Sunday 15 January 2012

Tucker & Dale Fightent Le Mal

Plot: Two hillbillies on vacation in their cabin in the woods find themselves the target of a group of college kids who, due to one big misunderstanding, have mistaken them for chainsaw-wielding killers.

Review: I could not resist using the French title of the film to name my post. This is indeed how Tucker & Dale vs Evil has been translated over there. If there was an Oscar for worse title/translation, it would be a frontrunner. And then again France is the country that gave us The Teeth of the Sea for Jaws. But I digress.

If there is one thing that we have learned with horror films, it is to avoid the Appalachian mountains, as well as West Virginia in particular. Indeed if you have seen The Descent, Deliverance, Wrong Turn and countless imitators, untold things lurk in the dark corners and forests of these areas, scary hillbillies or even underground monsters. You are likely to run into traps, be maimed, raped, and there will ALWAYS be a filthy cabin at some stage, with the lingering smell of human body parts being boiled. In whole horror sub-genre has been built around those codes. What should we call it? Hi-Ho, as in Hillbillies Horror? Virginian Horror?

So in an effort to address those offensive stereotypes, director Eli Craig and his co-scriptwriter Morgan Jurgenson had the brilliant idea of turning them around and make the "hillbillies" the victims while the college kids,  are the ones to be afraid of, with their own stupidity making them a danger to themselves and others. Sadly it is pretty much the only idea they have had, which makes the film a pleasant, but one-note horror comedy.

Fans of the genre will have plenty of laughs with it but it might leave the non-initiated a little baffled. The bratty school kids are instantly recognisable, with the alpha-male jock/jerk, the pink attired blonde bimbo, the nerdy weedy kid... while Tucker & Dale themselves are two gentle, kind souls, the polar opposite of the usual hillbillies stereotypes.

And there are some hilariously glory moments as the hapless kids, in their extreme clumsiness, manage to meet grizzly ends in the most violent ways: impalements, explosions or even a jump straight into a woodchipper! All of this while Tucker & Dale themselves are trying to fend off their not so efficient attacks against them, completely puzzled by their behaviour. There is a particularly hilarious tribute to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre with a scene involving a chainsaw (obviously!) and some bees which I will not spoil.

As I was saying earlier, it is all a bit one-note however. And the makers did not really know how to develop their original idea. It is amusing but the gore-comedy genre is a tricky one to pull off as there is no tension at all, despite them not having been shy on the gore. Plus the idea of turning the tables around mean that there is no real sense of threat. To make things worse, in a misguided attempt to partly to address those issues, the third act goes downhill with some questionable plot developments.

Nevertheless, any horror fan cannot fail to enjoy this slight comedy, with the added bonus of Alan Tudyk as Tucker, who makes any film he is in 10% better.  And it is to my knowledge the only film to have ever used the early 90's cult dance anthem Pump up the Jam by Technotronic!

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