Review: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

So, I just watched Tucker and Dale vs. Evil– a deconstructionist horror/comedy in the same vein as The Cabin in the Woods. This is not to say that it’s as good as Cabin, which I’d argue is actually a masterpiece, but it tries to cover some similar territory. The basic premise is that two scruffy but likeable hillbillies are being terrorized by a typical bunch of college kids who think the hillbillies are psycho killers due to a series of misunderstandings. It’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek reversal of the typical college kids are hunted by crazy rednecks movie, and is played more for laughs than horror.

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It’s a cute movie, with a nice premise, but if I had to use a word to describe it, I’d use the word “timid”.  I know that’s an odd word to describe a horror movie, so let me explain by giving an example of an early scene in the film. (minor spoiler, but it won’t ruin much)

There’s a scene early on where Dale and Earl are driving along in their truck and drinking beer. They spot a cop behind them with its lights on, and Earl (who is driving) fumbles his beer, trying to figure out where to stash it and spills it all over himself. Dale, being the nice guy he is, leans over from the passenger seat to try and clean it up, but his shirt collar gets stuck on Earl’s belt, and so his head is stuck bobbing in Earl’s lap as Earl pulls over for the cop.

What we have here is the classic awkward humor shot of the cop walking up to find one redneck who looks like he’s getting oral sex from his buddy. A nice uncomfortable situation for everyone involved, and some nice squirming humor for the audience, right?

Nope.

As they pull over, Dale unbuttons/rips open his shirt and sits up, bare-chested. The cop never sees the implied oral sex, and while there are suggested gay humor overtones to their conversation, it doesn’t actually amount to anything. No squirming humor, just a mildly amusing situation.

And the whole movie is like this.

They spend the whole film almost doing something neat with a character or situation, but almost always pull away at the last moment to give us something cute instead of actually pushing it to make us laugh or squirm. This is especially weird since there’s a scene of a classic horror movie massacre (historical flashback) that’s quite gory and almost over the top, but it’s one of the only things in the movie that is. The two rednecks aren’t quite rednecks, the college kids aren’t quite college self-absorbed or jerks, and the whole thing feels like a collection of neat ideas that they just didn’t take to the next level.

I guess that’s why I’m writing this. The whole film to me felt like a missed opportunity. If they’d just been more over-the-top with it and pushed things a bit more, it could have been a great film, but as it is, it’s just a cute one.

I rated it 3/5 on Netflix, and I’d say that’s just the right rating for it. If you’re in the mood, it’s a fun watch, but don’t expect it to quite live up to its premise.