In the tradition of Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, here’s a clever spoof of the slasher genre that reinvents the genre itself.
The time: Memorial Day weekend. The place: West “By God” Virginia. The setup: a group of pretty, well-dressed college students (taking a well-deserved break from their tedious lives) pass an old pickup truck with two of Darwin’s finest local specimens, one of which stares unblinking at the young adults as they pass. At a gas station just up the road (and an obligatory stop for alcohol), the students encounter the coveralled hillbillies yet again and fear the worst. Faster than you can say redneck rampage, the point of view is flipped to the pair of good ol’ boys named Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) who just want to fix up their dilapidated mountain cabin and enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately, the preppy college kids convince themselves of Tucker and Dale’s obvious ill intentions and attempt to murder the mountain men back first.
This wonderful horror-comedy seemed to pop up out of nowhere (off a shelf it’s been siting on is more likely), but it’s obvious why this film didn’t get a wide theatrical release before being sent to DVD land: the fan base who would appreciate this is very specific. By taking all the traditional slasher/city mouse tropes and giving it a good twist, the end result is enough accidental deaths to fill an installment of Final Destination but without all that doom and gloom stuff. This is a misunderstanding of epic levels fueled by egos influenced by watching too many of very same kind of movies. It’s a far-fetched but bloody fun film that doesn’t talk down to its target audience so much as it celebrates fans of the genre.
The pedigree of the cast is enviable. Tyler Labine has a natural humor and charm about him; nice to see him getting a leading role for once instead of playing someone else’s back-up. Speaking of second bananas, everyone’s go-to unbalanced-yet-entertaining supporting character actor, Alan Tudyk, is (as always) at the top of his game (when is he going to get a lead?) “30 Rock” alumni Katrina Bowden convincingly allies herself with our heroes (thanks to a clever back story that ingratiates herself to someone dressed like a farm hand), while horror genre alumni Jesse Moss (who isn’t playing someone named “Jason” this time) goes off the deep edge rallying his fellow would-be victims to take the upper hand against a couple of perceived no-good hill folk.
With the comedy elements cranked up, a total party kill is kind of out of the question, and its also against trope to see so many of the actual would-be killers getting killed in spite of them being the aggressors (did that make any sense? Never mind). If you’re the kind of horror fan that likes your set-’em-up, knock-’em-down slasher flick mixed up with a bit of humor and appreciates some truly entertaining deaths, you’re going to love this. Two words: wood chipper.
(a three and a half skull recommendation out of four)