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From Under A Rock: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

August 27, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
8.5
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From Under A Rock: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil  

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Underdog stories are some of the most relatable types of movies. Not only is this week’s pick somewhat of an underdog story for the characters on-screen, but the film itself is an underdog. I wasn’t aware of any theatrical run at the time, it had box art that reeked of Straight-to-DVD, and no real star power to boot. It’s a miracle I even made the impulse buy when I saw it on the shelf several years back. But I did, I watched it, and I loved everything about it. It’s not perfect, but there’s so much charm and heart…which I guess is what defines something as an underdog.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week’s movie was just a flesh wound, as Aaron showed Michael Monty Python & the Holy Grail. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Released: September 30th, 2011
Directed by: Eli Craig
Written by: Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson
Starring:
Tyler Labine as Dale Dobson
Alan Tudyk as Tucker McGee
Katrina Bowden as Allison
Jesse Moss as Chad

Michael Ornelas: As you can imagine from my intro paragraph, I’m simply quite fond of this movie. Much like Gattaca from a few weeks ago, I knew Aaron knew nothing about it and found it to be a must-see for him. Knowing his sensibilities, I thought it would be right up his alley. And was it?

Aaron Hubbard: I am glad you trusted your intuition, because I never would have given this a shot and I would have missed out. It wasn’t until I saw Alan Tudyk on the case that I got excited to see it; he’s one of the unsung heroes of a lot of things I love.
Tucker&Chipper
Defying Appearances: The Horror Genre
Michael: So this movie is a lot of things on the surface, and it bends expectations at every turn. So the first way I want to talk about how it does that is how it holds up as a horror movie. This film is full of horror tropes – half out of homage/satire, half out of necessity – and then manages to flip them on their head. We get “dumb teenagers” and “creepy hillbillies” set on opposite sides of the horror playing field, but then it’s the teens’ preconceived notions that ends up causing them to kill themselves. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that before and it definitely steered this ship away from horror and more towards comedy. It’s brilliant, but is this still a horror movie? I’d argue it’s not, despite the attempts to make Chad into the “big bad.” The sequences with him definitely brought gore and villainy, but never fear.

Aaron: I agree, it’s definitely more comedy than it is horror, but it’s much funnier if you know horror tropes and get what they are parodying. Sort of like The Cabin in the Woods, though this is much more straightforward. I can’t think of one legitimate scare, and that’s not a knock on it.

Michael: I can think of one cheap one: the first time in Tucker & Dale’s vacation home. The swinging beam with the nails that ended up killing the cop. It’s a jump scare, but it still counts! That said, the merits of this film as horror are superficial only and while the movie delivers on all intended fronts, those watching this expecting horror are bound to be disappointed.
Allison&Dale
Defying Appearances: “Unlikable” Characters
Aaron: So here is where I have to admit to a couple of things I don’t feel especially proud of. Being a relatively well-educated, generally progressive Kansas resident, I have developed a disdain for rednecks/hillbillies and rarely enjoy them in anything. I also happen to dislike preps and jocks, the stock characters the college kids play. It’s to the movie’s credit that Dale, Tucker and Allison are all likable characters that get past that bias; and I don’t think it’s by accident. Really, if you’re somebody who doesn’t like these sub-sects of culture, you’re kind of the perfect audience for it.

Michael: The movie even tells you thematically that it’s about seeing past appearances. Allison sees Dale in a certain light at first and when she tells him what she and her friends first thought of him, he was devastated. I honestly only picked this movie up to see how Katrina Bowden would fare as Allison because I enjoyed her in 30 Rock and wasn’t exactly confident that she could be the female lead of a film. I was wrong about that as well. She’s not exactly Meryl Streep, but she shows a lot more range than the other character I’m familiar with seeing her play. The main three actors put a lot of heart into this movie, and as a result, tied the whole movie together. With no chemistry, this movie would be dead on arrival, but everyone puts in the work to give it the tone we’re so lucky to experience.

Aaron: Dale in particular is one of my favorite characters now; I think most of us have moments where we at least feel as clumsy or stupid or ugly as Dale can come across. Hopefully we also realize we can share his more admirable traits, such as compassion, forgiveness and very real friendship.
Tucker&Dale
Defying Appearances: TV Actors
Michael: Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, and Katrina Bowden have all been around the block when it comes to acting, but none of them have arguably ever gotten their “big break.” I touched on this slightly earlier, but I want to dive into it here as someone who watched way more TV than the average person. Some of the best content in entertainment right now is coming from our television screens, and a large part of that is the stars behind it. Now “star” may be a bit generous in most people’s eyes because no Hollywood studio would put Alan Tudyk front and center for a movie and expect much from it. But Chris Pratt heard similar things before Guardians of the Galaxy came out and look where he is now. I think movies like this deserve theatrical runs with a full force marketing team behind them because they could climb to great heights if given the proper backing and confidence.

Aaron: I think this movie hit just a bit too early to be as successful as it could have been. It has never been easier to become aware of small films, foreign films and the like. If this film came out today and got positive buzz I would go out of my way to see it. So I am glad you introduced me to this one.

Michael: To give TV stars a chance, I actually bought (on impulse) another Straight-to-DVD movie a couple weeks ago, a comedy called Search Party with T.J. Miller, Thomas Middleditch (both from Silicon Valley), Adam Pally (from Happy Endings), and Alison Brie (from Community, Mad Men, and literally every sex dream I’ve had for the past seven years). I actually really enjoyed it despite it looking like a really stupid movie on the surface. Which is actually very similar to Tucker & Dale, but I don’t know if it was worthy of making it a pick here. But I do recommend it to our readers.

Ratings:
Aaron: As long as something is genuinely unique and respectably executed, it can get a lot of leeway with me. Tucker and Dale is funny, sweet, and even kind of profound after a fashion. I really enjoyed it.

A-

Michael: I don’t necessarily know if this movie actually deserves as high a rating as I’m giving it: there are some things with the direction, editing, and cinematography that are underwhelming (though on the whole, they’re above average), but the story, themes, and characters are so strong. That, and the premise of “teens run from supposedly evil hillbillies and in the process get themselves killed” is brilliant. It’s a slasher film from the murderer’s POV if the murderers aren’t murderers at all and just misunderstood. It’s great.

B+

Aaron: So, how much of a hillbilly are you, Texas?

Michael: Said the Kansan…

What are some of your favorite Straight-to-DVD or VOD movies?

Next week:

Aaron: This week is a movie I got to watch for the first time last week and really fell in love with it. It’s a bit under the radar, but I really think you’ll enjoy it.
EQ
Michael: I’ve never even heard of it, so I have literally no reaction right now. That said, if I like it anywhere near as much as you’ve enjoyed my recent picks that you knew nothing about, I’m in for a treat.

Aaron: I certainly think you are.

Besides Batman, what is your favorite Christian Bale performance?

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Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day, The Departed, Breaking Bad, Shane, Glengarry Glen Ross, Blue Ruin, Office Space, The Batman Superman Movie: World’s Finest, Drive, Memoirs of a Geisha, Let the Right One In, Apocalypse Now, Aliens, The Incredible Hulk, A Clockwork Orange, Chicago, Seven, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, The Room, Chinatown, Jaws, Unforgiven, RoboCop, The Legend of Korra – Book One: Air, Ghostbusters, Spider-Man 2, Prometheus, Scarface, Gattaca, Monty Python & The Holy Grail, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil

MICHAEL HAS A WEB SERIES
Michael’s Spin on Things is a comedic YouTube product review parody channel in which Michael Ornelas will review ANYTHING and EVERYTHING in accordance to the criteria provided by the spin of a wheel.

In this week’s episode, Michael reviews everyone’s favorite childhood (and adulthood) toy: LEGO!

AARON HAS A COLUMN
This week, Aaron talks about his favorite comic book storyline, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s epic Batman story, The Long Halloween.

Aaron is now on Letterboxd!
Check me out here to see my star ratings for 450 films. I will steadily be adding reviews for them as well as creating various lists that anonymous internet commenters can vehemently disagree with!

8.5
The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Not scary so much as scary funny, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil brings the brutality, the laughs, and a surprising amount of charm. We both really enjoy it for being a near-perfect version of what it wants to be, and think you should give it a fair shot, if you haven't. You will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised.
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