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Sidelines: 11: Tucker & Dale vs Evil

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When it comes to movie genres, there is one that I really have a problem with: Slashers. I am not a big Slasher film fan. I don’t like films where the main point is to watch a bunch of people I don’t care about get killed off in grizzly ways by a maniac with a knife. It gets even worse when most of the films end in very mean spirited ways that leave you empty and make you wonder, “What is the point of anything? Why are we here?” I’m just not a fan of most of them. Now, that’s not to say I can’t like a few of them. For example, I think the Scream movies are a good commentary on the trend of horror movies and slashers in particular. I think Psycho is a good bit of psychological horror. And then there is the film I shall be looking at today: Tucker & Dale vs Evil. This will be a different sort of review from my previous works. The review will be divided into 3 sections: Plot, character, and effects.

Premise:

A group of stereotypical idiot college students are on a trip to the woods to get drunk, have sex, and be idiots. They are lead by the only smart one, Allison (Played by Katrina Bowden), and a hotheaded fratboy by the name of Chad (Jesse Moss). Along the way, they pass the actual main characters, a couple of Rednecks named Tucker and Dale (Played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine respectively). The two of them are going to a dilapidated cabin in the woods that Tucker bought as a summer home that may or may not have been privy to a certain Memorial Day Massacre that one of the parents of one of the teens escaped from. After a misunderstanding involving Allison having a slight slip up, Chad leads an attack on the two kind-hearted Rednecks that leads to a series of grisly and hilarious accidents. Can Tucker and Dale explain themselves before things get worse? Can Allison survive the insanity of this? Will we learn about the truth of the Memorial Day Massacre before the crap truly hits the fan?

Plot and Writing Section:

Ok, if ever there was a film whose plot made fun of the idiocy of slasher movie characters in a smart and funny way it would be this film. The writing is hilarious and very spot on with the cliches of slasher films and the simple solutions that could be had and how the insanity of a very vocal voice can make things go from bad to worse.

The pacing of the film is very good. It follows a solid three act structure. The first act introduces the characters of Tucker and Dale and the college students and the setting of the cabin. It foreshadows the past Massacre and what is to come. And it even foreshadows some of the kills to come, for example the wood chipper and the various oils. The second act begins the slasher movie proper with hilarious results laced with schadenfreude aplenty. The third act reveals all that was built up, including the Memorial Day Massacre and the final battle between Dale and the true Slasher Villain ensues. Overall, a solid full three acts.

Another thing that I like is that, while the deaths are gory, the film makes sure to let the viewer know that this is completely ridiculous. The circumstances for which these events occur from are completely ridiculous and were completely avoidable. While some of the college students make valid and sensible points to just leave, the film comes up with an equally valid excuse: The majority of the college students are idiots lead by a hothead who thinks he is the main hero who must overcome the villains. And that’s the beauty of it. The students are basically unwittingly starring in a slasher movie and they are stuck in it because they are idiots. And it is all the more hilarious because of it.

Overall, the writing is very good. It is hilarious and it has plenty of good foreshadowing, that some people can see coming, but still works. The film’s writing and plot is very good and has a good time of poking fun at slasher cliches without winking at the audience.

Character and Cast Section:

I will be focusing this section on the four main leads, Tucker, Dale, Allison, and Chad as they are the most prominent and have the most character development of the cast. I will start by saying all the actors do their jobs very well. Alan Tudyk and Taylor Labine have great chemistry and play off each other well. They form a good double act together that really works for the film. I also liked how they are written when it comes to witnessing all the deaths in the film. They react how normal people would act: They are horrified by these accidents and are confused as to what is happening and why. They are down to Earth people and hilarious together.

Tucker is the smarter of the two that takes the most initiative when it comes to living life. He also encourages Dale to be more outgoing and confident with his life. Dale is the larger of the two and, as stated before, has very little confidence in himself. He feels that because he didn’t have the education the other students have had that means he is dumb. However, it is shown that he is smarter than he looks as he is shown to have memorized random facts that even come to his aid during the final slasher battle. While Tucker and Dale share the spotlight, it is clear that Dale is the main character as he changes the most and has a more definite arc. He is the one that gains self-confidence and is able to save the day and Allison and eventually goes on a date with her. Overall, Tucker and Dale are good main leads that work for the film and carry it well.

Katrina Bowden does a good job as the level headed and sensible member of the college students, Allison. Allison doesn’t change as the film goes on, but she does act as a good and likable character. In a normal slasher film, she would be the main character and the one to survive, in accordance with the cliches of the genre. And of course she does survive, but not alone. She also serves as Dale’s love interest and the one to be rescued by the end, but it doesn’t feel detrimental to her character as she helps Dale discover the weakness and key to defeating Chad, the main villain. Overall, Katrina Bowden is a good actress and she and Taylor Labine have good romantic chemistry and Allison is a good female character for the film.

This next part is full of spoilers so read at your own risk. If you don’t want to have the ending spoiled, stop reading here and watch the film. It’s on Netflix so you can watch it there if you want. Ok. This next paragraph explains the character of Chad.

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Chad is the main antagonist of the film. While starting out as the leader of the college students, Chad is indirectly responsible for the deaths of the college students by the fact that he is the reason they take things way out of proportion and try to assault Tucker and Dale. He is the one who instills the fear of Hillbillies (Or Rednecks) into the student’s minds by telling the story of the Memorial Day Massacre, which, as he later reveals, his mom survived. Though it is later revealed that his mom was raped by one of the killers and thus impregnating her with Chad. This also leads to probably my favorite line of the entire movie: “It’s true, Chad. You’re half hillbilly.”

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When Allison tries to mediate between the two parties, Chad is the one who takes things too far and, following an explosion that kills the remaining characters, save him, Tucker, Dale, and Allison, he is left horribly burned and mentally unhinged, resembling a disfigured slasher movie villain. He kidnaps Allison and non-fatally wounds Tucker, leaving Dale as the one to face him in a final duel in an old saw mill. And like most slasher movie villains, Chad is later revealed to be alive, though it is unknown whether or not he will go after Tucker, Dale and Allison as the film ends on a good note.

I liked the cast of the film. The leads all do their jobs well and the characters are very likable and you want to see the leads come to a good happy ending. And you want to see the villain get his just desserts. It surprised me as this film did something that most Slashers don’t: It had good characters that weren’t assholes and did not make you think “Why am I rooting for these assholes?” It’s a good ensemble and brings the film up a few notches in my opinion.

Gore factor:

This section will be shorter than the rest. Like all Slashers, gore is a key factor in the film. And the gore is just… perfect. This is a very gory film. It doesn’t hold back and the practical effects and how the kills are portrayed are very convincing, the best one being the wood chipper death scene. However, unlike most Slashers that go overboard for the sake of shock value, like Saw, the gore in this film is meant to be so over the top that it is actually quite funny.

The film lets you know how ridiculous these deaths are because of the easily avoidable circumstances that cause them. The best one in my opinion is the wood chipper because of two factors: Presentation and comedy.

This is how it goes. During the scene where the students try to ambush Tucker and Dale and “save” Allison, Tucker is nonchalantly putting logs in a wood chipper. One of the students, wielding a small swiss army knife as a weapon, comes up behind him. However, the student trips and falls head first into the active chipper. Tucker, seeing this, is horrified and tries to get him out, all the while, the Puréed remains of the student splatter onto two onlookers. And as soon as the chipper stops, Tucker, flabbergasted by this, asks probably the funniest and most redundant question ever uttered. “You okay?” That is comedy. It is so over the top and unexpected that it is hilarious. And it is what makes this film work overall.

The practical effects are good and the gore is used for over the top hilarity. I honestly commend the effects team for this and congratulate them on making me laugh at a kid going head first into a wood chipper.

Overall:

This is a great comedy. It’s a classic misunderstanding comedy mixed with a slasher movie done from the perspective of the “killers”. Taylor Labine and Alan Tudyk are great duo leads and carry the movie well. The story is clever and the practical effects are very well done. If you want a movie to watch this Halloween, watch this one. You won’t regret it.