There’s no evil in Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil

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The premise behind Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is one that is appealing enough for the film’s poor execution to be really disappointing. It’s what the late Roger Ebert would have called a Dead Teenager Flick, where a group of teens takes a trip to the woods and are tormented by psychotic hillbillies. The twist here is that the psychotic hillbillies are neither psychotic nor hillbillies.

They’re only blue collar everymen Tucker and Dale, who want to have as little to do with these kids as possible. They want to drink beer, go fishing, and clean up Tucker’s newly acquired vacation home (which, to comedic effect, looks like it has the Necronomicon in the basement). After a skinnydipping accident (involving several swimmers but not a single skinnydipper), the teenagers get it into their heads that they’re under attack by the protagonists, and, mostly out of a false sense of survival, wind up hurting themselves. Each failed attempt at stopping the hillbilly threat only strengthens their convictions, leading to gorier mishaps.

This is a really cool premise – a horror-comedy of errors – and it garners some good laughs. I had fun for the most part, but wish the movie had taken the premise a bit farther.

The film suffers from a lack of motivation, though, and the whole premise is built on top of that failure. One of the teen characters goes ballistic, and they make up some stupid backstory to explain that. Problem is it’s hardly believable. Yes, I know, it’s a dumb slasher/comedy and doesn’t really need to make sense, but honestly, there are a dozen other ways they could have done it that would have been more plausible. If the whole movie is going to be predicated on something, it needs to at least be believable within the context of the story. I’d have been fine if they didn’t even address it, honestly.

I easily overlooked that detail in the interest of enjoying the romp. Most of what I didn’t like about the movie is just a bunch of gags that weren’t quite funny.

T&DvE informs us that people’s appearances aren’t as telling as we’d like them to be. Underlying that is the implication that suburbanites are afraid of people from a simpler life, social commentary that they could have done more with, especially in light of recent conversations about wealth inequality. This is an unintended consequence of an often lazy and mostly forgettable script that mocks the slasher genre without really understanding it. There’s a point about two-thirds of the way through the flick where I thought that maybe the movie was self-aware enough to comment on dead teenager flicks, but I was quickly disappointed. I like camp, and this wasn’t very campy.

The title of the movie is (probably) misleading. The pair aren’t really matched up against anything evil, just a bunch of dumb, dying teenagers. So either the title is inaccurate, or the “evil” is something metaphorical like the oppressive forces of the upper class or something. Since nothing about this movie seems like it’s trying for anything more than a silly romp, I’m guessing it’s just a cool-sounding title.

Alan Tudyk is worth watching, as always, and there’s enough to laugh at to take you through the movie, which, thankfully, clocks in at under ninety minutes. If you’re in the mood for something bloody and funny, you could watch a lot worse movies. Watch this only if you haven’t seen the far superior The Cabin in the Woods (which is also streaming on Netflix) already.

6/10

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