Eighty minutes is a long time to spend with one joke.
This splattery horror send-up by director Eli Craig stars Firefly’s Alan Tudyk and the suddenly ubiquitous Tyler Labine as a couple of accident-prone backwoods bumpkins mistaken for serial killers by preppie college campers. The two gentle-spirited hayseeds want only to spend their weekend repairing a dilapidated shack inherited by Tudyk’s beer-swilling Tucker, but in contrived, Three's Company fashion, the nubile twenty-something city-folk misinterpret every friendly gesture as a psychotic overture.
It starts one night when Tucker and Dale are just trying to go fishing, inadvertently stumbling upon some skinny dippers and rescuing gorgeous young Ally (30 Rock’s Katrina Bowden) from drowning. Naturally these damn kids assume our heroes are kidnapping her, a misassumption that only gets worse after Tucker chainsaws into a bee’s nest and ends up running through the woods, shrieking and waving the powertool around like Leatherface.
Rinse. Wash. Repeat. Time and again our student’s pop-culture-inspired prejudice against hillbillies leads to a mildly amusing, redundant moment in which our kindly heroes appear deranged. Worse, the campers have a bad habit of accidentally getting themselves killed in grisly pratfalls—like tripping and falling head first into a wood-chipper, for example.
There are a few appealing performances here. Tudyk, something of an icon in sci-fi circles, has an amusing deadpan when it comes to awful injuries, pouring cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon onto his wounds as if the beer contained mystical healing powers. Labine, who delivered one of the summer’s most unbearable turns as a poor man’s Jack Black in the already justly forgotten A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, is surprisingly endearing. His sweet dim-bulb Dale stumbles into a tentative courtship with the appealing bombshell Bowden, a development the actors make more believable than it has any right to be. The tweaking of Red State-phobic redneck stereotypes is welcome, particularly after suffering through Rod Lurie’s asinine Straw Dogs remake a couple weeks ago. But Craig keeps circling back to the same gruesome gags with rapidly diminishing returns.
Playing like a promising short film dragged kicking and screaming out to feature length, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil beats a dead horse all the way to the glue factory.