In horror movies, taking a vacation in the woods never seems to work out so well. There are a number of variations on the theme, including the traditional slasher (exemplified by the Friday the 13th movies) and, of course, the Hillbilly Horror subgenre in which a bunch of kids find themselves in a rural area (usually in the deep south or, most notoriously, West Virginia), hunted by inbred cannibals. As it turns out, hillbilly horror cinema is a surprisingly deep subgenre, including the likes of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Cabin Fever, Deliverance, Wrong Turn, and dozens of others.
Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a new horror comedy that takes full advantage of that tired premise by turning it on its head. It begins with the typical establishing shots of Hillbilly Horror, following a group of college kids as they go camping in the woods of West Virginia. I don’t want to give too much of it away, but the twist is that after the initial sequence, this film is told from the perspective of the hillbillies… and it doesn’t quite play out like you’d expect.
The clever script plays with the tropes of the genre and, quite amazingly, winds up being more plausible than most of its brethren. Even when the misunderstandings and accidents begin piling up and escalating (a process most films of this type usually stuble at), the film maintains an even keel. It’s also maybe the funniest movie of the year so far. Anchored by great performances from Alan Tudyk (who you know as Wash from Firefly/Serenity), Katrina Bowden and especially Tyler Labine as Dale, it’s a parody with a heart. There are tons of in-jokes and references to other films, but they’re subtle and never distracting. It shows reverence for the subgenre whilst skewering it mercilessly.
Again, I don’t want to ruin the movie, and quite frankly, I’d recommend avoiding the trailer, as it gives away a number of the comedic beats in the film. It is perhaps not a perfect film, but I was quite taken with it. It’s currently available on Comcast’s VOD (and perhaps other cable providers’ VOD services), though it is a bit expensive (still cheaper than most theaters though). I believe it’s slated for a limited theatrical release later in the month as well. It’s well worth checking out, especially for fans of horror.
Incidentally, writer/director Eli Craig was the guest on the /Filmcast last week, which is where I heard of this film in the first place. Check out the episode (and the After Dark episode)…