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TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (director/writer: Eli Craig; screenwriter: Morgan Jurgenson; cinematographer: David Geddes; editor: Bridget Durnford; music: Mike Shields; cast: Tyler Labine (Dale), Alan Tudyk (Tucker), Katrina Bowden (Allison), Jesse Moss (Chad), Chelan Simmons (Chloe), Travis Nelson (Chuck), Philip Granger (Sheriff), Brandon McLaren (Jason); Runtime: 88; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Morgan Jurgenson/Albert Klychak/Rosanne Milliken/Deepak Nayar; Magnolia Pictures; 2010)

“Silly one-joke spoof horror/comedy about rednecks and college students together in the woods.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

First-time director Eli Craig, the son of the actress Sally Field, directs and cowrites with Morgan Jurgenson this low-budget silly one-joke spoof horror/comedy about rednecks and college students together in the woods, which results in a series of misunderstandings and plays like a crude student film. The unimaginative pic draws on past cliched genre horror stories about students facing ‘danger in the woods’ to set it up for chills and turn that into physical comedy. It won the Midnight Audience Award at SXSW and the Jury Prize for First Feature at Fantasia. I guess there’s an audience out there for such cutesy cultish low-brow comedies, but its humor and craftsmanship eluded me.

Peaceful hillbilly best friends Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) visit for the first-time the dilapidated cabin in the woods of rural West Virginia they just bought as a vacation home, and on the same week-end a van filled with nondescript college students, led by the offensive loud-mouth hillbilly hater preppy Chad (Jesse Moss), also head to the same spot in the woods to camp out in tents. The students mistake the yokels for kidnappers/murderers when attractive coed Allison (Katrina Bowden) knocks herself unconscious while skinny-dipping in the lake and is taken by fishing boat to the redneck cabin to recuperate.

The amiable 26-year-old bearded Dale has a schoolboy crush on the sweet psychology major coed, Allison, but is too tongue-tied and filled with low self-esteem to communicate with her. After she realizes he’s harmless and not as dumb as he looks, they become friends. Unfortunately Chad stirs up the other students to attack the cabin, and that results in a few of the kids dying gruesome deaths (one impaled and another stumbles into an activated wood chipper). When Allison tries to bring both sides together, she proves to be not up to the task of managing the crisis-prevention situation. We also learn that the boys’ cabin was previously owned by a mountain family, who twenty years ago participated in the infamous Memorial Day Massacre in the same woods.

The narrative never gets beyond its limited one-idea plotline, and spins its wheels going nowhere as it continually shows the good-natured oafish country boys getting caught up in situations that make them appear to be psycho killers. Meanwhile the film reverses who usually is the bad guy in this sort of trashy horror B flick, by showing us how the scummy Chad, a boy with big psychological issues, in a sadistic way unnecessarily goes after the nice guy hillbillies. Problem is it never was funny or anything more than a poorly contrived copycat film, whose gimmick was to turn the tables on the usual Hollywood practice of making the rednecks the heavies and instead this filmmaker spoofs the spoiled students as bigots who judge by appearances.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”