Sometimes all the necessary things for a great movie to come into existence line up; it is the holy alliance or a fresh idea, a great script, and good acting comming together. If you have this it is quite unlikely for any filmmaker to screw it up. Eli Craig was blessed with this trifecta on his directorial debut, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, a warm parody of the teenage slasher classics (if we can call them classics). The film is what the Scream and Scary Movie franchises could have been had they not lacked, a fresh idea, a good script to tie down that idea, and good acting to make that idea come to life. And yet while those movies make millions Tucker & Dale vs Evil has sat on a shelf for two years, mostly because studios increasingly refuse to believe newcomers can be bankable filmmakers.
This 2010 Sundance release, centers on the misadventures of two “hillbillies”, Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), a likable boffo with low self-esteem. Tucker has just purchased a small cabin in the woods, which the two friends like to see as their new vacation home. They head there for the weekend to fix it up. Also camping in these woods are a group of undergrads that, like all college kids camping in the woods, enjoy getting high, narrating horror stories, and skinny-dipping.
When Tucker and Dale have a run in with the kids, chaos follows. The kids mistake the friendly “hillbillies” for the deadly psycho hillbillies of a horror movie. And in their self-defense effort they end up…
Well I am not going to spoil it. But soon enough Tucker and Dale are convinced that the kids have come to the woods for some kind of group suicide, and that they should get out of there before things get worse and the cute girl (Katrina Bowden) dies. Needless to say things do get worse.
I laughed so hard, for 90 minutes straight. The movie is 80 minutes (yes, I was still crying out of laughter after the credits). As the writer, Eli Craig masters horror and he bombards the screen with horror film references; as a director, he has great comedic timing, so even if you are unable to relate these references you still laugh when the joke comes. The plot turns in pretty much every unexpected direction, even when it is following the expected slasher formula. It is not what you expect to think you won’t expect, nor vice versa.
Meanwhile Tudyk and Labine provide a spot-on performance as the bewildered “hillbillies”, the perfect mix of confusion, fear, and amusement at the weirdness of their situation. You feel for them like you rarely do for a character in a movie. While Bowden, is the perfect cast for the girl who spends half the movie knocked out in hilarious fashions.
So in conclusion, watch this movie. It is now available on iTunes, and a few other on-demand cyber-retailers (maybe Netflix) and will soon get a limited theater release. It took studios two years to recognize how fun and fresh this movie is, do not make the same mistake. And if you don’t trust me, trust the millions of piraters who have made this film a constant member of the top ten most illegally downloaded movies from its premier at Sundance last year to its second premiere at Comic Con this year. A movie doesn’t get there unless it has really been recommended.