Of the vast swaths of Americana projected onto the silver screen, rednecks are among the most underrepresented.
Despite the pay-per-view receipts for “WrestleMania” and perpetual syndication of “Hee Haw” that represents their contribution to the American experience, these sons of the soil are typically portrayed one of two ways on film: “squeal like a pig” or “git ‘r done.”
It is this public perception of rednecks falling somewhere between “Deliverance” and a Jeff Foxworthy comedy tour that fuels the humor in director Eli Craig’s horror-comedy of errors “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil”.
The titular Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are a couple of well-meaning good ol’ boys en route to their recently purchased vacation home, a dilapidated “fixer-upper” cabin deep in the hills of Appalachia, when they spot the attractive Allison (Katrina Bowden) traveling with a group of preppy college students. After a pep talk from Tucker, Dale barely summons the courage to speak to Allison at a rest stop. Allison mistakes Dale’s mealymouthed anxiousness for mental instability and has her friend Chad (Jesse Moss) chase him off. This leads Chad to recount a story, shown as a sepia-steeped flashback, about a series of murders committed by a couple of rednecks in those woods 20 years ago.
In typical horror movie fashion, the college kids respond to the scary story by unwittingly going skinny-dipping in the same pond that Tucker and Dale are fishing. When Allison inevitably spots the dejected duo while getting undressed, she falls and hits her head, leaving Dale to dive in and rescue her. Much to Dale’s surprise, Allison’s friends flee in terror at the sight of him pulling her up onto his boat. While Dale decides to nurse Allison back to health until her friends return, Chad and company assume the rednecks captured her and subsequently mount a campaign to save her by any means necessary. Hilarity ensues.
The source of that hilarity lies with writer-director Craig’s ability to honor the tropes of horror while simultaneously wringing out the ridiculousness of the genre. From the “Blair Witch Project” style cold open to the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” aping chase through the woods, Craig’s feature film debut uses horror classics as signposts which allow the audience to identify with the college kids’ perception of Tucker and Dale. As each film reference undermines Tucker and Dale’s good intentions to comedic effect, the knee-jerk reaction of the attractive college students, who would otherwise be the protagonists of a horror film, serves as a criticism of prejudicial treatment — adding a layer of meaning that raises “Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil” above a simple genre parody and into the realm of satire.