Horrors! Now the tables are turned on the hicks

Tyler Labine (left), Alan Tudyk star in the terrific horror comedy in which the innocent hillbillies are attacked by the monstrous college kids.

Hillbillies of the world unite!

Such is the deep message of writer-director Eli Craig's belly-laugh-inducing debut, Tucker & Dale vs Evil, a clever send-up of the chainsaw and hockey-mask slashers of the 1970s and '80s.

One of the best comedic horror films since Shaun of the Dead chewed up and spat out the zombie movie, Tucker & Dale targets the genre spawned by The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: pics about frat dudes and nubile coeds terrorized, tortured, dismembered, sexually molested, cooked, and eaten (not always in that order) by inbred, cannibalistic hillbillies. In Tucker & Dale, the monsters are the college kids.

Cowritten by Craig (son of actor Sally Field) and Morgan Jurgenson, this flick stars the terrific TV actors Alan Tudyk (Firefly, Dollhouse) and Tyler Labine (Invasion, Mad Love) as a Laurel and Hardy-esque pair of loser, if totally lovable, backwoods fellers on a weekend trip to renovate their new lakeside vacation house. It's not exactly a house - more like an oversize shack, a creepy, rickety, ramshackle number straight out of Sam Raimi's 1981 spoof The Evil Dead.

Things turn ugly when Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) run into a van full of pot-and-beer-addled college students at a gas station.

Dale is instantly slain by Cupid's arrow: He can't take his eyes off Allison (Katrina Bowden), a psychology major with dreamy eyes and alabaster skin. Dale doesn't exactly scream J.Crew: Overweight, awkward and shy, he sports an unkempt, grizzled beard, bad teeth, and shabby, ill-fitting clothes. But he summons up the courage to talk to the blond beauty.

He has no clue why the girl screams or why her friends spirit her back into the car.

Hmm, was it his black teeth - or the massive scythe he just happened to be carrying?

Things descend into a freakish frenzy of violence that night when the students see Dale grab Allison at the lake and carry her to his foreboding shack. Not knowing the sweet guy was actually saving her from drowning, Allison's pals launch a series of hilarious and gory attacks on the shack.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil even features a tender love story between Allison and Dale (think Romeo and Juliet by way of the Coen Brothers).

Craig's film is well-served by solid writing, brilliantly executed slapstick comedy, and nicely choreographed scenes of ultraviolence - not to mention amazing chemistry between Tudyk and Labine.

It even has a poignant moral message. As Dale tells Allison, "I should have known: If a guy like me talked to a girl like you, somebody would end up dead."


Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com.