It’s a tale as old as film: hillbillies vs. the outside world. It has been seen many times over the decades: “Beverly Hillbillies,” The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Deliverance, and scores of other movies and TV shows. Yet, never before has it taken the twists and turns that Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil takes the trope.
The film begins with a news story about a crazed killer in a cabin. After the cameraman and anchor are slaughtered by a monstrous person, the film cuts to a car full of obnoxious, preppy college students. The students are off to the wilderness for the usual drunken, drug-fueled debauchery for which college students are famous. Having realized they forgot to bring beer, they decide to find a store wherein they meet the film’s unlikely heroes.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Lebine) are two hillbillies who are heading for their newly-purchased, fixer-upper vacation home (coincidentally the former home of the famed fictional Memorial Day Massacre mastermind). At a backwoods general store, they run into the group of preppy college students. Dale takes a shine to perky co-ed Allison (Katrina Bowden) and, with Tucker’s coaching, attempts to approach her, much to the horror of the girl and her friends, particularly hillbilly hater Chad (Jesse Moss).
At heart, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has more in common with Disney’s Beauty & the Beast than other movies in its genre. Here, let me explain. We’ll cast the roles as such: Dale is the Beast, Allison is Belle, Tucker is the castle’s staff, Chad is Gaston, and all of the other co-eds are the impressionable townspeople. After rescuing Belle from nearly drowning, the Beast and his staff spend a good chunk of time convincing her that they’re all suffering from misconceptions about each other.
Meanwhile, Gaston has riled up the townsfolk with tales of terror about hillbillies. His mother narrowly escaped the Memorial Day Massacre that cost the lives of his father and their friends. Hillbillies are dangerous and terrible folk who are to be feared and reviled. Therefore, these two particular hillbillies must be stopped and Belle must be rescued at all costs. After all, he and Belle are perfect for each other and destined to be together, even if she disagrees vehemently.
Okay, see what I mean? Totally Beauty & the Beast right there.
Here’s where it really diverges from the rest of the slasher movie genre. Gaston leads the townsfolk on a series of disastrous rescue attempts that result in hilarious and gruesome accidental deaths. Beast and his staff perceive those accidents as some sort of bizarre series of suicide attacks. After all, what else could they possibly be?
The climactic showdown in this movie is filled with hilarious revelations, Chekhov’s chamomile, and surprising sweetness. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen that successfully juxtaposes bloody deaths with moments of adorableness. It’s a horror movie with the biggest heart I’ve ever seen, proving that one can find beauty in some of the most unexpected places. Even in a pile of corpses.