As one-joke horror comedies go, “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil” is built around a winner.
That one joke is this: Suppose the inbred redneck rubes, with their penchant for chewin’ tobacco, bad dentistry, worse grammar and chain saws, were merely innocent bystanders? Misunderstood. Victims.
Alan Tudyk (Tucker) and Tyler Labine (Dale) are the two bubbas who run afoul of an SUV packed with jump-to-wrong-conclusion coeds.
They inspire fear and contempt from the college kids. And as the kids start meeting with this accidental impaling or that accidental shooting/immolation or what have you, the terror among the survivors grows – although it’s all just one big misunderstanding.
Sadly, not much funny is done with this setup. The yokels, who are fixing up a decrepit “lake house” weekend getaway near where the kids camp, aren’t menacing and the actors playing them don’t even dive into whatever Ozarks/Bayou/Appalachian accent that such characters usually sport.
That’s a letdown, because Tudyk (the original “Death at a Funeral,” “3:10 to Yuma”) is normally hilarious without trying too hard. Here, little or no effort shows, aside from the teeth-yellowing.
Actor-turned-director Eli Craig is more fascinated with the next effect – swarms of stinging bees, impaling by nails – to fret much over character or comic timing or funny lines. The obvious gags are too obvious and the script never comes close to the level of farce.
But “Tucker & Dale” still has the makings of a classic midnight movie: audience participation, with horror fans howling at every creative killing and every masterpiece of makeup art.