The revisionist horror film is almost a thing that is ad nauseam in post-digital filmmaking. Indeed, it would appears as though every hip post-film school punk thinks themselves capable of creating a masterwork in horror that is in comparison to Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Exorcist. This is not to say that decent digital horror films do not exist, there are quite a few examples of next level horror films that have emerged in the past decade, but for the most part they are indicative of sloppy filmmaking that masks itself under excessive gore and formulaic plot. Tucker and Dale vs Evil in all its absurdity does manage to reconsider some of the elements necessary to horror films and even cleverly engages with some of the classic horror cinema texts from which it pulls. Of course, given that the entirety of the film is predicated upon one misunderstanding based on social stereotypes the jokes surrounding this run thin by the end and seem less than stellar. That is not to say that Tucker and Dale vs Evil is not an enjoyable viewing experience, but purely to note that it loses its flare by the closing moments. The highlight here, however, is Alan Tudyk, who as I noted along side Trey on my appearance on the podcast Drive By Nerding, when Tudyk shows up in anything I will seek it out and consume it, because even with his decidedly comedic choices, he turns in some of the best acting available. Where Tucker and Dale vs Evil works as a film is in the moments that it clearly makes sure it is not taken seriously, layering on blood and nudity as though it is almost an afterthought, noting that as a genre film it is somehow only taken seriously when such extremes are depicted, by not taking these "necessary" moments as anything but fabrication viewers are allowed to dig a bit deeper and consider the implications of villains and heroes in the horror film canon proper, and like any good revisionist work of genre filmmaking, Tucker and Dale vs Evil leaves those who encounter it considering the very nature of the presumably entrenched tropes of hillbilly slasher movies.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil focuses on two coinciding stories, one focusing on a group of college kids taking a weekend trip to the woods, ranging from the likable and well-meaning Allison (Katrina Bowden) to the seemingly devious and decidedly maniacal Chad (Jesse Moss). Along with a few other friends they are hoping to get drunk in the woods and engage in all the wild behaviors possible. Meanwhile Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) also have high hopes of their own, as two self-associating rednecks they take pride in their acquisition of a vacation home, planning on spending the weekend engaging in renovations of the space. At a local gas station the two groups cross paths, Dale taking a liking to Allison, but when approaching the group, Dale in his stalky demeanor and carrying of a scythe like pole only manages to scare the group, however, their paths reconvene when later that night while fishing, Tucker and Dale spot the group going skinny dipping, even catching Allison as she begins to undress on a high rock. Scared, Dale shouts causing Allison to fall in panic and become knocked unconscious. In guilt, Dale takes Allison back to their cabin and begins bringing her back to health, much to the frustrations of Tucker, but more so to the panic of Allison's friends, particularly Chad who mounts a wild plan to get his girlfriend back. This plan falls completely to the wayside, however, when each attack leads to Dale or Tucker accidentally killing one of the member from Chad's group, either by dodging their attack and leading to their being impaled or by accidentally allowing them to fall into a wood chipper. Ultimately, Chad becomes wildly vindictive in his attempts to seek revenge upon Tucker and Dale, at one point capturing Tucker and chopping off one of his fingers. As a past story of murders in the area unfolds, it becomes clear that Chad is perhaps not as well-meaning as he appears, just as Tucker and Dale are not quite as brutal, and in the end Chad is destroyed and Dale is able to win over Allison. Tucker who now possesses a new finger, seems quite content to be able to enjoy a fresh PBR from his hospital bed.
Tucker and Dale vs Evil works in a lot of regards. The gore is so synthetic and absurd as to be nearly endearing in its absurdity and much of the dialogue is so heavy handed that one might think writer/director Eli Craig lifted every bit of it from eighties horror films. These things are great and some of the highlights of the film, but what makes this film clever and a decidedly post-genre comedy, is the way in which it deals with the homoeroticism latent to the psychotic hillbilly horror film, particularly the classic in this regards Deliverance. Wherein violently sexual encounters are used in a very demeaning and metaphorically visceral way in the cult classic starring Burt Reynolds, the homoeroticism of Tucker and Dale vs Evil becomes humorous in how much Craig makes the viewers acknowledge its potential, made all the more intriguing by the sort of connections made to rural folk life in hilly southern country that is entirely predicated upon Deliverance and the infamous "squeal like a piggy" scene. Tucker and Dale obviously share a longing with one another, a desire to be together that is not necessarily sexual, but still borders on being wildly homoerotic. Whether it be their initial encounter with the ill-fated police chief wherein Dale finds himself in a compromising position with Tucker, or their countless mishaps that land one on top of the other, it is clear that their embraces linger on far longer than one would expect for purportedly heterosexual men. Craig's equally lengthy shots of the scenes ask viewers to first laugh at the absurdity, but then consider why exactly it is funny, when the situational bit wears thing. In a society that is far more open to diverse sexual identities this is executed beautifully and becomes a great study on individuals burgeoning into their comfort sexually. For Dale it is a movement towards heterosexuality, but it is rather clear that in the relationship between himself and Tucker that it is Tucker who truly possesses the homoerotic desire, almost affirmed by his acquiring a woman's finger in his hand transplant, one that Dale says fits, a clear suggest that his desire for men is fine, although not best directed at Dale. This is all minimally discussed in the film, but, nonetheless, exists and makes for a wonderfully subversive film, masquerading as an absurdist horror comedy.
Key Scene: Any of the moments involving Tudyk waxing poetic about beer are quite wonderful.
Neflix. Watch. Instantly. In contrast to most of the garbage available, this is well worth your consideration.