John Ary here with another installment of Ain’t It Scary Reviews. Today, a group of college kids take on two redneck bumpkins in a battle to the death.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil teaches a valuable lesson. Never judge a book by its cover. That’s true in the film and of the movie poster. I was expecting a dumb gore fest featuring backwoods creeps and nubile blondes getting killed in awful ways. I was only half right.
The movie opens with your typical horror set-up: a quick hack and slash murder, a car full of college kids ready to have a good time in the woods, and a beat-up truck driven by two mysterious rednecks. From there the film slowly shifts paradigms and perceptions. I hate to say much more, because this is a movie that works best when you go in knowing as little as possible.
The kills are setup to surprise and tickle. People lose faces, fingers and torsos in horrific ways. At first the deaths are unexpected and then slowly become more telegraphed, creating a giddy anticipation. After awhile you know who’s going to get it, it just becomes a question of how.
The film’s pacing is brisk, never sitting in one place too long. We’re given small intimate moments with the characters, where we get to learn about their motivations and feelings, but then we quickly move on to another setup for a bloody death.
The tone reminds me of Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland. Serious things happen to the characters and we fear for their safety, but bits of situational humor keep the mood light. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine deserve a lot of credit for creating characters that move beyond stereotypes. Their clever performances are full of nuance and when bad stuff happens you can’t help but root for them. It’s their emotional bond that helps to anchor the film.
In addition to some excellent kills, terrific pacing and strong performances, Tucker and Dale vs Evil has a lot more heart and humor than you would expect. First-time writer/director Eli Craig gives us a typical cabin in the woods setting, fills it with all of the routine characters and then expertly turns the situation on its head. By the end he’s delivered a bucket-full of gory kills, our perceptions about the characters are challenged and maybe we’ve learned a little lesson. This is a trip into the woods I hope to take again very soon.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil is streaming on Netflix. It’s also available on Blu-ray here.
Check back in tomorrow for another Ain’t It Scary Review as US consumers can’t eat enough of a strange white goo that bubbles up from the ground.
Here’s a look back at the Ain’t It Scary Review installments that you might have missed:
The Ground Rules to the Project
#1 Son of Frankenstein
#2 Scream, Blacula, Scream!
#3 Black Sabbath
#5 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
#6 Invisible Invaders
#7 The Mummy’s Curse
#8 Lord of Illusions
#9 Night of the Demons
#10 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
#11 The House of the Devil
#12 Dr. Phibes Rises Again!
#14 The Catman of Paris
#17 Werewolf of London
#18 Tales from the Hood
#19 The Keep
#20 The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
#22 Night of the Living Dead
#23 Pit and the Pendulum
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