As the credits rolled, I couldn't shake the feeling that the core of Eli Craig's first feature sacrifices itself for the sake of being a feature film. The goods news is the "never judge a book by its cover" concept is played to the comedic hilt and literally every line is designed to garner at least a snicker.
The banter between Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as the lovable titular duo is frequently hilarious while dancing a fine line between hillbilly stereotype and genuine. Katrina Bowden as Allison, the "victim" saved from a nasty fall off a rock while skinny dipping, also does an excellent job of adding an honesty that's rare in a horror comedy. The strength of the interplay and relationship between these three is the film's greatest asset; however, as the other college kids become more involved trying to stop the hillbillies and save their friend, this aspect begins to wane.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil boils down to being careful about pre-judging others and being overly judgmental toward one's self. Tucker is painfully modest and smitten with Allison yet doesn't believe he's good enough for her despite constant cajoling from Dale to go after what he wants. This is why its so strange the story devolves into relying on thematic devices that have existed since more-or-less the dawn of cinema. (spoilerish) Quite literally, it comes down to good guy vs. very "cinematic" bad guy in a face-off while a trapped damsel is in imminent danger of death inches away. The bad guy also has a big secret in his past straight out of a comic book.
It's as if Craig and co-writer Morgan Jurgenson concentrated too much on the original kernel of two foreign groups clashing with gory results to flesh out the rest. Remember how real things got in Shaun of the Dead when Shaun's mother dies and he's forced to leave Ed behind? The best Craig can muster is the fledgling relationship between Tucker and Allison without any palpable danger along the way. In a sense, the overly cartoonish Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, much like one of its characters' dilemma, suffers from ultimately failing to break from what's expected from the "horror/comedy" label it gave itself. Though that doesn't mean there aren't some laughs to be had...
While Magnolia Home Entertainment is set to debut the stateside DVD/Blu-ray on November 29th, Sony has already released their own DVD and region free Blu-ray in the United Kingdom. Surprisingly, Sony's anamorphic, progressive 2.35:1 widescreen transfer isn't particularly great. The picture is aggressively soft, has odd vertical aliasing along edges, and even exhibits some bad MPEG-2 artifacts. Colors are never true, but that's probably by design from color grading in post production. I'm unsure why such a major studio would release such a poor presentation, but the DVD format is definitely capable of much better results.
I imagine their Blu-ray looks better (perhaps that's why this disc looks this way?) and Magnolia's eventual DVD would make for an interesting comparison. Otherwise, the Dolby 5.1 is fine and the only substantive extra is a fluffy twelve-minute making-of along with the theatrical trailer and small photo gallery. If you're interested, I'd wait to see how the U.S. releases fare, they're at least bound to have more supplements if not superior transfers. As a sidenote, it looks like Sony has all foreign territory distribution rights judging by copyright screens in what seems like twenty different languages on this disc.
(direct disc captures with matte bars removed)