My notes on the 2011 FrightFest choice.This is one of those concepts someone had to do eventually – and we should be grateful it was managed so well. It’s always been a risk in horror comedies which invert expectations that you end up with scratched heads and overly mildjinx: as in (spoilers!) Transylvania 6-500, where all the monsters have rational explanations and Transylvania is lovely really, or April Fools Day, where it really is all a prank and no one was murdered.
Here, a group of horny, foolish or obnoxious college kids head into the backwoods for a camp-out and are instinctively terrified of the locals, though bearded Dale (Tyler Lebine) and moss-toothed Tucker (Alan Tudyk), the hillbilly leads, are basically sweet guys who just want to enjoy their new-bought vacation shack, which happens to be the site of a massacre that took place twenty years ago. Through misunderstandings, the kids assume that the hillbillies have kidnapped final girl-type Allison (Katrina Bowden) to be beaten, raped or eaten, though they’ve just saved her from drowning and Dale is finding himself sweet on the girl (who was raised on a farm and is under fewer misapprehensions about the locals than her friends). Barging in, the kids contrive to injure, maim or kill themselves in properly gruesome manners – one kid runs from Tucker, who has chainsawed into a bees’ nest and is waving his power-tool around and running in pain, and impales himself on a sharp branch … another charges up to the rescue and falls into a wood-chipper, leaving Tucker to explain the headless corpse to his friends. Actual conflict is provided by Chad (Jesse Moss), whose mother survived the earlier massacre (and who is, thanks to his rapist/killer father, part-hillbilly) and is a genuinely dangerous madman – when spurned by Allison, he turns into a psycho-killer and goes on a rampage that winds up in a sawmill with the girl rescued from the burn-faced preppy loon by the stalwart hillbilly heroes, and Dale’s surprising Trivial Pursuit skills saving the day because he knows the active ingredient in herbal tea which sets off Chad’s asthma (!).
Lebine and Tudyk make a good double act, and one wouldn’t be surprised if they spun off a series of ‘Tucker and Dale vs’ movies a la Abbott and Costello (or, more to the point, Ma and Pa Kettle), and Bowden is acceptably sweet. It digs at the likes of Cabin Fever and Wrong Turn (and indeed is an interesting rebuke to an entire generation of heartless horror filmmakers), but still delivers the comedy carnage (very explicit gore) and action thrills necessary for a slasher breakout. With quivering, funny, horrid stereotype college kid performances from Chelan Simmons (who has done a ton of horror bimbo roles and nicely sends them up here), Christie Laing, Travis Nelson, Alex Arsenault and Brandon Jay McLaren. Written by Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson; directed by Craig.