Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Author: Eli Craig & Morgan Jurgenson
Genre: Comedy/Horror
Storyline: 5
Dialogue: 7
Characterization: 6
Writer’s Potential: 6

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Recommendation?

Pass

Logline:

After a convoluted misunderstanding, a pair of hillbillies believe a group of college students want them dead, and vice-versa.

Synopsis:

In 1988, a group of college kids go camping at an Appalachian lake on Memorial Day weekend. They’re all slaughtered by a pair of bloodthirsty hillbillies. In the present, yokels TUCKER and DALE drive through the mountains, discussing Dale’s low confidence with women. They’re pulled over by the SHERIFF with a broken tail light. When they explain they bought a vacation home on Morris Lake, the Sheriff warns them that it’s a bad place. Tucker assumes the Sheriff is jealous. As they pull back onto the road, they’re nearly sideswiped by an SUV full of college students: CHAD, an obnoxious frat boy; CHUCK, a chunky nerd; CHLOE, blonde and fearful; JASON, a jock; NAOMI, a gorgeous smart-ass; and ALLISON, a good-looking tomboy (there’s also MITCH, MIKE, and TODD, who appear later but are never introduced). They, too, are heading for Morris Lake to celebrate their Memorial Day weekend. The group runs out of beer, so they stop at the last store before deep country to stock up. Tucker and Dale are there, too, buying supplies to fix up their vacation home. Dale spots Allison and is instantly smitten. Tucker encourages Dale to talk to her, but his awkwardness combined with the huge scythe he holds only serves to terrify Allison and her friends.

Tucker and Dale arrive at their cabin, a stereotypical horror-movie nightmare: abandoned, worn-out, with a lot of creepy bones and a human-sized oven Dale assumes is for pizza. Meanwhile, the college kids have set up camp along the lake. They drink and smoke weed while Mitch tries to terrify them with lame stories. Chad decides to tell them a really scary story — the true story of the Memorial Day Massacre, which occurred at Morris Lake exactly 20 years ago. Only one of the college students lived to tell the tale. Everyone’s terrified by the story, so they decide to cheer themselves up by going skinny-dipping. Meanwhile, Tucker and Dale are night-fishing. They hear some commotion. Dale thinks he sees Allison get dragged underwater by a monster, but it’s just Chad. He acts like a jerk, so Allison ditches him. She spots Tucker and Dale staring at her and panics, screaming before hitting her head on a rock. They pull her into the boat. Dale gives her CPR while Tucker tries to call for her friends. They see Dale leaning into her, assume he’s trying to eat her face, and run away. Tucker and Dale drag her back to the cabin, bandage her head, and put her in dry clothes.

The next morning, Allison wakes up in fear. However, Dale’s nature is so sweet that he quickly wins her over. Meanwhile, Chad and the others search the woods for Allison. Chuck decides to go back to town and get the Sheriff, but hatchet-swinging Chad is more interested in vigilante justice. He leads the group to the cabin, where Tucker works outside, annoyed that Dale’s inside playing board games with Allison. Chad dares Mitch to talk to Tucker. Mitch goes, just as Tucker fires up a chainsaw and starts inadvertently sawing through a beehive. The bees attack him, causing Tucker to flail about with the chainsaw, which in turn terrifies Mitch, who starts running — right into a pointed branch, which kills him instantly. Inside the house, Dale asks Allison what she’s studying. Allison says psychology, with the hope of becoming a therapist to help people communicate properly with one another. Tucker comes to the cabin, face swollen from bee stings. Tucker and Dale go to find Allison’s friends, leaving her to rest.

Chad and the others find Mitch’s body and assume Tucker murdered him. They hide when they hear Tucker and Dale moving through the forest. Dale talks about “beating the crap out of Allison” (at Trivial Pursuit), which they misinterpret as pride in literally beating her. Tucker and Dale find Chad’s hatchet sticking out of a tree and decide to carve a note for them: “We got ur friend try and git er.” The college kids eye the note with fear. Tucker and Dale return to the cabin and tell Allison they left a message for the friends. They get to work restoring the cabin. Allison decides to help. Using pick axes, they dig a trench for the outhouse, while Tucker uses a wood chipper to get rid of the trees surrounding the cabin. The college kids prowl through the bushes surrounding the cabin, concocting a plan to attack Tucker and Dale and get Allison. The plan goes awry, resulting in Todd impaling himself on the pick axe while Mike leaps face-first into the wood chipper. In the mayhem, Allison hits her head and falls unconscious. Dale drags Allison back into the cabin and is horrified when she won’t wake up. He and Tucker conclude that the college kids want her dead for some reason. Dale considers calling the police, but Tucker thinks the Sheriff will assume they murdered the kids. Meanwhile, the college kids hear the Sheriff’s truck approaching.

Despite Chad’s protestations, the college kids lead the Sheriff to the cabin. He’s horrified by what he finds: Dale and Tucker attempting to hide the corpses and clean up the crime scene. Tucker politely explains the truth of the situation, but the Sheriff doesn’t believe him. Dale mentions Allison could corroborate the story, if she were conscious. The Sheriff is alarmed to hear they’re holding a girl hostage. They lead the Sheriff into the cabin. While inside, the Sheriff accidentally leans against a faulty support beam, which causes a rafter to crush his skull. Surprisingly, he remains alive long enough to stagger back to his truck and yank the microphone off his CB radio, breaking it. The college kids, who have all piled into the truck, are disturbed and disgusted. At Chad’s urging, Chuck grabs the Sheriff’s pistol and goes after Tucker and Dale. He tries shooting, but the safety’s on. Dale shows Chuck how to click the safety off, and Chuck accidentally shoots himself in the face. Chad grabs the gun as Tucker and Dale rush back into the cabin. Chad shoots wildly at the cabin, then stops abruptly. Dale quickly realizes Chad has stolen their dog, JANGERS, and are holding her hostage.

Dale rigs a nail gun into a deadly weapon. While Dale sloppily distracts the college kids with the nail gun, Tucker sneaks through and grabs Jangers. He yells for Jangers to go home; she runs into the woods instead, and the college kids hear Tucker. They chase him, and when they catch up to him, Chad knocks Tucker out. He awakens strung up in the air between two trees. Chad and the others have set a trap for Dale. Back in the cabin, Dale weeps for Tucker as Allison wakes up. He asks about his friends and why they’re doing such insane things. She assumes it’s a misunderstanding, until she steps outside and sees the carnage of Todd, Mike, Chuck, and the Sheriff. She finds a bloody cloth bundle containing Tucker’s bowling fingers. Both Dale and Allison are disgusted. Despite Allison’s warning not to escalate things further, Dale feels the need to go after Tucker. Dale finds Tucker, falling right into the trap: a pit filled with spears. Dale is lucky enough to avoid any real damage. He pulls himself out of the pit, then cuts Tuker down.

The college kids descend on the cabin to get Allison. Allison tries to reason with them, but they assume she’s suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. Tucker and Dale, looking worse for wear, return to the cabin. Allison forces Dale, Tucker, and Chad to sit down and talk it out while the others wait outside. She brews some tea. Chad panics, thinking it might be chamomile (which he’s allergic to), but it’s not. Chad has a deep-seated hatred of hillbillies — because his mother was the lone survivor of the attack 20 years ago. Just as they’re about to make progress, Jason leads the college kids into the cabin, armed with a weed whacker. Instead of his intended target, Jason ends up killing Naomi. Chad immediately throws a kerosene lantern at Dale, who ducks. It hits Jason, who’s immediately engulfed in flames. Chloe tosses liquid to put it out, but it’s paint thinner, so the fire gets worse. Everything Jason stumbles into catches fire, until he finally collapses on some fuel tanks, causing the cabin to explode. Tucker, Dale, and Allison narrowly escape. Chad is stuck under Naomi’s barely-alive body. Moments later, a partially burned demon version of Chad rises from the flames and chases them. They hop into Tucker’s truck, Dale at the wheel, and speed away.

The truck doesn’t have brakes, though, so after gaining a bit of distance, Dale crashes into a tree. Allison is knocked unconscious again, leaving Tucker and Dale to fight the demon Chad. Chad stabs Tucker with the scythe and kidnaps Allison. Dale reluctantly leaves Tucker behind and chases Dale to an abandoned lumber mill. He uses a bunch of supplies to rig makeshift body armor. Allison regains consciousness. She begs Chad to let him go. He straps her to a conveyor belt leading to a spinning saw blade. Dale rescues her, while an unseen Chad menaces them before diving down on a pulley. Dale’s body armor actually protects him from the scythe, and he and Allison are able to flee. They end up stuck in the foreman’s office, where Allison finds a photo of a hillbilly who looks very similar to Chad. She tries to make Chad realize the hillbilly must have impregnated his mother, but Chad doesn’t want to believe it. Still, it distracts him enough for Dale to blow some looseleaf chamomile tea in Chad’s face. He goes into anaphylactic shock and tumbles over the railing to his death.

Dale visits Tucker in the hospital, where he’s recovering from finger transplants and surgery on his gut. Dale takes Allison on a bowling date. An intrepid NEWSWOMAN and her cameraman sneak into the lumber mill, trying to find the missing body of Chad. He’s still alive, and he kills them, vowing revenge.

Comments:

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil attempts to subvert slasher-movie clichés by building its plot around elaborate, comical misunderstandings. Although it has some good early laughs, it’s not much more than a one-joke idea, so stretching it out to feature length results in diminishing returns. As written, it merits a pass.

The first act does an excellent job of establishing its premise: a couple of goofball hillbillies are misinterpreted as psychotic killers by judgmental college kids, who fight back. They establish the comedic tone and the central misunderstandings quickly, but the story gets repetitive in the second act. Most of the jokes revolve around the gleefully over-the-top violence contained in the unintentional deaths, which starts off as shockingly amusing but wears thin pretty quickly.

Other than the comedic angle, the writers don’t do anything in the second or third acts to distinguish this script from the slasher movies they’re allegedly satirizing. In fact, the third act drops the satirical angle altogether, fully embracing the clichés it should have skewered. Ridiculous moments like Chad rising from the dead as a vengeful demon or Allison coincidentally stumbling on a photo proving Chad is the spawn of one of the psychotic hillbillies should have been played for laughs, but by this point in the script, audiences are expected to take these moments seriously.

The characters are established as economically as in a straightforward slasher movie. The main characters (Tucker, Dale, Allison, and to a much lesser extent, Chad) are given one note. The remaining characters are cannon fodder who are lucky if they have a one-line description to distinguish them from each other. The characters’ one-note personalities do lead to some amusing moments — notably, Allison’s attempts to get sociopathic Chad and the taciturn hillbillies to express their most intimate feelings — but ultimately, they don’t have enough personality to overshadow the flaws in the story.

The dialogue is consistently well-written throughout. The writers let the jokes come naturally, rather than deluging us with jokes that may miss more than they hit. Despite the main characters’ lack of depth, the dialogue has an impressive verisimilitude that allows them each to sound like individuals.

The best hope for this script is a director who can give the “serious” third act a tongue-in-cheek feel without undermining the writers’ attempts at suspenseful moments. It seems like a tall order, so this movie will probably end up disappointing both horror fans and comedy fans.

Posted by D. B. Bates on October 24, 2009 3:03 PM