TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is a mordant comedy of errors that juggles the clichés of its genre with a buoyant impudence. And blood. A whole lot of blood. The genre is slasher flick, the sub-category is dumb college students in the woods, and in a refreshing turn of events, it is their very dumbness that does them in, not at the hands of a creepy serial killer, but directly because of their stupidity. And their various demises are rendered in ways that have within them a delicious poetic justice.
It is also the story of Dale (Tyler Labine), a hillbilly on his way to renovate his vacation cabin with best buddy Tucker (Alan Tudyk). En route, Dale claps his eyes on Ali (Katrina Bowden) and suddenly longs to date outside his league. And thus, with misguided words of encouragement from Tucker that mean well, does Dale inadvertently set in motion the bloodbath to follow by approaching Ali with a scythe and laughing for no apparent reason. When approached by the scythe-bearing Dale, this winsome blonde recoils in terror. As do her eight friends, otherwise known as fodder for the body count. With tales of killer hillbillies racing through their fevered brains, the college students do what dumb college students do in such situations, they hie themselves hither to the deep dark piney wood where their snobbish brand of class prejudice will not serve them well.
What follows is a clever conceit wherein Tucker and Dale innocently find themselves in situations that become more and more difficult to explain to anyone not present when they occurred. The kids become more and more agitated as the body count rises, Tucker and Dale become more and more horrified by how badly the kids are behaving, and things go from bad to worse with a wood-chipper and a chain saw complicating matters even further.
As the innocent bystanders of the piece, Labine and Tudyk are a perfect pairing. Tudyk adds the perfect soupcon of archness to Tucker’s deadpan dimness, while Labine uses his cherubic beefiness to underscore Dale huge heart rather than his imposing mass. There is something poignant in Tudyk’s Tucker, the brains, a term used generously, of the two as he is perpetually caught between the astonishment at Dale’s effortless ability to miss the point of any situation, including a gun being pointed at him, and his dawning terror of why a gun and several other weapons are so consistently being pointed in his direction. It is, without overselling it, a deeply accessible and emotionally resonant take on the struggle of humankind in a world not of its making with Tucker as a plaything of fate wanting only a cold beer, a fishing pole, and a little peace and quiet with his best buddy, and, instead, facing death precisely because of those longings.
The violence is brutal, yet director and co-writer Eli Craig makes it all about karma, with impeccable timing that allows the title characters and their nemeses to maintain their pristine ignorance of what is really happening around them until it is too late. Craig, rather than make it seem reasonable, lets the audience off the hook with a half-wink to them by using a mannerist style as terror grips the woods, the medicinal properties of beer are explored, and true love comes at a very high price.
TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL shows no mercy with its raucously funny rampage of low humor, subtle comedy, and rivers of gore. Approach with caution and then surrender to the absurdity of it all.