When done well, comedy and horror go together like sweet and salty: as anyone who’s ever jumped out from behind the couch at his sister knows, people are rarely so funny as when they’re terrified. Eli Craig’s very funny Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a dark comedy with a sociological bent: “I should have known,” says hillbilly Dale to preppy Allison. “When a guy like me tries to talk to a girl like you, someone’s going to die.”
Craig and cowriter Morgan Jurgenson take a clever premise and cash it in for laugh after laugh—albeit more reliably in the fast-paced first act of the film than in the second. Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) are a couple of nice hilbilly bros in the Appalachians who set out to renovate Tucker’s new “vacation home”: a creepy cabin up in the woods. They cross paths with a bunch of college kids (referred to constantly as “a bunch of college kids”) on a camping trip; thanks to a hilariously well-laid sequence of miscommunications, the college students take the mountain men for creepy killers, and in their haste to “escape,” accidents start happening.
There’s a little horror-film satire here (immediately after learning that a horrific killing spree took place near their campsite 20 years ago, the college kids decide to go skinny-dipping), but Craig and Jurgenson smartly realize that’s been done and done and done again, so they keep the tone more farcical than satirical: when things start going wrong, everything the hapless hillbillies try to do to improve the situation only makes it worse. Eventually plot developments involving a hillbilly-preppy romance and a sadistic college kid take hold, and the film becomes slightly more boring as it becomes more conventional—but it remains entertaining to the end, as the indignities visited upon Tucker and his ill-starred vacation home mount.
Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is the kind of movie that’s so funny you laugh just thinking back on it. Highly recommended for an evening of laughs and chills with your friends—but resist the urge to go skinny-dipping at Hidden Beach afterwards. Even if you don’t die at the hands of murderous East Isles hillbillies, you might get your clothes stolen by the “good guys.”