May 19: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil | A B-Movie Horror or Thriller
Okay so first off WTF is a B movie these days? A B movie, in it’s original sense, was the second and less prominent film of a double header. You know, back when tickets were a dime and you got to see TWO movies… we’ve come a long way. Anyways, those days are done, and the B movie just became synonymous with a low budget, non-arthouse film, often a genre film like horror, where the scale can be low, with few locations.
But today, the B movie has fallen to the wayside. One of the unforeseen consequences of the constantly ballooning budgets of our blockbusters is the quiet inflation of our mid-budget and genre films. Look at The Exorcist, filmed for $12 million back in 1973, versus a modern horror movie like The Conjuring 2 at $40 million or 2002’s The Ring at $48 million. The mid-budgets of today are growing, and the small budgets looks more like mid-budgets, and all of this has virtually squeezed out the B movie. I think in 2017, the B movie has evolved, in it’s genre, from the campy horror movies squeezed out on small budgets, to- in my personal opinion- the ‘mumblecore’ phase seen often on Netflix and straight to VOD. These mumblecore movies, such as recent Netflix release Win It All, often are filmed with small crews, no special effects, and little-to-no written dialogue. They are able to string out character driven stories on small budgets.
But that’s just my opinion on where things are headed; in choosing my B movie I wanted to go closer to that traditional style of single location horror film with cheesy effects. I was lucky in that I was able to choose one of the more well-regarded modern B mvoies to come out in the past ten years, when I selected Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. I will not lie, my hopes were not high, even with the good reviews it has received (84% on RottenTomatoes). Horror is pretty clearly a genre I don’t get much out of, and over the top action/gore- which this movie promises and delivers- is not for me. I got lucky though; Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is a subversion of the horror genre and plays with the tropes that are so familiar, to make a funny, thoughtful, and enjoyable movie.
The story is a simple one; Tucker and Dale are two friends (played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine respectively) headed out to their vacation home, which turns out to be on the site of an old massacre. While they seem like stereotypical creepy Redneck horror villains, ready to tear up the young college kids, in reality they are two good guys who are misunderstood throughout the movie. The gist of the movie is this; the college kids think these guys are typical horror slashers, and through a couple misunderstandings they feel the need to stop them from murdering everyone. In their efforts to stop them, hijinks ensue, and essentially all of the college kids kill themselves accidently. This relatively simple concept is able to be milked for a number of genre-bending gags that are very satisfying and funny. Watching the kid jump into the wood chipper, or impale himself on a shovel is always sudden but funny. Tucker and Dale don’t realize what is happening, and it makes it even funnier.
The modest $5 million dollar budget is milked well, and the gore is never too much but never seems too cheesy and fake. There aren’t too many computer effects here at all, so they were able to make the most of the small budget. This is everything that your typical B movie would want to be; it’s short and well-paced, never getting boring and keeping the action flowing. The performances, particularly from our two titular leads are very solid, and many of the other characters fall into clichéd roles just fine. There is not a lot of flash on it, but it’s just fun. I think it’s interesting to compare this to Cabin in the Woods, another comedy/horror that subverts the genre and pokes fun at the traditional tropes that dominate the genre. Cabin in the Woods is the bigger film, with loftier goals and expectations. I personally think Cabin in the Woods is both an excellent movie on its own, but also plays with the genre conventions better than Tucker & Dale do. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is more like a fun action-comedy romp, whereas Cabin in the Woods is more cerebral.