Putting a spin on a staple of slasher films — if not all of cinema, post-"Deliverance" — rednecks Tucker (Alan Tudyk, "Dodgeball") and Dale (Tyler Labine, "A Good Old Fashioned Orgy") aren't actually trying to kill, maim or otherwise harm the group of good-lookin' college kids out in the Appalachians for a weekend of fun. The kids just assume that's the score.
In reality, Tucker and Dale are two of the nicest people they can meet, but their senses of fashion and hygiene are in inverse proportion to their kindness toward fellow man. But when they save one of the students, Allison (Katrina Bowden, TV's "30 Rock"), from drowning, the rest of her pals jump to the conclusion of kidnapping.
Each young person's attempt to "rescue" Allison from the hillbillies ends in vain, not to mention the grisly death he/she thought would happen; the fatal moves aren't the doing of Tucker and Dale, but the kids' own brazen, slapstick stupidity. It's all a big misunderstanding! Have they never seen reruns of "Three's Company"?
A son of Sally Field, Eli Craig has made an excellent first impression in his feature directing debut, co-writing with equally unknown Morgan Jurgenson. The film took three years to complete, but it doesn't exude any sort of slapdash effort held together with spit; it carries an earned air of well-polished craftsmanship, going off the rails only in the overextended climax when it becomes too similar to the very thing it parodies.
Of course, Craig's not-so-secret weapon is the chemistry between his two male leads. While both are great, Tudyk has the straight-man part, thus allowing Labine to break out as a better-restrained Jack Black type. It'd be a star-making role, if only this film had gotten the studio support it deserved. Something tells me a cult following is assured, and beyond just the horror-junkie crowd.
You want extras? A 12-minute making-of featurette gives away even more spoilers than the trailer; ditto "Tucker & Dale ARE Evil: The College Kids' Point of View," an entirely needless distillation of the flick into 16 minutes. Instead, opt for the seven minutes of outtakes, which showcase some of Tudyk and Labine's killer ad libs. —Rod Lott