Friday, September 25, 2015

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)

I had written this movie off as a horror comedy - which is precisely what it is - since I'm just not usually that interested in comedies, but I read the synopsis recently and it dawned on me that the premise had potential to be an intelligent deconstruction of the slasher formula (perhaps in a similar vein as The Cabin in the Woods). It doesn't quite reach that level, as it's more committed to being fun than smart, but it's still pretty good, at least as far as horror comedies go.

Given how many slashers we've seen over the years, it's surprising how rarely anyone comes up with an inversion of the usual formula. Even the basic idea of telling a slasher from the point of view of the "killer hillbillies" instead of the college kids is pretty novel. That alone would give it more of a morally-ambiguous exploitation-like approach, but Tucker and Dale vs. Evil takes it a step further and posits the hillbillies as innocents merely caught up in an elaborate misunderstanding following a series of tragic, accidental deaths. It's a great device that gives the genre an opportunity to apologize for a lot of the stereotypes it's encouraged (not that that's necessarily a goal of this movie), by indicting the college kids who jump to the conclusion that any creepy hillbilly you meet out in the woods is bound to be some kind of sadistic, cannibal killer (the stereotype of the college kids being idiots you can't wait to see get killed in gruesome ways remains intact, however).

If you like comedies, or especially horror comedies, you might enjoy this movie more than I did, but even so, it had some good moments, even a few funny ones. I really got to like the character Dale (played by Tyler Labine, who - random trivia time - played a stoner on two separate episodes of The X-Files back in 1996 - War of the Coprophages, and Quagmire). The scene where Tucker uses the chainsaw on a bee hive was frankly quite clever. Clearly, it's a parody of Leatherface's maniacal manner of wielding a chainsaw. Now, that last scene in the Texas Chain Saw Massacre - I think it's brilliant, and haunting, and one of the greatest scenes ever in a horror movie. But you do have to admit, once you step back and look at it critically, that it's kind of ridiculous to see somebody waving a chainsaw around like that. This movie recognizes that, and creates a humorous situation in which something like that could actually occur - albeit accidentally.

This is less of a humorous note, but I also really appreciated the scene where Dale and the college kid sit down to a cup of tea to work out their problems. It's a perfect example of bigotry in action. Some maniac does something horrible to a person, and the person latches onto some incidental detail of the maniac's identity in anger, usually one that's rife with stereotypes - in this case, the fact that the maniacs were hillbillies - and then generalizes that to all people who possess that detail - e.g., concluding that all hillbillies are maniacs, as if the hillbilly part is what made those hillbillies maniacs, instead of those particular hillbillies just happening to be maniacs. It happens all the time - with race, gender, sexual orientation - any bigotry you can imagine. And there I go, finding something serious to discuss in a lighthearted movie. I should open a column titled "The Darker Side of..."


  1. I really enjoyed this movie, too, and you make a good case for the subtext. I also remember really loving the romance in this movie, that was my favorite part about it. It was very cliche', of course, but satisfyingly so. When you have those kind of romantic cliche's and there's a 2 hour movie dedicated to just that, it can be pretty tedious. But you sprinkle that stuff into a movie with a lot of other stuff going for it, and it's quite good. Which of course isn't to say all romance movies are tedious, they just have to be clever enough (like, say, Silver Linings Playbook).

    I won't even mention that you seem to have implied CITW is an intelligent deconstruction. ;)

  2. Yeah, the romance was pretty sweet. Who among us hasn't pined after a hot, young thing way out of our league, and dreamt that she might actually find something appealing about us?

    Ah, but you just did mention it. :-p

    I may have had a bitter reaction to CITW, but I don't doubt that it had some things going for it. Really, it's more what the fans and the creators had to say about what the movie meant that rubbed me the wrong way, than the actual movie itself (I think).