Dave & Dennis Review: TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL!

Posted: August 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

My frequent collaborator C. Dennis Moore and I are doing weekly … or at least something approaching that… reviews of whatever one challenges the other to review that week. I’m the author of the novels Gray Lake and Death Sight, the first novel in my Will Castleton series. Dennis is the author of the novels Revelations and the Amazon #1 horror bestseller The Third Floor. His new novelThe Ghosts of Mertland just came out this week. Dennis has written more than 1,000 reviews, many of which are available in a series of books . I used to write reviews for the entertainment section of a newspaper. Together Dennis and I have co-written a short novel called Band of Gypsies and the priced-to-sell $.99 full-length story collection Terror Is Our Trade. Right now we’re working on a new Will Castleton novel called Return to Angel Hill. Each week (or whatever) Dennis and I will post both our own and each other’s reviews of the subject at hand to our respective blogs – you can find Mr. Moore’s blog over here. This week, Dennis chose Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil!

Buy or rent Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Amazon

Watch Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Netflix

DALE AND TUCKER SHOULD FIGHT MORE EVIL!

by David Bain

Five out of five stars

People hear about my horror habit and think I’m … well, a literary hillbilly at best.

A friend once, in all earnestness, gave me a paperback copy of the novelization of Friday the 13th Part III for Christmas because he “thought you’d like it … thought this is the sort of stuff you’re into.”

No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!

If you think my literary preference is the novelization of any horror movie, you have it utterly, completely, totally, devastatingly, numerous other negative adverbs wrong.

The problem is I tend to, in casual conversation, call horror “horror”, forgetting horror’s just fine – as long as we call it something else.

In academe, for instance, my area of reading and research is often couched in language such as “Gothic” or “The Dark Fantastic” or “Popular Fiction” – I’ve been guilty of employing several of these terms myself, publish or perish.

We’re talking, on one level, about a genre which subverts and literalizes the tropes of…

Oh shut up, Bain.

The truth is we’re just talkin’ ‘bout good ol’ horrah!

But that doesn’t necessarily mean quickly-written, mass-media, B-movie tie-in sludge.

Hell, yes, I own copies of early for-hack-pay schlockwork churned out by  eventual masters like Dennis Etchison (The Fog, Halloween I-III), Tom Perrotta (R.L. Stine’s The Thrill Club) and David Morrell (creator/novelizer of the Rambo series – the first book being a rip-snorting, positively devastating, absolutely wonderful, completely literary original, written long before the first Stallone effort, but Morrell novelized the Hollywood-envisioned sequels in order to maintain a modicum of control over the media monster he unwittingly set into motion).

Even in these relatively stellar examples, we’re talking, for the most part, material these authors would likely rather forget, the novelization paycheck long cashed.

To be absolutely clear: I’m loathe to actually read such work – even though, okay, yes, full disclosure, in all the aforementioned cases, I have.

But if you think this sort of dross is what I actively search out and am primarily inspired by, you should be taken out and … well, if I say what should be done to you, you’d probably say I’ve watched one too many bad horror movies.

And you may be right.

Which is why Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is such pure joy.

From start to finish.

I’m surprised this 2010 film isn’t a franchise yet.

Totally serious.

It’s absolutely begging for sequels.

And so am I.

Despite my enthusiasm, the plot’s pretty basic. Tucker and Dale are two endearing, just-smart-enough, downright sweet and loveable hillbillies. Dale, a trivia savant with a third-grade education, even has problems hurting the fish the ever-so-slightly more mature Tucker makes him catch. And as for Tucker, he just wants to drink a few Pabst Blue Ribbons and tend to his newly bought, severely dilapidated fixer-upper of a cabin in the woods.

The wrinkle: due to various horror movie clichés – such as a cabin in the woods – a vacationing group of wayward college students perceive the harmless, innocent, innocuous backwoods duo as creepy, scary, sadistic, and most likely cannibalistic.

Slapstick mayhem – eventually involving gorily impaled, weed-whacked, burned and wood-chippered college kids– ensues. The accidents get so bad that blameless Tucker and Dale suspect the college kids of having a suicide pact, actively attempting to kill themselves.

This flick’s hardly for kids – there is, in fact, gore galore – but Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is a hell of a lot funnier than even the above summary might suggest.

For instance, there’s a brilliant scene where the role-reversed protagonist and antagonist are forced to sit down face to face in, of all things, an impromptu therapy session – the most congenial of the college kids is a psych major, natch.

Which serves to illustrate this is one smart movie.  It knows exactly what it’s doing every step of the way – in terms of script, in terms of cinematography, in terms of presenting its characters – and it pulls it off with elegance, aplomb, panache, pick your pretty word. It’s so smart, in fact, that it makes us feel dumb for knowing what it’s so smart about; it’s a wonder a film so aware of itself works this well – Tucker and Dale make the Scary Movie parodies look like they were written by … well, before I get too snarky and offend too many people who’ve made way more money than I have in a medium in which I distantly dream my work may someday be presented, let’s just say Tucker & Dale is a complete equal of, say, Cabin the Woods.

In summary, in conclusion, in closing, and in every other term I tell my students not to conclude an essay with, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is exactly everything a bright horror fan seeks – it sends up every  formula of its genre and yet the film remains scary and riveting in its own right. It makes us laugh while offering frights and thrills of its own.

Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil should simply be a joy for any horror aficionado to watch, nothing more to say.

Note: It ‘s been a challenge for me throughout this review not to refer to this movie as Dale and Tucker Vs. Evil. I believe I’ve referred to it all over the place and to all sorts of intelligent people with the title characters switched. Despite Tucker (Alan Tudyk)’s many heroic traits, Dale (Tyler Labine) is by far the more prominent, more loveable, more memorable character, and I have no idea how many horror fans I’ve sent searching for the reversed title. Given, Google and probably even Netflix’s search engines are smart enough to fix my mistake, but it’s nonetheless small technical errors like this that make us horror fans look like cinematic hillbillies in the first place…

Buy or rent Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Amazon

Watch Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Netflix

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL

by C. Dennis Moore

5/5 stars

After a lifetime of horror movies, most of them dumb as dirt but entertaining nonetheless, it’s refreshing to find one that’s actually intelligent.  Wes Craven’s SCREAM movies get a lot of credit for their “smart, new” approach to the slasher genre, but for my money the smartest slasher movie out there is BEHIND THE MASK: The Rise of Leslie Vernon.  Well, finally, there’s a new contender on the block for most intelligent horror movie.

2010’s TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL was written and directed by Eli Craig, and it takes a very unique and fresh approach to the killer hillbilly story.

What starts as a typical camping trip for 9 college kids, quickly turns into a battle of good vs. evil when they run into a pair of backwoods hillbillies in the woods and, before they know it, their friends are dropping like flies.  One is impaled on a tree branch running away from a chainsaw-wielding redneck, one gets a spear in the throat, another is fed through a woodchipper.  And then, just when they get the cops on the scene and the kids think they’re in the clear, the cop gets a board full of nails right in the skull.

Chad tried to warn them of the Memorial Day Massacre that took place in these very woods twenty years earlier.  Luckily for them, he knows an opportunity to destroy evil when he sees it, and Chad is determined that no more of his friends will die.  Not by a Weed-Eater to the face, not by turpentine thrown on a fire and not by a gunshot to the face.

And this is the genius of Craig’s movie.  Because, while all of this is true, when you get down to it, things in TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is really a matter of perspective.

It’s hard to review this movie without giving away too much.  I had read before seeing it that it was important to see the movie with no prior knowledge of the story, so that’s what I did.  But I usually do a little research into the movies I watch before I see them, in case there’s anything particularly interesting I want to keep an eye out for.  However, for TUCKER AND DALE, it was the right call.  But with that in mind, how do I write a review and still manage to keep things fresh for new viewers?

I can mention that Eli Craig’s script is smart and funny without a single line of dialogue wasted.  Everything serves to either move the plot or develop the characters.  The acting was spot-on for this type of movie.  It’s not often I meet a character in a movie and immediately hope he gets an ax to the face, but this is definitely one of those times.  The effects were just graphic enough to be interesting, but not gratuitous and certainly not overdone.

I’ve been a fan of Tyler Labine since seeing him in “Invasion” back in 2005 (it’s not everyone who can look so intimidating but still inject so much heart into a role), and Alan Tudyk is, simply, one of the great unheralded geniuses of Hollywood, and while Craig’s script and direction made this movie work, it was the timing and compatibility of Labine and Tudyk that made it great.  I don’t know if these guys were friends off screen, but they have a chemistry that can’t be faked, I don’t care how good an actor you are.

TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is, finally, a movie made by a cast and crew who not only care about what they’re making, but are smart enough to do it right, and to make it entertaining and, while the story isn’t necessarily original, they’ve made it feel brand new in their take on the subject.

This movie is a wild ride with twists and turns you think you see coming, but at the last second Craig veers left and the bottom drops out and suddenly that course you thought you were predicting is no longer relevant.  This is the kind of movie that makes you love movies again, simple as that.

Buy or rent Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Amazon

Watch Dale & Tucker Vs. Evil on Netflix

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