This movie was a pleasant surprise, probably because the trailers for it were somewhat misleading, designed to make you NOT want to see the movie. In the interests of full disclosure, I do not normally watch Slasher Films. (Except when I do.) Well, I don’t watch most of the new ones because of the cliches, and the abuse and torture of women.
Also, some of these movies have taken the idea of unlikable characters to the extreme. I’m getting tired of watching movies where the victims are so unlikable, that I just root for the killers to win. I prefer the Old-School Slashers with Freddie, Jason, Michael, and victims who were only slightly annoying, rather than headache-inducingly awful.
But any movie that understands all the tropes of a genre, and then proceeds to very deliberately turn them all upside down, will definitely get my support, and Tucker and Dale did that very nicely. I knew going in that it was meant to be a comedy but I didn’t expect it to be so funny or to enjoy it so very much. And without all the guilt of liking problematic stuff, too.
With the understanding that it was a comedy, I watched this with my niece, hereinafter referred to as The Potato, who is very used to seeing Horror- Comedies (she loved Ash Vs. The Evil Dead, btw.) However, I have to mention that I didn’t expect it to be so gory. If you have sensitive kids, you may not want them to watch it. The Potato, on the other hand, loved it. Its one of her favorite movies and we occasionally mention plot points to each other that we are still giggling about.
One of the reasons we enjoyed it so much is because we genuinely liked the characters. There is a serial killer in the movie, but its not who you think it is, and he is not the focus of the plot. The focus of the plot are the two ne’er-do-wells named Tucker and Dale. I call them ne’er -do-wells, not because they are bad men, but because they are two of the absolutely most charming men to ever star in a Slasher movie, for whom things keep going horribly wrong, through absolutely no fault of their own.
I think I might have fallen in love with Tyler Labine, who plays Dale. Dale is very possibly one of the nicest characters to ever appear in a horror movie. He is shy and bashful, has a sweet and forgiving nature, and I would totally date that guy, overalls and all. I was already in love with Alan Tyduk, from the TV show Firefly, who plays Tucker. He’s smarter than Dale, and a bit more cynical. He is a constant dispenser of advice that keeps turning out to be the absolute wrongest responses to their situation. Nevertheless, he is always supportive of Dale, no matter what, and a great friend, who is always telling Dale that he deserves to be loved.
The two of them have grand plans for the weekend. Tucker has just bought what he’d like to think of as his new vacation home, but it’s a dump, sitting smack-dab in the middle of Deliverance-ville, Nowhere. Tucker wants to take a look around, see what they can do with the place, and fix it up. It looks almost exactly like the cabin from the Evil Dead, hence the title of this movie, I’m guessing.
At the same time, eight college students are going camping in the area. They immediately jump to all manner of negative conclusions about Tucker and Dale, when they meet them at a local gas station, and Dale, encouraged by Tucker, tries unsuccessfully, to charm one of the lovely young ladies, named Allison.
Things go from bad to worse as Tucker and Dale try to clean up their new vacation home, but keep being interrupted by the college kids, who are inexplicably killing themselves, perhaps as some sort of suicide pact, as Dale ponders. The college kids, because they keep jumping to the wrong conclusions about Tucker and Dale’s intentions towards them, (they don’t actually have any), keep trying to kill them and having horrible accidents.
When the college students go skinny-dipping late at night, at the same time that T&D go fishing, hilarity ensues, as Allison falls into the water and gets a head injury. T&D rescue her and take her back to their cabin, where the other college students think she is being held hostage and/or being tortured. Believing they must kill the dangerous hillbillies to rescue their friend, everything that can go wrong, does indeed, go wrong.
The Potato and I are still laughing at such horribly gory incidents as the fool who falls into the wood chipper, while trying to kill Tucker, nearly giving him a heart attack in the bargain. But the funniest moment for me, is when Tucker is attacked by bees while trying to start his chainsaw. Having caught sight of this crazed hillbilly running towards him with a chainsaw (trying to escape the bees) one of the college students impales himself on a tree limb.This prompts a remorseful diatribe from Tucker, who has no idea these people were trying to kill him, and doesn’t understand why such young people would want to end it all. The college students, however, are now convinced that they are fighting for their very lives.
Allison decides to help T&D around the house, by helping them dig an outhouse, but her friends, witnessing this behavior, believe she is being made to dig her own grave. They try to save her and end up dying themselves, one of them in the aforementioned wood chipper. Allison gets knocked out again during their escape attempt and falls into the hole being dug for the outhouse.
Finally, the college students manage to reach the sheriff ,who doesn’t believe Tucker and Dale’s suicide pact story, but he ends up accidentally killing himself inside their cabin. The college student who goes inside to rescue the sheriff, has an accident with the sheriff’s gun, and dies. At no point during the course of the movie are we made to watch any of the women get naked, running and screaming through the woods, tortured, or raped. We do get to see Tucker get tortured though but not because he had sex with anyone. When Dale goes off to rescue Tucker from the college student torturing him, two students sneak into the cabin, in an attempt to rescue Allison.
This entire business could be resolved by people sitting down and talking to each other, but the college students are set on the idea that Tucker and Dale mean them harm, and when Allison tries to explain the situation, they accuse her of having Stockholm Syndrome, because of course, one of them is working on a psychology degree.
After Tucker and Dale return to the cabin, you think the entire situation is about to be resolved, as Allison tries to lead a calm discussion of the facts, but the cabin catches fire and all but one of the college students dies. The lone student left alive, now insane and covered with burn scars, vows revenge on Tucker and Dale, his arch-nemesis. He kidnaps Allison, after Tucker’s car crashes, when they try to get Tucker to a hospital.
Dale catches up to Allison and her kidnapper at the local sawmill, where the killer has her strapped to an electric saw (because,yeah!). Dale frees Allison, defeating her kidnapper by throwing a box of chamomile tea at him, to which he has an allergic reaction, and falls out of the sawmill window. When the news media arrives, they announce that the many bodies scattered all over the woods, were the result of a suicide pact, but the kidnapper’s body isn’t found, suggesting he might still be alive.
The movie turns expectations upside down because the college kids aren’t actually unlikable. They’re dumb and clueless but only one of them is actually evil. You know they’re not all bad because Allison, the young lady that Dale is enamored with, says they are good people though, and actually tries to help them all understand that Tucker and Dale are the good guys.
Dale does get the girl in the end, but I like how this is done, as its made clear that Allison is not his reward for DOING good. Allison chooses to be with Dale because he IS good.
Yes, this is the most ridiculous plot of a film, EVER! And yes! I laughed my ass off!
Despite the level of gore, my niece and I were able to suss out several lessons we learned watching the movie, about making assumptions, being supportive of one’s friends, giving people chances to be friends before jumping to conclusions, and issues of trust.
Tucker and Dale has become one of our all-time favorite comedies, and an excellent vehicle for teaching critical thinking about the media we all consume, which is especially important for budding young film critics, like my Potato.
Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is available on Netflix.