The plot of the movie is as consistently entertaining as it is straightforward. Tucker and Dale (played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine, respectively) are a couple of hapless, good-natured rednecks taking their first extended vacation at their newly purchased vacation home. The location of said vacation home is unfortunate for several reasons. For one thing, it happens to be located deep in a forest which was the notorious location of a series of brutal murders which took place long ago. For another, this also happens to be the same forest that a group of immature and perpetually stoned college coeds have decided to go camping in.
Socially awkward Dale manages to make a bad first impression on these kids pretty much right off the bat. First, he leers at them out the window of Tucker's pick-up. Soon after, the kids stop at the same country market as Tucker and Dale, where Dale's eye is caught by the beautiful young Allison (Katrina Bowden). Trying to be a good friend, Tucker convinces Dale to go talk to her. Dale takes his buddy's advice, and immediately bungles his introduction to the college kids in a spectacularly creepy fashion due to his inability to speak to "the ladyfolk". This sets the stage for a later misunderstanding that results in Dale rescuing Allison while appearing to abduct her. When Allison's friends flee from them, Dale and Tucker are left with little choice but to take the unconscious Allison with them back to their vacation home. By the time her friends track her down there, most of them have firmly convinced themselves that Allison has met a grisly end at the hand of homicidal hillbillies.
If you've seen the trailer, you can probably guess the basics of what happens next, but that shouldn't do much to dampen your enjoyment of the movie. Watching these clueless and accident prone kids do themselves in right in front of the increasingly bewildered Tucker and Dale is morbidly hilarious, even if one or two of the deaths are just a little bit far fetched. To be honest, there are times where the humor can become a bit one-note, as variations on the same gag play out multiple times. However, the script does a good job of continually giving the college kids new reasons to think Tucker and Dale are the vile monsters they see them as, and it all works rather well as both a comedy of errors and a send up of cliched horror movie conventions.
As the film moves briskly along, it manages to add layers of complexity to certain characters without that complexity feeling forced. Allison and Dale turn out to have more in common than it might at first appear, and the two of them bond in a way that is actually quite touching. Meanwhile, one of Allison's friends is enjoying the prospect of being trapped in the woods and pitting himself against psychotic killers a lot more than anyone should, and he doesn't seem particularly bothered by the fact that his friends are dying all around him. By film's end, the illusion has become reality and one character has been transformed into an actual violent psychotic who could have stepped right out of a classic slasher film. A certain well-timed revelation about this character even gives them a backstory befitting a horror movie killer.
Also to its credit, Tucker and Dale...doesn't shy away from blood or gore for the sake of comedy. The film doesn't go out of its way to ooze blood all over every frame, but people do bleed when it makes sense for them to bleed, and the violence of their deaths and injuries is not glossed over. Some of these death scenes are as well-crafted and gory as anything you've seen in horror, particularly in certain flashback scenes which detail the events of the massacre that made the forest infamous.
Credit also goes out to director Eli Craig, not only for handling both the horror and comedy elements well, but for bringing a certain level of sensitivity to the characters that you don't see all that often in either genre. Tucker and (especially) Dale are not just parodies that exist to make fun of rednecks. They are very human and believable as longtime friends, and Dale's painful awkwardness and crippling self-doubt are well-drawn elements of his character. The budding friendship between Dale and Allison is handled equally well as they each instinctively comfort and nurture each other, but in the hands of a less skilled director, there might not have been enough there in the script alone to make this relationship come across as fully cooked.
The only minor complaint I have is that a couple of the college kids didn't have much else to do other than wait for their turn to meet an unfortunate demise. For example, the character of Chloe (Chelan Simmons) might as well be referred to as "Bimbo Who Smokes Cigarettes", because that is the most memorable aspect of her character, as well as the only thing she does for the entire movie. While this character does have amusing moments and lines to add to the ensuing hilarity, the best director in the world could not have done much about the fact that her personality was left entirely too thin by the script. There is another character who made no impression on me whatsoever even when he got speared in the stomach, except to make me ask myself "Who was that guy again?"
Ensemble pieces can be tricky, and Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil does not commit any sins in this regard that have not been committed by countless other films, some of which are also still quite good. Though the script could have been polished a little bit more, so that even the more peripheral characters had a stronger identity, the central characters were believable and well-developed enough to pick up the slack and, as a whole, I had a damn good time with this movie from beginning to end. I give it 4 out of 5 stars, and I find myself hoping there might be some possibility of a sequel.