The killer hillbilly has long been a solid genre staple and this movie, that seems to have been languishing without a distributor for far too long (especially when you find out just how brilliant it is), turns that concept on its head with hilarious effect.
Tucker and Dale are heading out to fix up their dilapidated, newly purchased, holiday home (a cabin in the woods). The place has some terribly macabre décor and a wall full of newspaper clippings that points to the previous tenant not exactly being a very nice man but that’s of no consequence to the lads, who don’t even put two and two together. Just as they’re arriving at the cabin they pass by a group of college kids out for a weekend of drinking, smoking and general camping shenanigans. The college kids assume that our hillbilly heroes are the demented, psychopathic rednecks seen in everything from Deliverance to Wrong Turn and their prejudiced opinion is confirmed when they see Tucker and Dale “kidnap” their friend Allison (Katrina Bowden). Of course, it’s just a big misunderstanding as the two men actually rescued Allison after she fell off a rock and into the lake. They allow her to rest in the cabin and Dale quickly develops quite a crush. Meanwhile, the college kids plan to attack the duo and “rescue” their friend and that’s when things go from very funny to outright hilarious as misunderstandings and major accidents pile up on one another to create a gory comedy that had me laughing so hard I thought I was going to slide off my seat.
Tucker and Dale are played, respectively, by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine and their performances are superb. Two loveable lugs with perfect comic timing. But it must be said that every performance is at least solid, and usually great. Bowden is cute and amusing as Allison, Philip Granger is very funny in a small role that sees him dealing with a situation that looks very much like a bloodbath, despite the number of unbelievable coincidences that have kept Tucker and Dale quite innocent, and Jesse Moss is a standard clean-cut college kid who turns feral so quickly that it’s just hilarious. You just know that even if the truth comes out he still wants to throw an axe at someone now that he has an excuse. The rest of the cast don’t get to make as much of an impression but they all get to make an impact when it counts the most and it’s fun to see Chelan Simmons (from Final Destination 3) in another movie that sees some death moving in some very mysterious ways.
Director Eli Craig co-wrote the movie, his first feature-length film, with Morgan Jurgenson and a lot of praise also goes to them. The performances elevate the material but the material starts off as something genuinely great. Many will think this is just a one-joke film, and the trailer certainly focuses on the best gag that the premise is wrapped around, but it actually works a number of strands throughout to riff on the slasher movie conventions while also providing gory goods for the fans. I wouldn’t say that every line is a gem but it’s a close thing indeed.
It’s not perfect though, there’s a slightly weak section just before the main finale that finally seems to overstretch things. You may think I’m just talking nonsense now but, despite the absurdity and whackiness of the whole thing, the film actually works everything out in a way that piles up the laughs while staying relatively credible. There isn’t time taken for anyone to look closer and realise just how many misunderstandings and accidents have occurred. Until about ¾ of the way in, and that’s where it finally overstretches itself before coming back strong in the last 10 minutes. It’s a minor niggle, nothing to put you off from seeing the thing whenever you get the chance to do so, and others may not agree with me so you can just translate things in this way – it’s not perfect but it’s bloody close.
As mentioned in the first paragraph, this has been stuck in some kind of limbo without distribution for FAR too long (I was looking forward to seeing this at EIFF 2010 so have no idea what happened way back then), this is another movie that I will urge all horror fans to please, please, please, please see and support whenever it comes to a cinema near you. Anyone needing further convincing should just check out the site here.
DIRECTOR: ELI CRAIG
STARS: ALAN TUDYK, TYLER LABINE, KATRINA BOWDEN, JESSE MOSS, PHILIP GRANGER
RUNTIME: 89 MINS APPROX
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