As Richard Kuipers, programmer of the “Freak Me Out” stream of the Sydney Film Festival, noted in his opening address to the film back in June, the sub-genre of murderous hillbillies has been around since at least the 1960s. With thousands of white-bread college kids having paid the ultimate sacrifice for wandering into the turf of banjo-playing psychopaths or the undead, with such classics as Friday the 13th, Evil Dead and Bay of Blood along the way. Eli Craig’s clever twist on the splatter genre turns the tables on the unwitting hillbillies in this wonderful horror comedy.
When hillbillies Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) head out for a vacation to their dilapidated “fixer upper” cabin in the woods, all they want to do is drink beer, go fishing and generally have a good time. However, when they run into a group of preppy college kids, who are convinced that the titular pair are inbred chainsaw wielding yokels, things take a turn for the bizarre. When the young Allison (Katrina Bowden) is accidentally knocked out while swimming, Tucker and Dale take her in for convalescence. Convinced that they have kidnapped her, the college kids mount an all-out assault on the cabin…
Building on the proud tradition of Evil Dead II, Club Dread and more recently Piranha 3D, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil cleverly takes all the familiar conventions of the splatter-gore genre and mocks them for what will no doubt be a willing audience. Yet Craig clearly knows his audience well and, rather that pounding us with references to other films, he cleverly weaves them into the narrative of this very sharp genre comedy. The kind of escalating madness that is found in most killer rampage films is here, building from a misunderstanding involving a bee’s nest and a chainsaw through to a mistimed leap and a wood-chipper. All play their part in the cosmic ballet that is comedy-horror-gore, from the bumbling sheriff to the bright-eyed cheerleaders, but just when you think you’ve got it all mapped out, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil cleverly turns the tables yet again to serve up a steaming pile of red gooey hilarity.
This Canadian indie has been languishing on the shelves for a few years, and it is pleasing to finally see it get a release, shedding light on an impressively mounted cast. Tyler Labine, last seen in Control Alt Delete and Zack and Miri Make a Porno, makes a wonderful leading man as the hapless Dale, and his presence in the forthcoming Rise of the Planet of the Apes gives us hope for its quality too. It’s also great to see Alan Tudyk step out of the shadow of countless television appearances that’s he’s never broken away from since his wonderful appearance in Firefly. A almost flawless example of how to make a film of its kind.