“No actual hillbillies were harmed during filming,” insist press notes for “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil,” a sick, gore ‘n guffaws hick flick. “So PETH (Persons for the Ethical Treatment of Hillbillies) – relax!”
With its ingenious twist on blood ‘n backwoods redneck romps like “Deliverance,” “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” will have viewers squealing…not in pain, but with delight. Eli Craig’s potential cult classic follows Tucker McGee (Alan Tudyk) and Dale Dobson (Tyler Labine) through a twisted case of misperception. When snot-nosed, elitist college kids invade their out-in-the-sticks vacation cabin, Craig’s two six-pack slurping heroes endure unwarranted discrimination.
You’re dadburned right.
This time around, mountain men are the victims. Assuming that all okie simpletons are slobbering, shotgun-wielding sodomites, the invading yuppie masses turn vicious. Call it redneck racism. “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” takes the ill-fated canoe of “Deliverance” and dunks it refreshingly upside-down.
Things get messier than a road kill. Taking the cue from another Eli (Roth), director Craig goes stir-crazy with viscera-splattered cabin fever. As the whiny, over-privileged Ivy Leaguers attempt ill-will on Tucker and Dale, their ham-handed, snooty schemes backfire – with artery-spraying results. Accidental deaths result from their bumbling evildoings. Are these pampered frat boys really book-smart, or merely inbred? Do Tucker and Dale truly deserve their dim-bulb reputations?
Craig asks us to tread cautiously before making assumptions about those whose appearances and lifestyles are different from our own.
Sandwiched between two “Tucker & Dale…” screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival, the director and his star, Tyler Labine (“Dale” in the film), huddle at a press-room table to shoot the s**t. Sporting a tattered fishing cap, Craig blames his late arrival on a lengthy quest for coffee. A suspect alibi, considering we’re in Starbucks City. Go figure.
Meanwhile, Labine sips mineral water from a green-tinged bottle. No java for this burly good ol’ boy, whose bushy beard and flannel shirt seem tailor-made for a monster truck rally.
Below, these “Tucker & Dale…” teammates discuss humor, horror, and the creative use of blood super-soakers.There’s a proud legacy of redneck films. The cliché is that backwoods hillbillies are villainous deviants. Your film is the flipside of that genre, in that okies are the victims, and yuppies are the victimizers.
EC: We created a world around those clichés, then tried to dismantle them. A lot of it played against this stereotype of them being stupid hicks. The reality was that they were just harmless, beer-drinking buddies, with a really shitty cabin in need of repair. Our original pitch for the film was “Dumb and Dumber” meets “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
I understand you shot the film in Calgary, Canada, and wrapped after only twenty five days of shooting.
EC: Yeah. Twenty five days. It was a union shoot, so there was no overtime. Every day was shot out of a cannon. We had eleven hours of shooting time, then an hour to wrap. We would go one or two takes, then moved on.
“Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is marketed as a horror comedy. During screenings, do people comment that one genre is more dominant that the other? Do people focus more on the horror or the comedy?
TL: It was always meant to be a comedy. The comedy is derived from the horror. The gory moments were never meant to be anything more than funny. People (in the audience) start chuckling as a guy goes through a wood chipper. Then they say to themselves, “I can’t laugh at this.” It’s like chuckling in class. You don’t want to do it, but you get the sillies and can’t help yourself.
EC: When you’re watching the film, and really think about the ridiculousness of what’s happening, there’s a thematic hilarity. The kids in the movie perceive a situation that’s totally not true. It’s like, Leatherface is just sadly misunderstood (laughs).
It sounds like “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is a comedy first and foremost. Not to get too deep about it, there also seems to be a subtext, concerning the perils of making false assumptions about others. Have either of you been bullied, or put down in some demeaning fashion?
TL: I have. One of the big life lessons people learn is to not judge a book by its cover. I think that’s why it’s such a mentally translatable sort of theme. I’ve done that, or been on the other end of that. I’ve misjudged somebody, then felt like a bit of a twat afterward.
Is it true that you did exhaustive Google research on hillbilly culture? Any unique discoveries to disclose?
EC: We found a series of videos on a bunch of guys, from a place I believe is called Hillbilly Junction. They would drive around and shoot things – mice, mostly – from the back of a pickup truck. But they were also do-gooders, who would go around mowing people’s lawns (laughter).
Because of budget constraints, were there any creative, low-cost bloodletting effects you might reveal?
EC: It’s so simple. You shoot blood flying out of a wood chipper, and off-screen, there’s some girl standing there with a big water gun squirting red liquid. A blood super-soaker. There’s also some weed whacker gore that’s pretty interesting.