J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

T & D vs. E

It is like the polar-opposite of Kevin Smith’s Red State. In this horror movie mash-up, it is the snobby elites who are out to get the innocent red necks. Still, there is enough grisly slapstick humor to keep the studio-bashing director entertained. Indeed, the killer hillbilly movie gets a subversive twist in Eli Craig’s Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Dale is the shy one and Tucker is the more outgoing one. Neither is what you might call well educated or snappy dressers. They mean well though. On their way to Tucker’s vacation cabin (newly purchased at a bargain price because of its notorious history) the innocent bumpkins cross paths with a group of snotty college students. Mistaking the overall-clad lads’ leering in awe for leering with intent, the kids become easy prey for the anti-hillbilly venom of the Mephistophelean Chad, who carries a deep seated hatred of all backwoods residents.

Whipping his friends into a paranoid frenzy, Chad convinces his companions to attack first. However, it does not work out well for the preppy predators, who inadvertently maim and kill themselves in a series of gruesome encounters that combine Harold Lloyd with Final Destination. There is one exception though, the lovely and empathic Allison, who is majoring in conflict resolution studies.

T & D vs. E is definitely a meathead movie that delights in devising new and outrageous ways for college kids to die. Yes, there is a wood-chipper to be found at Tucker’s cabin. Indeed, you have to admire its plucky determination to keep one-upping itself, without breaking the Rube Goldbergian format. Still, the reversal of the well established Deliverance formula is quite refreshing, particularly after Rod Lurie’s Straw Dogs remake shamelessly trafficked in such red state vs. blue state stereotypes. As a bonus, the media takes a few hits as well in the wrap-around framing device.

Alan Tudyk & Tyler Labine share a likable, easy-going chemistry as T & D, respectively. It is strange to think, but there are few recent movies that have depicted male friendship in similar unconditional terms, free of any psychological baggage. While obviously blessed with physical beauty, Katrina Bowden also shows a nice sense of comedic timing as Allison. Indeed, her character’s attempt to apply her conflict resolution training is a real riot. Who would have ever thought a 30 Rock cast-member could actually be funny?

Obviously, T & D vs. E is all about gory laughs rather than social commentary. Still, the extent to which it humanizes hill-and-holler dwellers, while casting big city elites as the villains is somewhat notable. It also has chainsaws and other assorted power tools. Recommended with affection for those who enjoy their comedy with a body count and a spatter pattern, T & D vs. E opens this Friday (9/30) in New York at the Village East.

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