Midnight movies are special thing, and part of a genre that's really only important at film festivals, where it's plausible that a group of right-thinking adults would gather in the middle of the night to watch something they might not even bother with in the light of day. A midnight movie has to be entertaining, sure, but it needs some level of insanity as well, a sense that it's something you'll only get if you stay up late enough.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil fits pretty much every imaginable midnight movie requirement-- it's funny, crazy and violent, all in the same scenes, but not fast-paced or smart enough that hoots and hollers would ruin all the best parts. Led by totally over the top performances from Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine as well-meaning hillbillies mistaken for serial killers, Tucker and Dale rewards both horror movie fans in need of a good parody and anyone who thinks excessive amounts of blood and gore can be hilarious. It's not the most genius take on the genre, and probably wouldn't hold up that well if you watched it by yourself, but if you can gather some like-minded friends in the right mood, it's a blast.
The premise is hilariously, wonderfully simple-- a horror movie in which crazed hillbillies stalk and kill innocent college kids, told from the perspective of the poor misunderstood hillbillies who are just trying to make friends. Tucker (Tudyk) is the smarter of the two, encouraging Dale (Labine) to practice his flirtation skills on the group of college kids, which of course goes horribly wrong. A long series of misunderstandings involving a scythe, a sharp stick in the woods and an encounter between the fishing hillbillies and the skinnydipping coeds lead Tucker and Dale to "kidnap" Allie (Katrina Bowden). In reality, they're tending her wounds after a head injury, and Dale is overcoming his initial awkwardness to strike up a pretty decent flirtation.
Meanwhile, the group referred to constantly as "college kids" decide to strike back and rescue Allie, led by half-crazed prepster Chad (Jesse Moss), who-- surprise, surprise-- has a personal history with woods-dwelling killer hillbillies. There's pretty much no horror movie trope left unturned, from the gruesome deaths for the less important supporting characters to the mysterious smoke that's always wafting around the woods. Clearly the entire cast is having a blast dousing each other in fake blood and wielding random body parts, and unlike many horror parodies goes wrong, the fun actually translates off the screen.
Tucker and Dale may turn out to be one of those Sundance delights that completely fades once everyone has come down from the mountain, but really, that's OK-- my audience and I had enough fun with this that it earned its right to be as silly and gory as you like. Unlike its fellow midnight movie Buried, Tucker and Dale has no ambitions beyond entertaining; luckily it's pretty good at it.
For more of our Sundance 2010 coverage, click here.