Viking Night: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
By Bruce Hall
January 12, 2017
I love a film whose whole pitch is in the title. The Magnificent Seven was about seven magnificent guys...with guns. Die Hard was about a man (and a franchise) who, if you were a terrorist, got under your skin like ringworm and then could not be silenced OR killed. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure was, in fact, both of those things. I guess I just love a good, descriptive title - particularly when the story behind it exceeds expectations.
I’m not trying to say that Tucker and Dale vs Evil is the Nakatomi Plaza of horror films. I am saying that I can verify the existence of a guy named Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and a guy named Dale (Tyler Labine), and as advertised they spend most of the movie (hilariously) fighting evil. Not only that, but the quality of the film is perhaps significantly better than what you’d expect, considering the title. If it had been called Tucker and Dale Eat Paste, it may or may not have been the same movie, but I’d probably have lived the rest of my life without seeing it.
Thankfully, that did not happen. I finally watched Tucker and Dale vs Evil on the advice of a friend, and because horror movies have started to feel rather whimsical to me in comparison to real life. I managed to take care of two things at once, and I do so love that kind of efficiency. But the best part about it is the way Tucker and Dale (as it shall henceforth be called) casually, knowingly flips the script on the whole “teenagers trapped in the woods” trope. Both the title and the posters carry the promise of horrific absurdity, and I am pleased to report that it delivers the goods.
I wasn’t so sure at first, though. If I counted correctly, somewhere between seven and nine college students decide to take a weekend camping trip in the remote Appalachians, because they clearly have never seen The Evil Dead. They are the kind of obnoxious, aggressively multi-cultural group kids that you always see in these kinds of movies, and I’ve never not immediately wished them all dead. Tucker and Dale is no exception, as I found myself yearning for a chainsaw murder within the first few minutes. Instead, we get a bit of foreshadowing, as the kids are passed up on the road by a pair of grizzled hillbillies in a battered pickup truck.
The obvious conclusion is that these men are dangerous, because when have rednecks in trucks ever NOT been dangerous? But we discover shortly thereafter that Tucker and Dale are actually moderately dimwitted best friends who happen to be on a vacation of their own. Coincidentally, both parties make a pit stop at a small town convenience store, where Dale’s innocent attempts to break the ice only make him look even more serial-killery. But while the kids fret over the possibility of being skinned alive in their sleep, Tucker and Dale are just looking to fix up an old cabin, do some fishing, and drink some beer.
Obviously, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Or, can you?