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The Forgotten Oscars 2012: A Celebration of Unsung Sci-Fi, Horror, and Action Films

Wherein we roll up our sleeves, get angry, and give The Academy a swift punch in the nuts
By MICHAEL NEEL  |  February 27, 2012

Best Original Screenplay: Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson forTucker and Dale vs Evil
Release date: September 30

So let's say you're a horror fan, even a casual one. If I told you that a movie involved hillbillies, a creepy cabin, and good-looking college kids who want to smoke pot, drink, and have a good time in the woods, what would you guess that the plot would be? Probably something along the line of Friday the 13th, TheTexas Chainsaw Massacre, or even Deliverance, where the hillbillies kill/torture/rape said college kids in the creepy cabin, and probably make some sort of suit/altar/piece of living room furniture out of their skin/bones/large intestine. But what if I told you that the hillbillies would rather serve tea and pancakes to the kids than hurt them, and the college kids are the ones instigating the murder?

[READ:Phoenix review of Tucker and Dale vs Evil]

The genius of Tucker and Dale vs Evil is the way in which it takes this cliché horror formula and turns it on its head. Tucker and Dale (the hillbillies) buy a creepy cabin in the woods, but to them it's a dream house fixer-upper, and they're excited to clean it up, fish, play some board games, and enjoy their vacation. They're best friends and nice guys, and appealingly played by Tyler Labine (Dale) and Alan Tudyk (Tucker). When the college kids camping nearby decide to go skinny dipping (of course they do in this kind of film), hot co-ed Allison (Katrina Bowden) falls in the water, is knocked unconscious, and Tucker and Dale rescue her. But the college kids don't see Tucker and Dale rescuing Allison; they think that two scary hillbillies have kidnapped their friend. The college kids, like any attractive 20-somethings in a horror film, must rescue her from the creepy cabin of doom. Well, the college kids aren't very good at saving the damsel in distress — in fact, Allison likes Tucker and Dale and isn't in any distress at all — and the college kids end up killing themselves instead. Of course Tucker and Dale are horrified, and wonder why these college kids keep on killing themselves all over their vacation property. Tucker is particularly horrified at what one kid does in his wood chipper.

I was lucky enough tosee a rough cut of Tucker and Dale at HorrorHound Weekend in March of 2011. At that screening, the sound effects were missing, and only half of the gore was there, but the film still kicked major ass. The rough cut of this film was so good, despite the missing elements, because the performances are wonderful and the script by Eli Craig and Morgan Jurgenson is impeccable. It's an airtight comedy of errors that shows Craig and Jurgenson's knowledge of the horror genre, and cleverly twists many conventions of the horror formula: chainsaws, guns, and other dangerous pointy objects are used in unexpected and hilarious ways. The dialogue is witty and gives the actors a lot to play with, and the plot moves quickly but never feels rushed. Craig and Jurgenson subvert the slasher formula at every turn, but their twists aren't forced; they are directly motivated by the characters instead of the writers' hands. Tucker and Dale vs Evil is one of the most original horror films in years — funny, gory, and highly entertaining from beginning to end — and the script provides a brilliant foundation upon which the rest of the film is built.

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