Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Love Story with Hillbillies: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

How do you like your hillbilly horror?  Are you a Mother’s Day fan? Not the remake, but the Kaufman original?  Maybe you prefer a slightly more educated variety of hillbilly to which I might suggest Motel Hell. Maybe you’re headed through the hills of West Virginia and are feeling a little Wrong Turn. They’re all fine movies. The hillbilly horror genre endures to this day with a remake of Mother’s Day out, Wrong Turn 5000 making an appearance and…oh yeah… TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL! How do you put a new spin on the backwoods hick with a hatchet turning your brothers and sisters into barbeque? Just ask Eli Craig, Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk.

The movie follows two completely different groups of individuals headed to the woods for a bit of R and R. Group one is a bunch o’ college kids, drunk on daddy’s money with the intent of getting brewed and screwed. Group two is Tucker and Dale, two friends going to restore their newly purchased bungalow in the woods. When the two meet up stereotypes take over and of course, gory, bloody murder abounds (best not give too much away) along side an adventure into self worth and an exploration what it truly means to be intelligent. 

Tucker & Dale is to the hillbilly horror film what Shaun of the Dead is to the zombie genre; a play on stereotypes, nearly self aware and with tongue stapled to cheek. Let’s face it there isn’t much you can do in hillbilly films that wasn’t already tackled in 2000 Maniacs back in the 60’s. Sure, you can build a better redneck, find a new off beat hellhole as the setting or give your hillbilly a bigger better axe. Tucker & Dale works because it builds a kinder, gentler redneck; downright loveable. Craig has taken the very things you fear most about this group of people that have been content to be the aggressors in films and given them a heart and a mind. That’s not to say that we don’t absolutely adore hillbilly films. We do. I’m ok with Wrong Turn X and remake any god damn thing you want, but we it’s nice to be cheering for bad guy who’s not actually a bad guy at all.

Tucker (Tyler Labine) is so gosh darn huggable in only a way that a man in a set of overalls wielding a power tool can be (yes I feel comfortable in my masculinity saying that… Tits tits tits tits tits). From first glance he’s everything you’ve come to expect from a maniac in the woods. Drinks PBR (fuck Heineken). Wears a cut off flannel shirt and overalls (as previously stated). He’s got the accent you want your redneck to have, but don’t let all that fool you. Wipe that stereotype off your face. Tucker’s just a shy puppy dog. He’s deceptively smart and he’s got a big heart. He’s Ducky from Pretty in Pink, Southern Fried. Between him and his buddy, Dale (Alan Tudyk), you’ve got the re-imagination of two 80’s dorky horror heroes.

The budding love story that inevitably unfolds between Allison (Katrina Bowden) and Tucker confirms that you are in fact watching a Love Story with Hillbillies rather than a Hillbilly Horror flick, but that doesn’t mean you be disappointed with your kills. Again, that’s the same reason the Shaun of the Dead worked so well. Using a woodchipper or moonshine to kill somebody isn’t only fun and entertaining; it continues the self reflective comedic position that makes this a successful picture. You could always go watch Woodchipper Massacre or Leaving Vegas if you want to see either one of these things kill somebody, but you won’t get the overwhelming good feeling from either picture. You will belly laugh yourself to near vomit (aren’t you glad you funneled that last PBR?). The gore is good. The kills are fun and in fact funny.
I think your best bet with a film like Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is to watch it with a group of friends, but pair it with your favorite hillbilly flick; whichever you like. Most of the non-horror folk among you might not fully understand the tropes that are at the butt end of these jokes unless you help them to understand by example. There’s no bad reason to re-watch some of the classics or have a marathon in general.

I think the most important thing to really ask ourselves is why we think that all hillbilly horror flicks need to come from West Virigina? New Jersey has its own set of redneck culture ripe for a film like this. Hell, you can find your own regional variety of redneck in anywhere in the world.  It’s nice to have a movie preach tolerance, decries prejudice and breaks down barriers that stereotypes can create especially when it’s the end result is a comedic blood bath.

“That’s a PBR Buddy. That’s a thing of beauty.” Yes, yes it is.

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