Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Tucker and Dale vs Evil - a review

Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine), two affable yet clueless hillbillies, are on holiday looking to do some fishing and drink some beers whilst patching up Tucker’s new vacation home (which looks eerily like the log cabin from The Evil Dead). But they’re not alone in the woods. Some frat-brats have also decided to pitch up a tent and party. One skinny dipping session later, where Tucker and Dale save one of the hapless college girls from drowning, turns into a simple misunderstanding where the remaining bunch of students presume their friend kidnapped and likely to suffer unspeakable evil at the hands of the duo. Fearing for their lives that Tucker and Dale will come after them next, the remaining frat-brats decide to strike first blood by harassing and hounding the care-free hillbillies for the rest of the night.

Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a welcome return to the horror ethos of old. Gone is the stale, tedious torture porn of the last decade, replaced by a homage to what once made the genre great; lots of gore, balanced by entertaining comedy moments and featuring an intelligent satirical streak that belies the lead duo’s relative stupidity. Unsurprisingly, the reversal of norms is what initially makes Tucker and Dale a compelling watch. Here the usual butt-fucking Brady bunch of backwards, inbred, deep-south archetypes are a warm, friendly duo that unfortunately look like they might be a couple of unpleasant psychos. The college gang are typical fresh-faced smart-asses, but with deep-rooted prejudices and at least one psycho nut-job amongst them. That the frat goofs seemingly accept everything observed at face value is where much of the initial farce derives; ‘hey, we’ve got your friend’ calls a friendly Dale once they’ve pulled her from out of the lake, only to be met with cries of terror.

 Would you trust this man?

With the set-up complete, the film just gets on with the lovingly crafted punch-lines; dispatching the incompetent students via hilarious accidental deaths that befit their mis-reading of situations. A sequence with a wood-chipper is not exactly unexpected but still reaches the echelons of horror-comedy genius (thanks mainly to Tudyk’s brilliant reaction). This is almost bettered by a chainsaw sequence involving Tucker and a horde of restless bees that will have you chuckling away like a gibbon. Proof that someone running at you screaming with a chainsaw in hand doesn’t necessarily mean they’re attempting to kill you. And any film that has the blonde bird with the massive norks splashed with gore in between the mayhem for simple chuckles is always onto a winner.


Tudyk and Labine, as needs be for the titular leads, are excellent throughout, providing Tucker and Dale with banter and warmth reminiscent of Val and Earl in Tremors. They’re incidental characteristic traits are delightful, from Tucker pouring beer onto his ever growing list of injuries for medicinal purposes to Dale’s photographic memory being of little use to his erstwhile social awkwardness. Most of the laughs are generated by the twosome, be it their own interpretation of the bizarre circumstances happening around them (‘suicide pact’) to their explanation with the local law enforcement about the host of dead bodies littered all over their property (‘Hidy ho officer, we’ve had a doozy of a day’). Without such an endearing partnership, Tucker and Dale would easily be a less engaging watch. The students are also much more spunky and memorable than the usual brand of college personas that you almost feel sorry for their ineptitude. Jesse Moss is particularly excellent as the slightly unhinged Chad who leads the mayhem against poor old T&D, whilst Katrina Bowden is rather plucky as the damsel in distress. 

 Tucker and Dale - they deserve a sequel...

Parodies are a tough concept to deliver, yet Tucker and Dale succeeds largely on the underplaying of the situation. It’s less nudge, nudge, wink, wink, look how clever we are (i.e. it’s not unpalatable shit like Scary Movie), instead opting for a more seamless transition into routine horror, but one that tells convention to ever so slightly do one (kind of like Bubba Ho-Tep). Sure, the plot loses its way in the last third – the appearance of an improbable newspaper cutting from 20 years previously positing a big revelation is incredibly hackneyed - and the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ platitudes are as obvious as Wayne Rooney sporting new hair follicles. But at only 90 minutes long these do little to undermine the carnage and laugh riot that has already preceded. Tension, chainsaws, laughs and bucket-loads of gore, but not how you quite expect it, Tucker and Dale vs Evil is a unique entry into the genre. It also happens to be rather wonderful.  

Overall – A rare gem of a movie. Tucker and Dale are cult characters in the making; sequel please! 

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Enter the Procrastinator

Back in August I highlighted how procrastination had affected my book writing endeavours for the last 10 years and made a promise to double the limp 6,000 word content by the end of 2011. All I can say is, damn Rocksteady, Bethesda and Naughty Dog. Damn them and their genius game-making skills to hell. November and December completely wiped out by the triple whammy of Batman: Arkham City, Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and Uncharted 3. Bastards.

So, I have once again followed the path of abject failure, placing ‘obtain more PS3 trophies’ at the forefront on my to-do list and the book writing on the back-burner. Okay, so I did manage an additional 4,000 words before I lost concentration and admired the pretty graphics instead. This is only 2,000 shy of said doubling, so could be viewed as not too bad an effort. Yet the current draft still remains 5,000 words shorter than my MA dissertation. Which was written in four months. Whilst spending huge amounts of time on Diablo 2. Tit.

Anyway, considering it’s going to take me another 20 years to produce a final draft, there’s no harm in sharing an excerpt. Let’s consider it a teaser trailer, albeit one for a story that will never fully see the light of day. If you like it let me know. Some encouragement that it’s not total bollocks might convince me to put the PS3 controller down more often and pull my finger out:    
   Bear turned to Jack and winked. ‘Get your arse out of here’.
   Jack continued to look on bemused as he went over to the mirror. First the man-eating wardrobe, now a talking teddy bear. By all accounts it had been a strange evening, one where he was glad to still have his wits about him let alone be alive. Yet alive he was and about to follow Sam and the others through a portal to another dimension of no concrete form or description with their escape route defended by little more than a child’s teddy. If it was not for the axe starting to pierce and splinter the study door or the shouting from the Wixard’s minions beyond Jack would have questioned his sanity further. As it was, with death on the line, his survival instinct kicked in and once again reassured him this was reality. Running away was the best course of action.
   He stopped just before he was about to throw himself through the mirror and looked back at Bear. A sword had appeared in Bear’s right hand and a shield in his left. Jack had no idea where Bear had found such weapons.
   ‘Don’t worry’ chirruped Bear as he strode towards the door, ‘I’ll have skull-fucked these fuckers by the time you return.’
   The study door capitulated at that point. The axe assault had done enough to create a sizeable hole in the door; the remainder was being kicked down by the boots of many to make enough room for the first marauding henchman to clamber through. The first that did so had little time to blink before Bear’s blade had ripped him diagonally in half from shoulder to hip. The man screamed as his innards quickly became his outards. Two more men rushed into the room wearing the same white robes with red trim as Bear’s first victim, only to be hosed down with blood gushing from the dying man’s traumatic wound. Both looked on somewhat confused at the little bear in front of them, sword and shield at the ready, not quite believing their eyes.
   ‘Welcome to the Megaverse’ declared Bear with a chortle.
   The last thing Jack saw as he stepped through the mirror and into the void was more of the Wixard’s disciples entering the room and Bear leaping onto the face of the closest henchman burying his blade deep into his eye socket. Bear was not wrong, Jack thought. He really was going to skull fuck them all.
And yes, this portion of the story has been influenced rather heavily by the wonderful drawing of that damn cuddly teddy bear protecting his bestie whilst he sleeps.