Hillbilly heroes and real “Evil”


Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

dir. Eli Craig

Release Date: Oct 07, 11

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The “hillbilly horror” subgenre has enjoyed a long and fruitful life ever since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre came out nearly 40 years ago, and credit for this probably belongs to the inherent Northerner paranoia of “uncivilized” lands. The backwoods of the South are commonly sold as a hard and brutal place, home of banjos and taxidermy, hunting and inbreeding. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil wants us to take another look, though. Maybe those suspicious hillbillies at the dilapidated gas station aren’t actually psychopaths, and just want to make friends with some college kids.

This is how the hilarious (and hilariously violent) Evil begins. Dale (Tyler Labine) is a gentle giant, wanting only to hang out with his friend Tucker (Alan Tudyk), drink beer and rebuild the run-down vacation home that Tucker purchased. When a group of obnoxious co-eds rolls through town, Dale become smitten with Allison (Katrina Bowden), but through a series of perfectly pitched misunderstandings ends up convincing the group that these two locals are out to murder them all.

After the heroes end up saving Allison from a nasty fall into a lake, they take her home, convincing the college kids that she’s been abducted, and that they have to kill or be killed. In Eli Craig’s cockeyed script, they are, taking themselves out in spectacular ways and building a massive misunderstanding with impalings galore as a foundation. More importantly, though, Craig’s knack for gross-out violence is offset by a genuine affection for Tucker and Dale; it’s not their fault that “a bunch of teenagers just started killing themselves all over our property.” Rather, it’s the fault of horror filmmakers for making these gentle men into monsters that privileged college kids can run from, screaming.

Tudyk has a good handful of one-liners as the put-upon Tucker, but mostly he plays the straight man to Labine, who turns Dale into a revelatory comic creation. Beset on all sides by an ever-growing pile of bodies, Dale just wants to play board games with Allison, and maybe even take her bowling one day. Like Dale, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil has the sense of humor that so much modern horror is missing, and even deeper, a big, goofy heart that you can’t help but love.