Two rednecks accidentally trigger an obnoxious-coed massacre in Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, a cheery slasher-movie spoof 

Night of the Deserving Dead

Night of the Deserving Dead

Horror movies are sometimes at their best when ignorance gets punished — for instance, anyone who's ever uttered the words, "There's something out there!" or "I'd better go check it out." Tucker and Dale vs. Evil goes one further, rewarding decency and communication over misunderstanding as it puts a novel spin on the "spam in a cabin" slasher movie. And it does so while acknowledging the awesomeness of the three Bs: beer, bowling and board games.

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are good-hearted rednecks heading into the woods to visit their vacation home. To some, it looks like a cabin you might find down the field from the Evil Dead house. But to these guys, it's the American dream — even though the film's lone police officer (there's only ever one in this genre) cautions, "There ain't nothin' up there but pain and suffering on a scale you can't even begin to imagine."

Which, because this is a horror film, is correct. But it's also a different kind of warning, one not so specifically tied to the slasher genre. Three minutes into the film, director Eli Craig and his co-writer Morgan Jurgenson place the heroes — who'd typically be the villains a la Just Before Dawn or Wrong Turn — on a collision course with a van full of college spam. Get these frat boys and tagalongs a few miles from Urban Outfitters, and suddenly they're spouting lines from Deliverance — not that you get the impression they've actually seen the film. It's just something that can be absorbed from the collective culture.

As are the visual signifiers that Tucker and Dale offer: They're rednecks in the woods, and therefore (as we know from the genre) a threat. Which is sad. But what the teen eye sees sets the tone for so many of our movies. And these teens (well, college students) are entitled assholes. You know the kind: the ones convinced that rules don't apply to them. The ones with no concern at all for other people's experiences. The ones who text during movies. Does it make me a bad person for enjoying it a little when they get sliced and diced by their own prejudices?

The genius of the movie's one-joke premise (which somehow keeps getting funnier) is that the expendable teens are doomed, all right — not by Tucker and Dale, but by their class-skewed conclusions about the duo, who remain puzzled by the bodies piling up around them. The leads work wonders, starting with Alan Tudyk as Tucker: He's been a national treasure ever since his off-Broadway work in The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, though most people know him as Wash from Firefly/Serenity. (In fact, it's Whedonites who have spread the word about this film since it first appeared last year.)

But the revelation is Tyler Labine. You might have seen him as the doomed lab tech with a conscience in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, or on Reaper or Sons of Tucson. Here, though, he's breaking serious ground. His Dale is conscientious, witty, insecure, a good chef, and as handy with weaponry as he is tongue-tied around ladies. It's a part that sounds tailor-made for Jesse Eisenberg or Michael Cera, yet it goes here to a big guy who would help you move furniture and then hit the buffet afterward — a piece of casting that shatters stereotypes on its own. So hearken, then, for this new day in Awesome Fat Guy cinema.

Email arts@nashvillescene.com.

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