What if there was a horror movie where the evil weirdos were nice, and the respectable people were evil? This is the premise and running joke of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a cute gore-filled comedy.
It's Memorial Day weekend, a bunch of college kids -- frat boys and hot babes -- are heading to the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia for the weekend. They're excited by the usual activities -- weed and beer, skinny dipping -- but creeped out by two strange, dirty hillbillies they meet at a store on the way up. Chad (Jesse Moss) doesn't help by telling his fellow teens that it's the 20th anniversary of the Memorial Day Massacre, where some hillbillies slaughtered a bunch of people in this very location!

In this case, though, the hillbillies are quite nice. Tucker (Alan Tudyk) just bought his vacation home -- a rundown cabin that could easily be in the Evil Dead or Friday the 13th movies -- and looks forward to a weekend of fixing it up, along with fishing and drinking beer. Dale (Tyler Labine) is a sweet guy with a crush on the college girl Alison (Katrina Bowden), but he gets tongue-tied around women. When the accident-prone Alison slips and falls in the water, she's rescued by Tucker and Dale, who take her to their cabin to recover. And that's where the misunderstandings begin.

The college kids all think Alison was kidnapped by Tucker and Dale, and everything they see or hear reinforces that belief (as when Alison helps the hillbillies dig an outhouse, and the kids think she's being forced to dig her own grave). Worse, every time the kids try to rescue her, they wind up accidentally killing themselves (including the best woodchipper scene since Fargo) -- but in ways that make the remaining kids think Tucker and Dale are homicidal maniacs. (The dvd extra "Tucker and Dale ARE Evil" edits the movie, showing what happens from the college kids' point of view.) Chad seems especially intent on a survival-in-the-wild battle. For their part, Tucker and Dale think the kids are on a group suicide pact, and Dale is afraid they're trying to kill Alison. Hijinks, spattered blood, and a growing body count ensue.

While Tucker and Dale vs. Evil inverts the usual horror movie characters, it's fundamentally a one-joke movie: a misunderstanding that leads to mayhem and accidental horror. (Though the movie continues even after Dale and the surviving kids sit down to talk things out.) Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk manage the dual task of looking like backwoods killers while acting like nice, decent folks out for their own vacation. The rest of the cast is pretty one-dimensional, whether it's Katrina Bowden as the only college kid willing to stop and listen to the title characters, or Jesse Moss as the increasingly violent and intent survivor. The rest of the supporting cast blend together, with the biggest "personality trait" being the girl who runs slower than everyone else due to her high heels.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is light, superficial, and twisted fun. This movie doesn't deconstruct the horror cliches, but it does have fun with misunderstanding after bloody misunderstanding. The one-joke premise does wear thin after a while, but this is still entertaining -- in a very gory, light-hearted way.

Overall grade: B-

Reviewed by James Lynch

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