Tucker and Dale an inventively gruesome comedic sensation
 

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posted Friday, October 7, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 40

Tucker and Dale an inventively gruesome comedic sensation
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN Contributing Writer

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
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Tucker and Dale vs. Evil was one of the runaway hits of the 2010 Seattle International Film Festival. Heck, going back even further, it was a bona fide smash at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Seriously, it's been a hit at every single festival it has played, it has been a modest hit theatrically abroad, and, to my knowledge, I haven't met a single person who has seen it - critic or regular festivalgoer - who didn't at least moderately enjoy it.

So why is this rollicking, genre-bending, blood-spurting glory of a black comedy only now getting a release? Your guess is as good as mine. While I would have preferred a wider debut than the limited number of theaters Magnet Releasing is ultimately going to give it (it's also available OnDemand), I'm happy it's finally getting out there for general audiences to see. This deliriously exuberant and malevolently inspired treat is an instant cult classic that people are going to be doing backflips over.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are two regular Southern guys who can't wait to get to their dilapidated mountain cabin ('It's a fixer-upper!') to spend a little quiet time fishing and drinking beer. But their tranquility is shattered when sexy college kid Allison (Katrina Bowden) literally falls into their laps, the young woman suffering a calamitous accident while swimming leaving the two dimwitted but caring everymen to try and take care of her.

But Allison's friends don't see it that way. Led by the closed-minded Chad (Jesse Moss), they become convinced that these two hillbillies are refugees straight out of Deliverance, and that it is up to them to save Allison from their pig-squealing clutches. The next thing Tucker and Dale know, they've got a gaggle of college kids accidentally dying all around them in the bloodiest ways possible, and for the life of them, they haven't a clue what is going on and why all these clean-cut, nice-looking youngsters would suddenly start impaling themselves on tree branches and diving into wood chippers.

This movie is certifiably insane - that's a given - but it's also extremely witty, has far more intelligence than you might originally expect, and has a grand time exploding clich├ęs and playing with an audience's expectations. Things never quite work out the way you think they are going to, and as soon as the blood and guts start to fly, all bets are off as to who is going to live, who is going to die, and what, exactly, the eventual outcome is going to be.

Director and co-writer Eli Craig, along with fellow screenwriter Morgan Jurgenson, have a done a glorious job of subverting convention and playing with the B-grade splatter horror film genre in a way that feels refreshing and new. Much like what Peter Jackson did with both Bad Taste and Dead Alive or what Jonathan King managed (to an admittedly somewhat lesser extent) to do with Black Sheep, the duo have crafted an ingenious bit of grotesque satire that's boldly unconventional and yet supremely entertaining. Limbs may be severed, viscera might get thrown at the screen by the bucketload, yet there is a warmth and subtly whimsical honesty that pervades the picture from start to finish. Tucker and Dale are nice guys stuck in a bad situation, and as absurd and as disgusting as things might get, nothing that happens changes that.

Tudyk and Labine never overplay their respective hands, never take their performances too far over the top. Yes, what is going on is ridiculous, and sure, they're playing a couple of not particularly sharp yokels, but that doesn't mean either allows their performance to lapse into caricature or stereotype. While they have fun, they don't make fun - a difference sure to be lost on some, but noticeable to me, and I found myself caring and relating to both men far more intimately than I probably would have otherwise.

I'm not sure what happened here. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a wonderfully entertaining bit of splatter comedy that just gets better and better the more I think about it. It plays beautifully, and much like Attack the Block, it is supremely entertaining popcorn-munching fluff I could watch again and again without much trouble at all. I love this movie - I ranked it as my second favorite film to come out of last year's Seattle festival, right behind Winter's Bone - so as far as 2011 is concerned, there's a good chance you could see me talking about it again come the end of December.



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