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December 01, 2011

Movies You Missed 15: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Tucker-dale-vs-evilThis week in movies you missed: rednecks vs. college kids in a Canadian horror spoof that's actually funny.

Note: There were lots of notable video releases this week, so I'm doing two Movies You Missed posts. Look for a review of Miranda July's The Future tomorrow.

What You Missed

A group of college students heads into the wilderness for camping and necking. At a general store on their way, they meet a hulking hick who addresses a few stumbling words to them. But the kids are busy eyeing the giant scythe over his shoulder. Schooled on horror movies in which inbred hillbillies massacre innocent co-eds, from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre through Wrong Turn, they scurry for the car.

Only thing: The college kids aren't our protagonists. The hillbillies are.

Dale, the one with the scythe (familar TV face Tyler Labine), is a shy, tender-hearted fellow who doesn't even like hooking fish. His best friend, Tucker (Alan Tudyk of "Firefly"), is a bit more worldly wise, but just as much of a good citizen.

The two are headed up to work on their new "vacation home," a dilapidated lakeside cabin adjoining the undergrads' campsite. All they have in mind is some fishing. But when Tucker and Dale save one of the college girls (Katrina Bowden) from drowning and try to tell the others, her friends flee in terror. Next thing our boys know, college kids are dying in bizarre ways all around them. Is it some sort of twisted suicide pact? Or are those horror-savvy young folks just scaring themselves to death?

Why You Missed It

Tucker and Dale hit 44 U.S. theaters, none here.

Should You Keep Missing It?

If you haven't watched a lot of slasher movies, you won't really savor the jokes in T&D. But if you have, it's a rip-roaring, chain-sawin' good time.

Most horror satires suffer from a one-joke problem. T&D is no Shaun of the Dead, but the script (cowritten by director Eli Craig) is pretty substantial for its genre, and Labine and Tudyk are consistently funny. The kids — including Bowden as the final girl and Jesse Moss as a boy with delusions of Nietzschean abyss-gazing prowess — are better than usual, as well.

The real problem is with credibility: The "kills" in T&D, most of them actually unfortunate accidents, go beyond the realm of unlikelihood into that of statistical impossibility. (Think student accidentally leaping into running wood chipper.) Still, if you aren't troubled by Jason's repeated rises from the dead in the Friday the 13th series, this belabored premise shouldn't bother you, either.

It's also a lesson in horror filmmaking. Craig draws laughs from stylistic elements as he moves between the perspectives of the college students and the heroes, demonstrating how music, camera angles and lighting are enough to turn two good-hearted bumblers with cornpone accents into potential murderous cannibals.

So, next time you head out to the Vermont wilderness, give that big dude with the scythe a chance. Maybe he just wants to get to know you.

Verdict: A find for fright fans. It's R-rated, like horror should be, so expect lots of gleefully staged mayhem and fake gore. Plus a lesson on the weaponization of camomile tea.

Other New DVD Releases You May Have Missed

  • 5 Days of War (international action flick from Renny [Die Hard] Harlin)
  • Another Earth (Earth gets a twin, and somehow this leads to moody drama rather than mass destruction. Double feature with Lars von Trier's Melancholia?)
  • The Art of Getting By (Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts meet quirky)
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog does cave paintings)
  • The Future (second indie film written and directed by artist Miranda July; see my review tomorrow)
  • Seven Days in Utopia (Robert Duvall in inspirational golf drama)
  • Sons of Perdition (doc about boys banished from their fundamentalist Mormon community)
  • The Wave (an update of the totalitarian parable we all read in high school)

Each week I review a brand-new DVD release picked for me by Seth Jarvis, buyer for Burlington's Waterfront Video, where you can obtain these fine films. (In central Vermont, try Downstairs Video.)



My friend Tucker and I have convinced Mayor Kiss not to seek re-election.

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