Tucker and Dale are two rednecks who just want to fix up their new cabin. Chad and his gang of douchey college party bros just want to have a weekend camping in the woods without being murdered by rednecks. Hilarity ensues. Really though, hilarity does ensue. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine co-star as the eponymous duo in this inversion of a slasher. There’s a lot to bite into in this movie. Watch the trailer, and then check our review below to see how those bites taste. The first half of that sentence was literal, the second half was figurative.
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Jake: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. A movie I have a surprisingly difficult time getting the name correct on. We finally did it. Congratulations are in order. And why did we watch this one, Mark?
Mark: Because I’ve been telling you clowns to watch this thing for the past year, and I finally had the opportunity to actually force you to watch. Yeah, it required me shoehorning it into our brilliant game of horror-telephone, but that game was already basically one giant shoe horn. With the amount of time you guys had spent ignoring my recommendation I felt an ethical imperative to get you up to speed.
Jake: You’re definitely correct about getting me up to speed. This movie was a blind spot for me. It’s been in my Netflix queue for years. I truly have no idea why I hadn't taken the plunge to this point. Maybe it’s because I more or less knew the story, but it’s kind of hard to speculate. I like Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden is a smokeshow, and yeah… there’s no excuse.
Mark: For reference to the reader, because Jake just utterly made up a word, smokeshow means that she is attractive. The movie’s premise is a pretty clever one: Tucker and Dale are two well-meaning guys who just bought a fixer-upper cabin in the woods, and as they are working to repair it a bunch of college kids feel threatened by them and take drastic measures. The teens think that Tucker and Dale are slasher villains. Tucker and Dale think the kids are a suicide cult. Everyone just wants to have a nice weekend in the woods.
Jake: It’s a lot like The Cabin in the Woods in a lot of ways. It came out around the same time, had a clever setup that is more than meets the eye, and pays homage to the genre in a genuine way while being very comedic in tone.
Mark: They actually both open in similar ways too. Not necessarily the exact first scene, but both involve the main characters going to a run down gas station and getting spooked. Unlike Cabin in the Woods, this scene ends with the protagonist buying a six pound jug of pickled eggs. This movie excels at providing context to classic horror scenes that takes them from menacing to charming. As the teens leave the gas station, Dale walks up to smokehouse girl and provides some classic lines of horror dialogue and an evil sounding laugh. But we learn that it’s only because he’s nervous and self-conscious and not because he’s a murderous hillbilly. It’s a really solid exercise in writing.
Jake: By the time Tucker and Dale get to their glorious vacation home, which is an absolute shit hole with definite “people got fucking eviscerated here” warning signs, we kind of get the gig. The kids are scared of hillbillies, and Tucker and Dale fill that role while being a little unsure of the kids. Add Dale’s inferiority complex, and everyone thinks everyone else is the bad guy.
Mark: Seeing as they are at a cabin, the two friends grab some beers and go night fishing in one of the most relatable scenes in the movie. The teens are also there, blissfully unaware of the duo until Allison (smokehouse) slips and knocks herself out jumping into the lake. The teens flee in a panic thinking that their friend was just attacked and kidnapped, and Dale and Tucker are forced to take her back to their cabin to make sure she doesn’t die.
Jake: First of all, “smokehouse”? She’s not a piece of meat, man. She’s a smokeshow. I didn’t invent that. Don’t let him tell you I invented it, reader… Anyway, with all that plot-building shit out of the way, this more or less gets us to the movie’s bread & butter: its kills. So let’s get to the first one shall we?
Mark: Absolutely. A little bit of setup: it’s the next morning and the kids are outside of the cabin trying to see where their keeping smokehouse. Tucker is outback chainsawing up a rotten tree that has fallen in the backyard. One of the kids who drew the short straw approaches the cabin, but as he does Tucker hits a beehive in the log and shit gets real. Tucker runs into the front yard, chainsaw still revving, in a direct nod to Leatherface. Again, this movie excels at providing context to classic horror scenes that make them completely disarming. The kid runs away and as he’s looking over his shoulder at the chainsaw shenanigans he impales himself on a tree stump. Tucker doesn’t see this happen as he’s already returned to the cabin to pour beer on his face… you know… as you do.
Jake: It really is a great TCM nod. From this point, things swiftly ratchet up in intensity. Not long after impalement, the teens find their friend and have even more probable cause that the hillbillies are murderous psychopaths. They decide to mount a counteroffensive but man does it go poorly. The two main attackers are both killed in short order. The first stumbles while approaching Dale and Allison, who are digging a hole for an outhouse. The teens suspect he is having her dig her own grave, in yet another clever example of the way this film uses every action as a cause for misunderstanding between the two parties. I have a slight issue with this kill, as the kid falls into the hole and impales himself on a sharpened branch he is wielding. For such a clever movie, I can’t figure out why they had to have the first two kills both rely on impalement.
Mark: Completely agree. I’ve seen this movie half a dozen times now and that bit still sticks out to me. It doesn’t much matter because in short order one of the other teens charges Tucker, trips, and falls head first into the woodchipper. Tucker tries to pull him out by his legs, but to the terrified onlooking teens it looks like he’s purposefully feeding him into the thing.
Jake: By this point, the kids are certain they are being picked off by maniacs, and Tucker & Dale are fearful that they are caught up in some kind of fucked up suicide pact. They vow to protect Allison from the other kids. In a moment of necessary plot building, the kids manage to get a sheriff out to the scene. Tucker and Dale know they are fucked. The evidence is incredibly stacked against them. It creates a hilarious scene where Tucker tries to explain things to the incredulous cop. Alan Tudyk knocks it out of the fucking park here.
Mark: He knocks it out of the park in every scene, man. That’s what really makes this movie: the on-screen chemistry of the protagonist trio (including smokehouse). In any case they take the cop inside to talk to Allison so that she can corroborate their story. When she does the cop is satisfied, but before he clears the situation up he leans on a rotten post and gets a 2x4 full of nails to the head. He stumbles out of the cabin and the kids all panic and freak out. One of them manages to get his hands on the sheriff’s pistol, and accidentally shoots himself in the face. Rough times.
Jake: I can’t fucking believe you’re still calling her smokehouse… God. This sets off pure mayhem and both parties resort to straight-up guerilla warfare in a bid for survival. The remaining teens are now being coaxed into action by fratboy prime, Chad, who is a certifiable lunatic and just wants to kill things while having his collar popped.
Mark: This is honestly a good time to stop to discuss some issues this movie has. For one, aside from Allison and Chad, you never really get any character information about the other teen-fodder. The kids see their friend shoot himself on accident and still blame T&D. Chad’s actions are sort of justified, but are still fully psychopathic, and the rest of the kids are easily convinced to follow along. These are all minor quibbles, and are mostly necessary for the plot, but they still stick out a bit while you’re watching.
Jake: Not really, man. Given how easy it was for them to send their idiot friend who eventually shoots himself out to find the cops in the first place, they could resort to a wide variety of things other than trying to literally kill people with axes and sticks. It’s not Lord of the Flies. There were way less boobies in that...
Mark: To get back to the movie: the teens are now in full siege mode at the cabin and manage to kidnap Tucker. Yada yada yada torture porn light and Tucker gets some fingers cut off. The dude just can’t catch a break. All he wanted was a nice vacation at his new vacation home.
Jake: Dale has had about enough of fuckboy’s shit at this point, so he sets out to rescue Tucker. It goes fine. Surprisingly fine in fact. There are zero issues. He almost gets his nuts eviscerated by a booby trap, but we’ve all been there.
Mark: Oh my god tell me about it. Near-miss nut evisceration is a given on camping trips. Back at the cabin the teens are already balls deep in their rescue mission. Smokehouse sits them down to play mediator because “like, so many of the world's problems are caused by miscommunication.” Poignant. Tucker and Dale come back only to be sat down at a table to talk things out. Dale’s in obvious pain, but luckily he has plenty of beer to pour on his wounds.
Jake: It’s important to note here that they drink earl grey tea because Needledick McGillicutty is an asthmatic and can’t have chamomile. Store that one in the ol’ brain balls kiddos. File it under “Chekhov’s tea allergy”. Got it? I don’t give a fuck. Moving on.
Mark: At this point it feels like they couldn’t really figure out how to finish off the rest of the teens, because they all die when the house explodes. Oh yeah, forgot to mention, that easy-going mediated conversation I brought up earlier? Doesn’t go well. The house explodes and kills everyone except the protagonist trio and “Needledick McGillicutty.” Jake certainly has a way with words. Fratboy Prime goes straight off his hinges and kidnaps Allison.
Jake: Captain Dick&balls does the most Bond villain thing ever after capturing Allie. He goes to the nearby sawmill and sets an elaborate deathtrap for her while calling a pursuing Dale out to a fight. Dale is (predictably) able to fend him off while simultaneously rescuing Allie.
Mark: Really though. Dale is a big guy. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody who could easily match up against him, and an obviously glamour-muscle-heavy leg-day-skipping popped-collar-wearing nancy-boy doesn’t really even have a chance… especially when Dale throws some chamomile tea at him to trigger his allergies. Kid got fucking scienced. That’s what you get.
Jake: With all the kids but the hot one dead, Tucker and Dale most definitely conquered evil. What else? They drink some PBR’s through bendy straws and Dale gets the girl. As a matter of fact, they are so in love, they are completely tone deaf to a toothless hillbilly completely beating the shit out of and raping a helpless woman at a bowling alley. This is the final scene of the movie. What in the fuck, man?
ark: Yeah, it’s regrettable. But hey, love is blind right? Oh well, move past it. Ratings?
Jake: Yep. Move past rape… Mark said it. Ratings.
For 1, think of how Jerry Springer would rate paying a prostitute with a bad check:
For 10, think of how Charlie would rate his excitement to chop cats:
Mark: 8 - This movie is astoundingly clever. I’ve said this three times now, but it goes out of its way to provide disarming context to classic horror scenes. Also, it kills off the antagonist via Chekhov’s chamomile tea. It also gets huge points for doing all of this without directly winking at the camera. Unlike most other horror comedies this movie doesn’t have any characters directly commenting on the action as it’s occurring. That being said, there are a few issues here where fairly unbelievable shit has to happen in order to move the plot. Also, it’s not getting full points because most of the deaths are relatively uninspired.
Jake: 7 - I’m depending a bit on my Cabin in the Woods score here, as the similarities are vast. Ultimately, this is a clever and delightful story that will make you happy. Ultimately it’s lower than what I gave Cabin because it’s more simplistic and dumb (by design), and I feel they could have written in SIGNIFICANTLY more time for Katrina Bowden to wear less clothes, so… Missed opportunity?
WORLD BUILDING / IMMERSION:
Mark: 8 - The chemistry of the three main protagonists is outstanding and magnetic. It draws you in more than anything else. Beyond that, the script is absolutely charming. As with story, it falters quite a bit in the believability of a few scenes and I’m still confused as to why the teens blame T&D for their friend shooting himself. All in all those are very minor quibbles though. This is my fifth or sixth time through and it still pulls me in. Outstanding.
Jake: 6 - As mentioned in the review, this is a movie ripe in nods to the genre. In so doing, it does sacrifice its own immersion a bit because it has you actively thinking about those things it is paying homage to or tropes it is playing into. I think it's for the betterment of the movie as a whole given what it is, but what it is is not an immersive film.
Mark: 2 - There’s not much here to scare you. Potentially some squeamish scares, and a jump scare here or there, but I think you’re probably safe to watch this with anyone over 8 years old without much lost sleep. For the record, fear of bees is known as melissophobia.
Jake: 2 - This is exclusively for some good gore/splatter effects. This is not a scary film. At all.
EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):
Mark: 6 - Nothing ventured. There are some decent effects in this movie, but when you compare it to its obvious counterpart in Cabin in the Woods the magnitude is pretty low. That’s probably not a fair comparison, but it’s still getting a favorable score so I’m not really worried about it.
Jake: 6.5 - As I just mentioned, the gore effects were mostly good, but not groundbreaking. On top of that, there were not many effects to speak of, and there were a few fake looking elements to the shots from the forest.
Mark: 8.5 - I fucking love this movie. No matter how many times you’ve seen it, it’s still entertaining to put on. It’s a charming and surprisingly eloquent take on horror comedy, and the chemistry of Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, and Katrina Bowden is wildly engrossing. The funny thing is the first time I put this on I was very reluctant because the branding made it seem so unappealing. Maybe not the best way to get new viewership, but that being the setup to the movie’s punchline is phenomenal in its own right. Heavy recommend to anyone who hasn’t seen this.
Jake: 7 - This is a very fun movie that genre fans should absolutely see. It does what Cabin in the Woods does, only slightly worse in my opinion.