Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with a special edition of AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS. I had a chance to talk with genre actor Alan Tudyk about his new film, TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL. But before we get to the interview, here’s a review of the film.
TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)Directed by Eli Craig
Written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jergenson
Available on VOD now and in theaters September 30th!
Find out more about the film here!
Starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Chelan Simmons
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The horror comedy is very difficult to accomplish. Too much comedy, it softens the horror and makes it all pretty ridiculous. Also there’s a factor of the comedy actually being funny, which is harder than usual to play off. Too much horror, and the comedy fails. But if you go too far over the top with the horror and gore, then it overshadows the comedy or negates it. With the genres seemingly at odds with comedy reliant effortlessness and improvisation and horror being so meticulously framed and acted out, one wonders how any horror comedies ever worked. I can name only a few that have been totally successful; EVIL DEAD 2, MOTEL HELL, ZOMBIELAND, maybe the original SCREAM, but that’s more of a spoof of the genre than real horror (I know that’s debatable). There does seem to be a trend these days with mixing horror and comedy. I think it’s a coping mechanism for most. Rather than tackling a subject head-on. The safe way to approach things is to make fun of it, which often times lessens the impact of the horror. While I wax on and off about horrors and comedies and their kooky relationship, consider TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL.
Never in danger of taking itself too seriously, TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL walks that precarious line between horror and comedy and comes out a winner. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play Tucker and Dale respectively. Like a classic comedy team, the two play off of each other with Tudyk being the surly straight man to Labine’s innocent naïveté. There’s a deep friendship between the two of them which is apparent from their first moments on screen and Tudyk and Labine but enough sincerity and heart in the characters to show that they are taking these two dolt hillbillies seriously, even if the story is ridiculous.
And the story is pretty ridiculous, but genius too. Instead of focusing a group of pretty twenty-somethings, the narrative focuses on Tucker and Dale, two hillbillies who just want to own their own home and fish all day. When that simple dream becomes a reality, a group of kids stumble upon them and mistake them for DELIVERANCE-style hillbillies. A series of ridiculously hilarious events occur to make Tucker and Dale look responsible for the kids’ deaths and all hell breaks loose. Everyone in this film is an idiot, but fully committed to their idiocy. It works amazingly well.
Writer/director Eli Craig pulls off the impossible here, making a genuinely funny film with over the top gore. TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL touches on all of those clichés we’ve come to love and grow tired of in the horror convention, but does so with a fresh perspective and with a cast (most notably Tudyk and Labine) that is truly exceptional. By the end of this film, I could see this being a franchise with Tucker & Dale facing off against all types of evil!
And now, here’s what Alan had to say about TUCK & DAVE VS EVIL!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Alan, how are you doing today?
ALAN TUDYK (AT): I’m good thanks, how are you?
BUG: Well I’m good. It really is a pleasure to talk with you. I’m a big fan of yours. I’ve seen a ton of your films, from the Whedon stuff and to the more recent stuff like TRANSFORMERS, so it’s great to be able to talk with you.
AT: Cool, thanks.
BUG: We are talking about TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL today. Do you want to explain to the readers at Ain’t It Cool what the movie is all about?
AT: It’s about two good old boys who go out to their vacation cabin for the first time to fix it up and to enjoy a fishing vacation when a group of college kids mistake them for the type of hillbillies that committed a mass college kid killing twenty five years prior to the day and… (Laughs) Oh God, this is awful having to explain this about the movie. You would think I’d have this part down. This is Eli Craig’s job. Where am I? So twenty five years to the day… You know it’s better if… A group of college kids camping on a weekend camping trip start to die… (Laughs) and they place the blame on a couple of good old boys that they figure are killer hillbillies, but they’re not.
BUG: I have seen the film and I know what you are talking about. I really thought it had the right mix of horror and comedy and you don’t often see that in horror comedies, it’s either strong in one or the other or sometimes neither, but both aspects are strong here. How did you come across this script? What did you think of it when you first read it?
AT: It was just one that was given to me by my agent. I loved it. I thought in the beginning, when I started to read after the first college kid died I was just really excited that the stakes were going to be that high and that people were actually going to die in the film, it wasn’t going to pull punches that way and then I initially thought “I don’t know how he’s going to keep all of these balls in the air. I don’t know how this is going to work. The first death, “okay they misunderstand it to be them… but the second, they would go for the… oh wait they are going to go for the cops. Okay, so that makes sense. But wait by now the cop would have shown up… oh wait, the cops are here… Now what the hell are they going to do?” It just kept going and by the end I was like “Wow, I think he actually pulled it off.” Every time I thought there would be something that would stand in the way of it working, he found a way around it and with great humor.
BUG: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Tyler Labine? He was your costar in this film and you guys share most of the film together, what was it like working with him? You guys seemed to have a great rapport between the two of you.
AT: Yeah, we got along really well. We got to work right when we got there. He has a similar work ethic and I mean he’s just an impressive actor. There are some actors that you can tell how they are doing what they are doing, you see their tricks. It’s a craft. (Laughs) Acting is a craft, so if you’re a craftsman yourself, then you can see how people do what they do, but Tyler’s one that I’m like “I don’t know how he does what he does.” He just does it and it impressive to me. That’s exciting. That brings up your game I guess. You don’t want to look like a slouch next to him, so you just keep throwing the ball back and forth I guess in a way. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m not making sense all of a sudden. I’m going to get some coffee, that’d be awesome.
BUG: It made sense to me. I agree, I think you guys did play well off of each other. So what about the director, Eli Craig? What was it like working with the director of this film and did he have a specific approach with horror and comedy that was different than some of the other directors that you have worked with in the past?
AT: Well one way that he was different from other directors is he was very keen on this being a collaborative effort, you know? He wanted our opinions. He was great at leading us, but he was also listening and so there’s a lot of improv in the movie and he’s part of it.
BUG: I was going to ask about that. How much of the comedy was improv?
AT: He was one of the improv voices that once you are in the situation and things start to change and come up, he’s like “Oh wait, why don’t you say this? What if you did this?” He was very flexible and was supportive of our different ideas. That was encouraging. It just made you want to… You stopped limiting yourself and started to come up with more stuff.
BUG: Yeah, that just makes me think, horror is such a well plotted, well planned out genre and then comedy is so… it works best almost when it is improvised or when it is something that just kind of… it’s the timing and off the cuff stuff that’s going on. Do you see this as a horror comedy, or a comedy with horror elements?
AT: I see this as a horror comedy and that was what I asked Eli when I first talked to him on the phone about it, how he saw it and that was the way that I put it, does he see it as a comedy horror or a horror comedy and my distinction there is a comedy horror would be something like the SCARY MOVIE type where it’s primarily a comedy, but they use horror spoofing, but it’s really broad and very, “Comedy with a capitol K” and this is a horror movie… This situation is so ridiculous, I mean the circumstances are so ridiculous I should say, and the people in it are so stupid. The college kids are so stupid and Tucker and Dale are endearingly stupid at times, really dumb, that they are like “I know what this is… this is a suicide pact… We have got to hide the sharp objects, more than likely they will come in here and grab them and start to try to cut on themselves.” They’re trying to childproof the woods or something. (Laughs) It’s the circumstances that bring out the humor, but the playing of it needed to be as real as possible.
BUG: It seems a little bit like the tone of THE EVIL DEAD and films like that, even going back to MOTEL HELL and stuff like there where there is definitely comedic parts to it, but at its heart it’s mostly a horror film, because there are a lot of scenes that really shocked me where it’s like I couldn’t believe that this happened and then all of a sudden something else happened. It really was pretty horrifying, but also there’s this kind of slapstick sense to it, too.
AT: Yeah, when somebody is on fire and burning to death, that’s horror, that’s horrible, (laughs), that’s horrifying with horror in it, but if you have someone burning to death or slightly burning and then somebody tries to help them by putting it out with something from a jar that turns out to be turpentine and gets them on fire more, then they catch the curtain and they are like “Come on, this is my house man.” And “Jesus, he’s crackling like a log.” There’s all the humor to it. It’s terrible. (Laughs)
BUG: It’s the gallows humor, it’s great. So you’ve done a lot of films and some of them have been serious with more dramatic roles and others have been comedic, do you prefer one over the other? What do you bring to each role? How do you approach each type of role like that?
AT: Each one is different. You know, approaching TUCKER AND DALE, I tried to make him as real as possible. A lot of TUCKER AND DALE is about figuring out who Dale was and how they work as a team, as best friends, but you know the approach to that is not very different from the approach to Doc Potter in 3:10 TO YUMA. You just want to connect with who they are and “what do they say?” “What do people say about them?” It’s all of the basic acting shit that you learn. I tend to like comedies more.
BUG: Why is that?
AT: I have more ideas about it. I did a stint on a Joss Whedon TV show, DOLLHOUSE. I played an evil guy on the show. He’s described as an evil thing from the very beginning, this character or “Alpha” and nobody knows what he looks like and I played Alpha and when I got introduced in the TV show I’m introduced as this agoraphobic pot growing guy who is just afraid of everything and he gets kidnapped by an FBI agent and doesn’t want to leave and he’s afraid to walk down stairs if they don’t have risers on them, because “somebody might snap their ankles” and like everything scares him and then once he gets left alone, he flips and he’s actually putting on an act and he’s this terrifying guy who starts cutting up people’s faces with a scalpel and I had such a blast playing that crazy agoraphobic guy. I don’t think it was until I did this role that I really realized the difference for me, how much I liked comedy. Because when it came to a scene where it was comedic, I was like “Oh, we could do it this way or this way. Hey can I do this? What if I say this?” I just had a lot of ideas, then when it came to being this horrific killer it takes so much more concentration, I have to stay quiet… I just have to really kind of stay focused on what I’m doing and be thoughtful. I’m more of an idiot clown in my real life and so it becomes sort of second nature to me to do it at work.
BUG: Okay. Alright, well it is a fantastic movie. I also just wanted to note how I really like the way they flipped it where usually the hillbilly characters are the ones that are not the central focus of the film and they are the ones that are either made fun of or they are the bad guys or there is something off with the hillbillies and it’s always the kids that are the heroes and I just love that they flip that in this film. Did that attract you to the film?
AT: It was that. The idea behind it was fresh, I had never heard of it before. It was one of those ideas that when I hear I went “I’m surprised I haven’t seen this before,” which is always a good thing and then it was that Eli wanted to play it… I liked the characters. I thought the script worked really well, and then the clincher was “I get to play this seriously?” And just the ridiculousness of it, which brings the humor. It’s like YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is a good example, it’s a hysterical movie, but Gene Wilder never… In that movie Gene Wilder plays it straight, even when he’s doing “Putting on the Ritz” with the monster you know, that’s such a ridiculous scene. He can’t say the words, but he’s tap dancing and putting on a show and you know that’s the kind of comedy I always love and the kind of acting I always loved and so when Eli wanted to do it straight, even though there are ridiculous moments where you would be absolutely ridiculous things and saying ridiculous things, that’s what really excited me.
BUG: Well I think both in drama and horror, I like seeing you in both of those, so keep up both of them hopefully.
AT: Thanks man.
BUG: Once last question, where are we going to see you next? I know you are constantly working on things, so what’s the next thing for you?
AT: I finished a movie called ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER which was a novel that was really popular, best selling and all of that. I play Stephen A. Douglas in it and that will be out next summer I think. I think that’s when it’s going to be out and I started a TV show… I’m doing a TV show right now that premieres a month from now on ABC right before MODERN FAMILY, Wednesday nights.
BUG: What’s that called?
AT: It’s called SUBURGATORY.
BUG: Alright, well thank you so much for taking the time out to talk with me today. I’ll get this interview up as soon as I can, hopefully by next week so that it can be in time for the opening of the movie.
AT: Thank you very much. I’m glad you liked the movie.
BUG: Yeah and the movie opens next Friday, is that correct?
AT: No, the movie goes out on… The distributor, this is how they do movies, they will do it starting tomorrow with a Movie on Demand. You can like go to iTunes and buy it. You can watch it on Movies on Demand I guess, like Videos on Demand, and it will be out for like the month and then it is released into theaters on September 30th.
BUG: Sounds good. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk with me. I know you’ve got a busy schedule, so I appreciate your time.
AT: I appreciate it man, thank you for taking the time as well.
BUG: Great, have a good day.
AT: Cheers, you too.
BUG: As Alan said, you can check out TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL on VOD and then it’s released in theaters September 30th. Be sure to check it out!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and will be releasing FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA in October (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) Order Code: AUG111067! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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