Another group of college kids go bumbling into yet another backwoods campground with a murderous history in the otherwise not-at-all-ordinary horror movie Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.
A group of college kids, looking much like every other group of horror-movie college kids (the hot girls, the jerky-looking guy, the minority couple) head into the backwoods for a camping trip, stopping (of course) at a gas station that looks like it was built shortly after the Civil War. Naturally, while they’re there turning up their college kid noses at the strange and dusty locale, a creepy hillbilly approaches them, laughing hysterically for no reason and menacing the girls by maintaining a serial-killer stare and leaning on a scythe while he mumbles at them.
The girls scream, the boys say they don’t want any trouble, the hillbilly wanders off.
Poor Dale (Tyler Labine), he just does not know how to talk to girls.
He gets back in his truck with his buddy Tucker (Alan Tudyk), lamenting the fact that he can’t figure out how to win over the ladies. Those college girls are good-looking and smart; Dale didn’t even finish elementary school. Don’t worry, Tucker tells him, we’re going to have a good time fixing up my new waterfront vacation cabin and doing a little fishing.
Once they get up to the lake (or pond or river — can’t tell; it all just looks like a dark swamp) they find that the home Tucker just sunk his life savings into is almost identical to the creepy Alligator Man shack in the recent movie Creature. (It might actually be the same set — identical, I tell you.) But, despite the dried bones hanging like wind chimes all over the house and a collection of newspaper clippings on gruesome deaths and suspicious disappearances, Tucker is overjoyed. It’s what he’s always wanted, a place to get away! It just needs some dusting and maybe a repair to that loose beam that keeps popping out, threatening to impale someone with a bunch of rusty nails. And, hey, that collection of newspaper clippings even includes a coupon for chili dogs!
Dale and Tucker settle in and, that evening, head to the water to do a little night fishing. While they’re drinking beers and waiting for a bite, the college kids show up and strip down to go skinny dipping. Allison (Katrina Bowden), the college girl Dale tried to talk to, starts to disrobe as well but while Tucker urges Dale to get a good look, Dale’s too embarrassed. So he responds by making some strange noise, which calls Allison’s attention to them, which causes Allison to scream and then fall into the water, where she hits a rock before going under.
Alarmed that Allison isn’t coming up, Dale dives into the lake to save her. As he and Tucker pull an unconscious Allison into the boat, they call over to the other college students. But instead of swimming over to help their friend, the college kids scream and run away. I think I saw one of them eat Allison’s face, one college kid says to another. We have to get her back, they decide.
Meanwhile, Dale and Tucker put Allison to bed and wait for her friends to show up and help her. When she wakes up the next morning, she screams when she sees Dale coming toward her — sorry, Dale says, you must hate pancakes. And he hurries out to go make her another breakfast.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is pretty much a perfect remake of every horror movie ever — most recently, the previously mentioned Creature but also Shark Night, Turistas, Piranha — where a group of kids get in over their heads and are menaced by a hostile local population (of sharks or townies or whatever). The twist here is that it’s the college kids, freaked out about the “hillbillies” they believe are menacing them, that are causing an increasing number of gory deaths. Instead of swimming over to help out the unconscious Allison, the kids assume she’s been kidnapped and eaten. When they approach the cabin to get her (or her body) back, they run off, chased by a crazed Tucker wielding a chain saw. Or, viewed another way, they run alongside Tucker as he runs from a swarm of bees whose hive he has just inadvertently cut in half. What are they running for, Tucker wonders, not seeing as one of them runs into a branch and is impaled.
He’s been murdered and left here as a sign, the college kids assume when they find their friend. And thus the mistaken reading of the situation continues, with Allison eventually trying to straighten her friends out and requisite jerk college kid Chad (Jesse Moss) deciding that she’s been brainwashed, “gone hillbilly,” as he puts it.
If you’ve ever sat through any of those “real” horror movies, you can’t help but like Tucker & Dale — not just for its well-executed re-creation of the exact setup (stupid young people, ridiculously creepy woods, story of horrible deaths that took place “on this exact spot, 20 years ago”) but also for the way it uses that premise to tell a story that is funny but still gory and horror-filled in the way those movies are. (It’s not suspenseful, exactly, but then again neither are most of the movies it spoofs.) Add to that Labine and Tudyk, both with strong comic talents. The result is a movie that is smarter than the Scary Movie brand of parody and genuinely enjoyable on its own merits. B
Rated R for bloody horror violence, language and brief nudity. Directed by Eli Craig and written by Craig and Morgan Jurgenson,Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is an hour and 29 minutes long and is distributed by Magnet (including via video On Demand).