exactly like Leatherface at the end of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The college kids flee from him in such a panic that one accidentally impales himself on a horizontal tree branch. Ouchie.
As the goofy and exasperated Tucker, Tudyk resembles a young Chris Elliott. Labine, whose similarities to Jack Black were close enough to look like impersonations in the TV series Reaper and this month’s earlier A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, changes things up here with an almost childlike performance as Dale.
First-time feature director Eli Craig, who cowrote the screenplay with Morgan Jurgenson, keeps everything enjoyably silly. The multiple and often mortal mishaps are cleverly staged for maximum groanworthiness.
One thing Tucker & Dale Vs Evil has in common with Take Shelter, an otherwise couldn’t-be-more-different film that is being released the same day, is that both movies go on a little too long. In this flick, scenes in a hospital and bowling alley that are supposed to tie things up with a nice bow are so flat they undercut the movie’s subversive absurdity.
Fortunately, that flaw isn’t significant enough to spoil a movie that includes moments such as Tucker matter-of-factly noting that a woodchipper victim he’s dragging is “heavy for half a guy,” or Dale reacting to the sight of a bloody hand by saying, “Oh my God, they cut off his bowling fingers!”
Tucker & Dale Vs Evil opens in Theaters on Friday September 30, 2011