Tucker Dale vs. Evil provides laughs and gore

by Blake Campbell / Arts Columnist • October 3, 2011

, Beacon Correspondent/strong

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divA glance at the movie poster for director Eli Craig’s emTucker amp; Dale/em emvs. Evil/em gives one an impression of a truly awful film; the chainsaw-wielding hillbilly displayed prominently in the center suggests something like emLarry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector/em directed by Wes Craven.

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divThankfully,em Tucker amp; Dale vs. Evil/emproves that we cannot judge a film by its poster: it skillfully balances the best of horror, humor, and camp.The film tells the story of Tucker and Dale, two hillbilly friends who decide to take a vacation at Tucker’s newly purchased lakeside cabin. Unfortunately for them, a group of imaginative college kids decides to camp out in their woods.  When Tucker and Dale rescue Allison, one of the kids, from the lake during a fishing trip, the paranoid students assume that the hillbillies have kidnapped their friend. Madness ensues, and the confused (and innocent) Tucker and Dale find themselves in the midst of carnage.emTucker amp; Dale/em isn’t just a comedy film with a horror backdrop; it’s a legitimately frightening film with realistic violence and liberal doses of humor and camp.  This ironic combination makes for some morbidly funny scenes and creative deaths; never has a living-person-in-the-wood-chipper scene been so amusing.

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divThe film’s unconventional humor is reminiscent of Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 horror comedy emZombieland/emand, like that film, succeeds in making the audience laugh in unexpected ways.That said, emTucker amp; Dale/em does have its comedic misses. With scenes of intentionally horrible acting and clichéd lines, it’s clear that the director is trying to either parody or pay tribute to the canon of low-budget horror film. But they only slow the film’s otherwise impeccable pace and take the original premise into decidedly emScary Movie/emmaterial.But what emTucker amp; Dale/em lacks in effective satire, it makes up for in character development. The film’s titular protagonists are multi-dimensional characters who carry the plot well. While Tucker and Dale are stereotypical rednecks—they drive around in a battered pickup truck, chug beer by the six-pack, and see a dilapidated hunting cabin as a vacation paradise— these stereotypes aren’t the focus of the film. Instead, Craig emphasizes real character development in favor of cheap hillbilly gags. Tucker’s take-charge personality obscures sweet-natured Dale’s full potential, creating a touching character study as the two hillbillies come to understand each other. Characters this well-developed and lovable are rare in films likeem Tucker amp; Dale/em, and their presence is refreshing.

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divFans of horror and comedy alike will enjoy emTucker amp; Dale vs. Evil/em. Realistic, engaging characters pushem Tucker amp; Dale/em above typical, contemporary horror schlock, and it’s one of the funniest comedies of the year. A film that exceeds expectations, emTucker amp; Dale vs. Evil/em is a remarkable and promising debut feature for director Eli Craig.

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divemCampbell can be reached at Blake_Campbell@emerson.edu./em/div