To be fair, this movie has been hyped to me for over a year before I finally saw it. If I had seen it at SXSW 2010 it would have been a delightful midnight movie. I think it’s good for what it is, but not great, and we have seen great from this genre.
Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are innocent woodsmen fixing up their cabin in the woods. A carload of college kids mistakes them for creepy killers, and through a series of misunderstandings, end up killing themselves while incriminating Tucker and Dale along the way.
That hook is brilliant: two innocent doofuses (doofi?) trying to help and inadvertently causing gory deaths in the gory horror tradition. Indeed, Tucker’s chainsaw incident is a work of art, making it look like a slasher chase thanks to Tudyk’s totally sincere performance.
Unfortunately, many of the subsequent accidents are familiar from other movies. Even some of the obvious ones are still joyfully excessive, although one blatantly totally foreshadowed early in the film. The gunshot death is especially cliché. The Coen Bros., Soderbergh and I’m sure Tarantino did that one at some point too.
The college kids do all the clichés from the horror movies with cell phone signals, splitting up and saying, “Don’t go in there.” That’s funny, and they’re all pretty much A-holes anyway. Chad (Jesse Moss) is the D-bag leader but they’re all pretty easy to hate. I thought screaming Chloe (Chelan Simmons) was adorable, in the gore fodder way she’s supposed to be.
Director Eli Craig shoots the film well. It looks like a professional movie except that Hollywood would never allow this kind of gore. He throws us some nighttime skinny dipping nakedness, although Allison (Katrina Bowden) only gets down to her undies of course.
Once Chad confronts Tucker and Dale, Allison has to keep her dialogue especially vague to maintain the misunderstanding. She tries to tell him that Tucker and Dale are her friends, but she never quite says, “They didn’t kidnap me. I almost drowned and they pulled me up to safety.” That would undo the whole story.
The film is mainly entertaining because Tudyk and Labine are so damn likeable, and Bowden plays a total sweetheart too. As festival movies go, it’s no Hobo with a Shotgun Rubber or Detention, but it’s in the same family.