Ohe yes, we are getting deep into the lore of this series. This came out in 2010, just a year before Cabin in the Woods, which in the minds of the larger audience broke the ability to make certain kinds of movies seriously. In a way this movie pre-empted that.
Tucker has bought what you might call a fixer-upper of a cabin (or a holiday home as he tells us). Dale tags along with him to do the fixing. On the road there they meet some college kids. As it happens, Tucker and Dale are rednecks, which the city-dwellers find disturbing. The two groups also happen to reside in neighboring dwellings in the woods. While Tucker and Dale try to be helpful, things don’t go their way and there are misunderstandings based on how Tucker and Dale look, which lead into accidents.
First, I don’t think I should be using words like redneck or hillbilly, but I don’t know how to refer to them in any other way either. At least not anything short enough to be anything but a joke. “Low-income person from the southern parts of the USA” is kind of clumsy. Still, I do feel a bit like I’m using the N-word here. Redneck as a term should belong to those who feel they are part of that group. Anyhow, that’s what I’m going with. No hate crime intended.
Horror movies do have a history of racism and classism. Just think of the many films where rednecks or hillbillies are the villains? Hills Have Eyes, Deliverence, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses are all based on this idea of people living far away from the cities being basically unable to follow any kind of civilized norms. This isn’t new either. The legend of the Bean family of Scottish cannibals has been around for centuries (Hills Have Eyes is based on it). You can find similar themes in other movies as well. The Romero-zombies are basically just mindless consumers, never mind the earlier zombies being based on fear of foreign religions, and the noble vampires can just use the peasants as they please.
(There is actually a theory which claims that the popularity of vampires and zombies are based on who is in charge in the US. When republicans are hold the reigns, zombies get bigger, because that’s how people view the republican voters, and when democrats rule vampires get big, because conservatives believe their social norms are being undermined. I think that if you look at a certain specific period this might have been true, but now that both of these things have become much more diverse, with the fast zombies and YA-vampires and such, this just doesn’t hold water anymore. Our perceptions have changed too much.)
I like the pair of Tucker and Dale very much. Alan Tudyk is of course always great, but we also have Tyler Labine, who is mostly otherwise unknown to me (apparently I’ve seen a couple of movies in which he has roles, but I don’t have any recollection of him). They are enthusiastic about their holiday in the woods and while I don’t really share areas of interest with them, they seem like people you could hang out with.
The college kids are kind of generic horror movie actors: Good looking, but not necessarily very good. On the other hand, that’s just what you need for a movie like this. Most of them don’t really seem to have distinguishing features, though. I’ve seen the movie many times and I still get some of them mixed up.
You do want to maintain certain genre expectations. A parody needs to understand the core of the genre it’s parodying. This movie definitely understands the iconography of horror movies. The woods are dark and eerie, the cabin is full of cobwebs and art brute made from bones by the previous occupants. The college kids are colorful enough to feel out of place in this environment in their pastel clothes. They are the invaders, like in all of these movies, but in this particular case invaded are open to their presence, but the kids are not. There’s the subversion, which is the basis of both the comedy and the horror of the movie, often both at the same time.
The movie is clearly a comedy, but they didn’t hold back on the deaths. They were somewhat limited by the nature of the film, but they did manage to write in some truly gruesome “kills”, even if there was no-one actively killing anyone for large part of the movie. (Of course, I generally, but not always, find movie deaths funny, so my opinion on them might not count.) That does take some creativity on their part. It is a pretty hard R in the US and I think it needs to be as they do a lot with blood.