Comedy and Horror work incredibly well together; scary moments can be funny and vice versa. The problem is that there have been a lot of horror comedies over the years, and the question is “what is left that is original and worth making?” However, my fears were abated when I watched Eli Craig’s directorial debut Tucker & Dale vs Evil (2010), starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk and Katrina Bowden.
The film works on the intriguing subject of role reversal and how we perceive and stereotype people. Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) are two West Virginian hill-billies heading to the Appalachian woods for some drinking and fishing and to do up their dream vacation house, which in reality is a tumbledown shack. On their journey they come across a group of ‘Preppy’ college kids who mistake Dale as a deranged, backwards, hill-billy murderer out to get them. Later when the kids discover Tucker and Dale’s holiday home in the woods, things go from bad to worse, especially after Dale accidentally kidnaps Allison (Bowden).
Tucker & Dale vs Evil’s premise is excellent and Craig has pulled out all the stops in exploiting horror cliches to show how the college kids, through their presumptuous and judgemental attitudes, mistake the actually rather lovable T & D as axe-wielding psychos. Typically creepy music is added to scenes featuring T & D to hammer home how they could be perceived as strange, and the film brims with established horror movie trimmings: rusty farm equipment surrounding their derelict house, the woods being draped in an eerie fog by night and, of course, plenty of gore. The play on slasher movie stereotypes makes you realise how ridiculous it is that you were ever scared by the closing scenes of Halloween (1978) or Friday the 13th (1980).
There are moments where the film lags, but a fairly constant stream of laughs, interspersed with some shocking moments of truly gruesome horror, keep things buoying along. Once the initial idea of the hill-billies being misrepresented has played out the film takes on the theme of role reversal as the students become the bad guys. Although not a dramatically complex idea, it is one that has been worked to near perfection in this film.
The dynamic between Labine and Tudyk is superb. The balance of gore and humour inevitably lends itself to comparisons to Shaun of the Dead (2004) especially considering the physical similarities between Labine and Tudyk to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. All in all, Tucker & Dale vs Evil is a laugh-out-loud comedic gore-fest and a great first feature film from Craig. Oh, and check out West Virginian hill-billies on Google, some very scary, yet funny, stuff.