Hello and Hallo-welcome to Laugh-it-off Monday, where we look at the lighter side of horror: black comedy. Hope everyone had a fright filled weekend and or now looking forward to another week with your Hallowfest Hosts, Andy and Lilly!
This week’s film offering: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Andy: Hands up, at the start, this is one of our favourite films. There’s no way that this review will come off as anything but fawning admiration, but we will try our best to be objective.
Lilly: Nope, I’m going to gush, so whatever. Objective. Pfft.
Andy: Anyway, the setup. We’ve all seen the movies where a bunch of teenagers go to an abandoned area and are menaced by the locals. Everything from The Hills Have Eyes to Wrong Turn uses this trope. It’s…well, it’s overused, frankly.
But what if the locals weren’t such bad people? What if they were just two nice guys trying to have a pleasant vacation in their new cabin? And what if they saved the life of one of your friends, and then you misinterpreted the whole situation?
What we have is a brilliant inversion – the teenagers are still horror movie fodder to a man (and woman); in other words they’re still unlikeable idiots – but they’re being menaced by nothing other than their overactive imaginations and a sort of classist snobbishness about hillbillies. And their tendency to impale themselves at a moment’s notice.
They’re not even our protagonists – that would be Tucker and Dale, a pair of country gentlemen who are trying to fix up their cabin, drink beer and fish.
Lilly: I’ve met guys like Tucker and Dale, and I’ve met kids like the college kids that end up causing such a fuss, which is part of the appeal of this movie. It takes something common enough to the horror genre and tweaks it just enough to make it poke fun at and admire the trope it is inverting. You get to see it from both sides–from the innocent holiday-turned-nightmare of Tucker and Dale to the hyped up, drunk/high view point of the college kids when they see one of their friends being taken off by strangers, to only find a message carved into a tree saying ‘we got your friend’. Left only as a heads up, but seen as a threat, this film is full of moments where you see two bumbling helpful sorts constantly get misunderstood. And it never gets old. You watch as the pair completely ignores blatantly obvious clues and tropes (for example, paper clippings of past murders, one I LOVE, fyi.) that signify they are in a horror film, and it eventually gets to the point that you don’t want the poor guys to notice. Bless.
Andy: It of course helps that our leads are played so well by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine. These are two of the most engaging, sweet and funny protagonists ever seen in a horror comedy – even as things spiral out of control, I was still rooting for them to just have a great holiday. Obviously it doesn’t work out, but it’s great to be in on the journey.
Lilly: Also, this film is ridiculously quotable. From ‘Oh my gawd, it’s a mansion’ to ‘Officer, we’ve had one doozy of a day’, it just merrily moves along with fantastic dialogue and over-the-top violence. You cannot help but feel bad for Tucker and Dale, as all they wanted was some ‘man time’ at the cabin, and yet they keep getting side-tracked by college kids who have the wrong idea. Both characters are unique and well-developed, which really makes this film work.
Andy: Speaking of which…
Lilly: …the college kids. While this group is a bit more bargain-bin stereotypes (stoner, ditz, Perfect Girl, jock, etc.), it’s actually nice to see a ditz character called out for wearing heels to a camping trip, or someone saying ‘smoking isn’t good for you’ to have the response ‘dying isn’t good for you either but that doesn’t seem to be stopping anybody!’ shot back at them in full seriousness. The writer of the dialogue clearly knew what they were doing, and some of the greatest moments are when there is a tongue lodged firmly in the cheek of the script.
And it’s not just the horror that they get right; some of the best moments in the film are when Tucker and Dale are talking to each other, or when Dale is trying to get past his anxieties when it comes to talking to Perfect Girl Allison. The relationships in the film are actually worth caring about, which isn’t quite the case in a lot of horror we’ve watched.
Andy: Now, having said all of this, this isn’t necessarily for everyone.
Lilly: WHAT. WHO. I WILL FIGHT THEM.
Andy: The violence, while played for laughs, is gory in the extreme – if you don’t find something funny in the idea of someone diving headfirst into a wood chipper, not to mention our hero’s hysterical reaction, this probably isn’t the film for you.
Lilly: Fair point. It’s pretty gruesome in a way that makes you shout out “WHOA”, point at the screen, and laugh with surprise at your own reaction, there’s no doubt.
Andy: Which is a shame, because it’s awesome. The best of Shaun of the Dead crossed with the Evil Dead franchise, with the comedy turned, way, way up. And if that isn’t the greatest thing ever, then I don’t know what is.