Self-referential/aware and/or meta horror movies, like found footage flicks, are getting long in the tooth. If you care to date the phenomenon to Scream, we’re almost 20 years in. It’s no longer a fresh idea to have characters talk about how this situation is just like what happens in a horror movie.
. . . On the other hand, it always irritated me how the characters in The Walking Dead call the creatures that are clearly zombies “Walkers”—as if there has never been any concept of zombies in the alternate reality of the show. So a little awareness is can be a good thing. And today’s flick, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, hits that sweet spot on the awareness/naïveté continuum.
First off, it’s funny as hell. Second, it’s actually kind of sweet. (Yeah, I know, this is a series on horror movies, and “sweet” isn’t a word most people are looking to find in such a review. I guess I’m a big softy. In fact, that can be my rapper name: Big Softy! Is that taken already? No? Aight. Lemme just gain 200 pounds and learn to, you know, flow.) And third, it does something you don’t see much of in these self-aware movies–which, despite the presence of future victims who know every horror trope even as said tropes fall on them like a ton of bricks, pretty much follow the standard horror plot. Which is to say: knowing you shouldn’t open that cursed book of forbidden lore, or that you shouldn’t split the party, never stops such eventualities from occurring. The vampires are still vampires, the zombies are zombies, the psychotic hillbillies are psychotic hillbillies.
. . . Unless you’re watching this movie. Where TaDvE excels is in telling the story not from the point of view of the victims—in this case, your usual fratty college kids. Instead, our heroes are the eponymous Tucker and Dale, a couple of harmless rednecks the college kids assume are psycho hillbillies because they superficially fit the stereotype we’ve all seen in a hundred horror movies. Horrific accidents ensue, leaving many a mangled corpse for Tucker and Dale to (attempt to) explain.
Even better, much of the self-referential, wink-wink stuff in TaDvE isn’t explicitly stated by any character. Instead, the writers and directors assume we’re all schooled enough now to get the joke when Tucker and Dale check out their new vacation cabin, which is in reality a creepy shack filled with hanging bones and a wall of newspaper clippings detailing grisly murders. “It’s just a little dusty, is all,” say our innocent rednecks. We know better.
There’s also an amazing sequence involving a wood chipper and the removal of half a body therefrom:
Yep, that’s the insanely hot blonde assistant from 30 Rock. She plays our heroine, the one college kid who sees through the ugly stereotypes and realizes Tucker and Dale are just clueless good ol’ boys.