Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
*½/**** Image A- Sound A Extras C-
starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss
screenplay by Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson
directed by Eli Craig
by Walter Chaw Essentially the dimwit punchline to Eli Roth's Cabin Fever ("My niggas!") extended to feature-length, hyphenate Eli Craig's debut is a polite send-up of kids-in-the-woods/Spam-in-a-cabin flicks that posits our titular rednecks as misunderstood sons of the earth while their yuppie "victims," overfed on a steady diet of too many horror flicks, are the real maniacs. It raises the interesting question of where Craig's allegiance truly lies, honestly, were one to dig into the premise, though the fact of it is that Tucker and Dale Vs Evil (hereafter Tucker and Dale)--no matter its whiplash homages to The Evil Dead, its re-enactment in part of the rape scene from Re-Animator, its obvious affection for The Texas Chain Saw Massacre--is a one-trick pony that runs out of steam about fifteen minutes in. Its earnestness allows it to play like other low-budget yuk-yuk slasher flicks like Severance and The Cottage: well-intended genre mash-notes that never entirely rise above slightly-informed spoof (in mild contrast to the uninformed-spoof Scary Movie franchise). But for the gore (and even with it, as the gore here is more cartoonish than gruesome), Tucker and Dale could be an SNL skit, interminable and bland.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are off on a fishing trip in the backwoods when a group of college kids led by impossibly-hot Allison (Katrina Bowden) and yuppie asshole Chad (Jesse Moss) get the wrong idea about Tucker and Dale and proceed to accidentally commit suicide as a result. One impales himself on a tree, another on a branch; a couple blow themselves up; one accidentally shoots himself in the head; and, for variety, a bumpkin sheriff (Philip Granger) gets prefrontally-pierced by a nail-encrusted two-by-four. All in good fun, as this comedy of misunderstandings churns along its single track, doing its best to maintain interest in the shenanigans of our beautiful people while Dale, having saved Allison from drowning, does his best to woo her in his Larry the Cable Guy way. It's hard to get too riled up about Tucker and Dale, not because it's mostly harmless, but because it's boring. Even as you're watching it, you've long since either gone on to do other things or you're actively doing more with the premise in the better movie playing in your head.
At the end of the day, Tucker and Dale is another one of those movies that gratifies casual genre fans for their basic knowledge of genre film. It's Scream for the hicksploitation crowd--the new Hollywood "Scene It?" game that appears now and again in the midst of lonely, all-male drinking parties. What's curious to me about the flick is that in literalizing the audience's desire to see the pretty ones punished, it's done nothing, really, to illuminate the tension already extant in slasher flicks that arises when one realizes (as one does during The Texas Chain Saw Massacre) that the hillbilly butchers are the good guys. (Same goes for Deliverance, with its middle-class weekenders enjoying the last days of an entire lifestyle about to be drowned in the name of someone else's progress.) It's the rich vein that Rob Zombie plumbs in his extraordinary Halloween reduxes, this idea that the ties that bind do so across every class and, moreover, that threats to family are always mortal ones. Tucker and Dale doesn't fail because it's not interesting--hell, it's fair to say that Tucker and Dale doesn't fail at all. But what it doesn't do is offer a compelling reason to exist beyond facilitating a (very) few shits and giggles before moseying off into instant forgetfulness.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers On Blu-ray, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil looks every inch the shot-with-Red production it is. That's not to condemn a solid 2.35:1, 1080p presentation, only to observe how quickly the camera's default modes--particularly the way it leaves a purple residue on the image--have taken root in the cinema's lexicon. Whites run characteristically hot though contrast is less or at least less consistently washed-out and flashed-seeming than anticipated, with boosted blacks enhancing the naturalism of those harsh shadows you get in cottage country. Fine detail is excellent if silky in a telltale manner, while digital artifacting is undetectable on a mid-size flatscreen display. The attendant 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is fairly typical for the era if not for the genre or indieprods as we know them--plentiful surround activity, ample bass, lossless audio bringing the various components of a chainsaw to life instead of burying them under a wall of generic vroom-vroom noise. Also on board is a feature-length commentary with director/co-writer Eli Craig and stars Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk. They talk lots but say little, although their camaraderie is pleasant to behold. They claim they had to persuade Kristina Bowden to not do nudity, which, unless they're being tongue-in-cheek, kind of makes me hate this movie disproportionately. Other topics: the inevitable budgetary compromises, ad libs, and the stars' fear that the picture wouldn't cut together. Late in the yakker, Labine poignantly expresses his fear that for all the gross-out effects, the one thing that would make audiences cringe is seeing his character kiss the girl.
Sadly, this disc's remaining special features are some of the most pathetic I've ever come across. "Making of Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (sic)" (12 mins., HD) is a textbook EPK in which the major players (cast, director) recap the plot before coalescing in a circle-jerk. A dehydrated version of this piece, "HDNet: A Look at Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (sic)" (5 mins., HD), is additionally included for your viewing displeasure. Cutting Tucker and Dale out of the picture and leaving only the nominal villains behind, "Tucker & Dale ARE Evil: The College Kids Point of View" (17 mins., HD) manages to both miss the point of the movie entirely and be "Tucker and Dale Vs Evil for Dummies," no mean feat. "Outtakes" (8 mins., HD) are pretty much literally that: Expect fewer bloopers than multiple uneventful takes of Labine eating eggs from a jar. A still-frame storyboard gallery and the film's theatrical trailer round out the Alliance disc, which cues up with the "Are You Ready for the Alliance Blu-ray Experience?" hoopla plus HiDef trailers for The Woman in Black, Goon, Apollo 18, and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Magnolia distributes the Magnet release stateside in a platter that is purportedly identical save for the batch of previews. Originally published: April 4, 2012.