At the time of writing, it’s past midnight, so it’s technically Hallowe’en. Also, the Boston Red Sox just won the World Series (in 6 games). Double yay (though, er, I don’t quite understand baseball yet). There’s a heckload of merriment and whooping and car-horn-smashing outside (well, for midnight on a Wednesday), so I am proper in the mood to be doing a write-up of such a raucously fun horror-romp.
This is probably the best horror movie I’ve seen this month, and probably the most surprising since, well, You’re Next or The Cabin in the Woods. And similar to those movies, the plot twist is revealed early on in the film, making it more of a storytelling twist. The eponymous Tucker and Dale (the brilliant Alan Tudyk, for whom I’ve always had a comic soft spot, and Tyler Labine, who I’m now in love with) are on their way to fix up Tucker’s newly-purchased vacation home. Things go awry, though, when a series of misunderstandings (and the pair’s scruffy hillbilly look) lead a group of college kids to believe that they’re serial killers.
I watched this with the Hippie who had no idea what the storytelling twist was (and maybe it’s better that way, so go back and delete your memory), so he watched the “found-footage-hidden-killer-in-cabin” cold open, followed by the introduction of the dumb college kids (each varying levels of annoying), as they yell frat chants and bicker flirtingly and marvel over the amazing fact that one person brought along one joint (I’d like to see how that went: “one weed, please”). They cross paths with the guys on the road, then again in a shop, where Dale’s attempt at friendly conversation is misconstrued as a murder attempt (might have helped if he lost the scythe). The POV immediately shifts to Tucker and Dale, discussing the former’s recent acquisition of a vacation home, realizing a lifelong dream, and the latter’s challenge at bolstering his self-confidence.
The events that follow are simultaneously farcical, touching, tense, cringeworthy (in the good way) and gruesome. They’re even surprising, despite the fact that some plot developments are predictable, and the entire movie is a bloody good exercise in dramatic irony (of which I wished we saw more in films). There are some logic leaps to help drive those story elements along, but believable acting (both the leads are absolute gems), sincere, moving character development, and cracking chemistry between Tudyk and Labine is worth the price I paid for Netfilx. The tonal shifts are near-seamless – we’re hearing a pep talk from Tucker to Dale one minute, then hearing a joke about shitholes the next.
Special effects are more than decent (especially when a bit more than spray blood is called for). Direction is tight, and dialogue is hilarious; I can’t believe that this was director’s Eli Craig’s first film as a writer and director. I can’t quite recall ever seeing a horror movie like this one.