“Perception is reality,” many Human Resource manuals claim, a rather unsettling way of saying If the woman two cubicles over thinks you’re a leering pervert, then you are. It’s also the hook that director Eli Craig hangs the twist on in the 2010 splatter comedy TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL.
Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine star as the titular duo, a couple of good ol’ boys headed into the West Virginia mountains to restore a cabin. Along the way they meet a pack of party-minded co-eds, among them 30 ROCK’s Katrina Bowden, with whom Dale gets immediately smitten. Unfortunately, Dale’s awkwardness with women, paired with the college students’ prejudiced misconceptions, causes them to mistake him and Tucker for creepy, ill-intending hillfolk. Thus sets up a series of misunderstandings and half-assed assumptions that quickly escalate out of hand into an inadvertent bloodbath.
TUCKER AND DALE mines plenty of laughs out of slasher-film and scary-redneck cliches, spoofing their tropes without the annoying meta “we’re totally in a horror movie” approach that usually infects recent horror-comedies. The script stretches the premise almost to the breaking point, threatening to turn its slapstick plot points unacceptably ludicrous, but wisely switches gears in the second half, offering one of the would-be “victims” (Jesse Moss, in a weasely nefarious turn) into a genuine threat.
There’s nothing special to TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL (which reportedly sat on the shelf for three years before seeing limited release), but it does provide some plentiful gore and genuine laughs. Tudyk and Labine make for a winning pair of reluctant heroes, displaying great chemistry together (I wouldn’t mind seeing these guys in more misadventures–maybe next time they can stumble upon a zombie outbreak?). And Bowden gets a chance to be funny without playing dumb, while still playing up her, um, less subtle assets.
It’s no classic, but TUCKER AND DALE VS. EVIL is definitely worth checking out.