Every so often, a movie comes along that sounds too good to be true. Whether it’s the talent involved, an interesting concept, or a particularly well-cut trailer, it’s easy to be duped into thinking a movie will be better than it really is. Thankfully, “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is not that film. A horror comedy in the spirit of “Shaun of the Dead,” “Tucker and Dale” isn’t a spoof of the genre it’s parodying (in this case, hillbilly slasher movies like “Wrong Turn”), but rather a razor-sharp homage fueled by a clever script and hilarious performances from its stars.
Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star as Tucker and Dale, two good ‘ol boys on their way to fix up their newly purchased vacation home in the woods when they cross paths with a group of college students who think they’re serial killers. So when the duo saves one of the students (Katrina Bowden) after she falls into the lake and hits her head on a rock, her friends think that she’s been abducted and being held captive in their cabin. Determined to fight back, the students take turns going after the supposed hunters, but every time they do, they only end up killing themselves instead. From their point of view, it certainly looks like Tucker and Dale are responsible for the bloody mayhem, but the two friends are nothing but unlucky – a fact that only becomes clearer when the group’s bloodthirsty leader (Jesse Moss) takes matters into his own hands
“Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a movie built around a series of ridiculous coincidences (just like the films it playfully pokes fun at), and while it may seem a bit far-fetched at times, it’s all part of the experience. Writer/director Eli Craig is obviously a big fan of the genre, because he knows which strings to pull and how to pull them. He’s crafted some pretty memorable death scenes that, despite causing fits of laughter, don’t skimp on the bloody details either. There’s plenty of gooey viscera splattered throughout the film, but its strengths lie in Craig’s script – particularly the exchanges between its title characters as they ponder the reason why these students would be killing themselves.
For as funny as the script may be, however, there would be no “Tucker and Dale” without Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, who have such great onscreen chemistry that you wouldn’t mind them starring in every movie together. Labine ends up playing a much larger role than his co-star due to a romantic subplot between him and Katrina Bowden, but Tudyk arguably gets the better material, including one scene no doubt inspired by “Fargo.” If only the actors playing the college students were even remotely as good. Granted, most of them are nothing more than stupid bait, but Jesse Moss plays such a pivotal role that his over-the-top performance is distracting. It’s the only element that doesn’t work as well as the others, but even though “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil” is a mostly one-joke affair, it finds ways to keep you laughing even when it’s not at its best.