Backwoods Beauty: Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil is the best horror comedy in a decade.

Great Late: Tyler Labine (left) and Alan Tudyk (right) are sweethearted yokels battling mean-spirited preppies in Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil.

Like Shaun of the Dead and Scream before it, director and co-writer Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil puts a clever new spin on the horror movie genre. The simple but effective setup finds a group of almost comically preppy college kids heading out into the West Virginia woods for a weekend of drinking and hooking up until they unexpectedly run into a couple of grimy looking, beer guzzling, backwoods rednecks.

The college kids immediately assume that the two, Tucker and Dale, are psychotic hillbillies right out of Deliverance. It doesn’t help that in an early attempt to talk with the group’s hottie, a beautiful blonde named Allison (Katrina Bowden of TV’s 30 Rock), Dale approaches her with a scythe and laughs nervously.

Early on, we learn that Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are in actuality real good good ol’ boys. When Allison injures herself falling off a cliff during a skinny dipping episode, Tucker and Dale nurse her back to health even though the rest of the college crowd thinks that the rednecks have kidnapped her and have bad intentions.

From that misunderstanding, the body count of the preppies grows in a number of creative deaths that would make the creators of the Final Destination films jealous. Later, something truly wicked does emerge from the woods, and the film culminates in a classic battle between good and evil. On the way there, we learn that everyone from the scantily clad Allison to the pretty boy prep Chad (Jesse Moss) are not who they seem to be.

Though the film is probably too dependent on its premise to diverge into unexpected territory, the geniality of the film’s leads and its assured comic direction make this horror comedy a textured treat. Craig, the son of actress Sally Field, has a deft comic touch especially apparent during a classic scene involving a chainsaw wielding Tucker and a hive of stinging bees. Meanwhile Tudyk and Labine have a superb comic chemistry together that suggests the actors did spend some time fishing and knocking back cold ones together in the spirit of their characters.

Craig and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson also try a little too hard to prove how decent a character Dale is, which is unnecessary considering how likeable Labine is in the role. The stout-as-a-keg Labine – who just appeared in The Rise of the Planet of the Apes and A Good Old-Fashioned Orgy and will be the star of the upcoming comedy Lumpy with Justin Long – is clearly a comic actor to watch.

In the end, Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil skewers those who wrongly stereotype all country folk in the South as inbred know-nothings, proving that you can’t judge a person by their stained overalls. 

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL (3) Directed by Eli Craig • Starring Tyler Labine, Alan Tudyk, Katrina Bowden • Rated R, 88 min. • At Osio Cinemas.

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