R, 1 hr. 26 min. Directed By: Eli Craig. Release Date: Sep 30, 2011. DVD Release Date: Nov 29, 2011.
Horror comedy is a rough trade. Lots of folks have tried and failed, and those that manage it tend to do it either accidentally or through spoof, which is kind of the mime of comedy. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil actually manages to pull it off pretty well, although this particular variant of comedy is something that you might get if you tried to breed The Three Stooges with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The same kind of funny that occurs organically in my favorite scene in Pulp Fiction, the one where Travolta shoots the guy in the back seat of the car because Samuel L. Jackson was driving too fast when they hit a speed bump.
I won’t say that the merger of horror and comedy is flawless. I also won’t say that all of the scenes intended to be funny are. Both of those statements would be lies. But, they hit the majority of their marks the majority of the time. What’s left follows the vague formula in any horror movie involving a group of kids on a road trip for the weekend to some Cabin in the Woods. If this movie has a fault, it’s predictability, all the way through to the end credits. The story’s “twist” when it appears with a Shyamalanic boom, has been foreshadowed to within an inch of its life and isn’t a surprise to well, I think anyone.
Two cast members save this film from abject failure: Alan Tudyk (who seems to be brilliant in just about any role he’s cast in so long as he can be quirky) and Tyler Labine, who play the eponymous Tucker and Dale, respectively. These two are so believably good-natured in their roles as bumbling hicks trying (and failing) to make a few new friends that it’s hard not to like them, even when they do things that accidentally cause others to well, lose their lives, or misinterpret events so soundly that you can’t figure out how two groups of people speaking the same language could end up in the situations like that.
As good as Labine and Tudyk are, that’s how terrible the “college kids” are. Most of them are second- or third-stringers that you’ve seen playing similar roles in the past. Chelan Simmons seems to be popping up in every straight-to-video and failed TV pilot in variations on the same role: stupid, spoiled, mean, and sort of slutty in a way that’s probably meant to be, um, stimulating, but really fails. Jesse Moss’ performance was so terrible that I hope he didn’t get a performance bonus for his role and I hope he doesn’t expect to keep working in the biz if that’s as good as it gets.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is funny, despite its flaws. At 90 minutes, this is the kind of movie that’s great for when you’re doing something else, but are looking for background movie. I also suggest that people with more time and creative energy than myself might be able to put together a fine drinking game out of this… but I’m way too old for that kind of thing myself.