Why ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’ Still Deserves a Sequel

Back in March 2014, at Horrorhound Weekend in Cincinnati, Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine sat for a rapid fanbase and announced that their lovable, daffy duo, Tucker and Dale from the cult hit Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2011), would be gracing screens once again in a new misadventure. To think these two were this generation’s Laurel and Hardy is not far-fetched, and to those who love the first film, a second installment would instill their franchise potential.

Sadly, it was not to be, as July 2017 rolled around and again Tudyk and Labine found themselves in front of their followers, except this time announcing a simple reason why Tucker & Dale 2 wasn’t moving forward…as Tudyk said the script, “wasn’t any good.”

Labine followed, “they [the writer] deserved to be spanked.”

Labine would elaborate that it’s not entirely the script writer(who has remained nameless)’s fault, “It’s hard to make a sequel to that movie because of the joke. It’s done! We told the joke!”

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil hit a very special place in horror comedy, placing homage next to great parody, and is on par with the beloved Cabin in the Woods of the same year. Unfortunately, due to Tucker & Dale’s limited release, it is much less seen and talked about.

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It’s the story of two hillbilly besties, Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Labine) who just bought their dream vacation home, a “fixer-upper” lake house in the Appalachian Mountains. Unfortunately, their road to renovation is cut short when a group of college kids mistake a selfless act to save their friend for an abduction and supposed face-eating. Convinced Tucker and Dale are murderous, backwater cannibals, the teens make increasingly suicidal attempts to save their pal Allie (Katrina Bowden) from the clutches of the charmingly comic duo. This escalates in a classist battle between trauma-ridden college Chad, fittingly named Chad (Jesse Moss), and the titular Dale.

It’s rife with fine satire, from the opening sequence shifting perspective – first from the college kids undergoing a disturbing first encounter with two creepy hillbillies a la Texas Chainsaw Massacre to Tucker and Dale endearingly awing over their vacation home acquisition as they drink beers in their pickup. The series of increasingly hilarious misunderstandings continues: Tucker running from a beehive wielding a chainsaw towards the college campers to the kids overhearing a conversation in which Dale champions “beating her [Allie]” at board games, which is taken to mean an actual bludgeoning.

And while it is brilliantly executed by writer/director Eli Craig, Labine is not wrong. The entirety of the joke is built on the kids’ perception of killer hillbillies vs. Tucker and Dale’s confusion and naive attempts to stop the madness.

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But that doesn’t mean a sequel cannot be done! And I think I’ve figured it out…

Alright, fellow horror fans, I’m about to blow your minds. Or maybe not, I am under no presumption that this is the first time this has been said. As a matter of fact, Craig said this himself, and it’s the crux of Tucker and Dale that often gets overlooked amidst the madcap, bloody spree.

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil is not a horror comedy. It’s a romantic comedy.

When asked, Craig told Flixist in 2020, “the movie is a romantic comedy with a high body count. I mean, what is romance without blood and guts?” And he’s right. If you remove the blood and grue, the film is actually a sweet Beauty and the Beast-style narrative complete with Gaston-level Chad and Alan Tudyk as Lumiere the candlestick (or perhaps more Cogsworth with his bristly need to make sure the chores are done…).

Dale and Allie’s relationship is the crux of the narrative, starting with Dale’s beastly introduction holding a jar of pickled eggs across the aisle from Allie at the gas station and ending with an adorable outing at a bowling alley. Both Dale and Allie are the usurpers of expectation: Allie being a closeted farm girl who wants to save the world through communication and Dale proving himself an intelligent gentleman and an incredibly kind heart. Together, they overcome the obstacles set forth by societal expectations and fall in love.

See, it’s Beauty and the Beast.

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That’s not to say a sequel shouldn’t have the same level, if not more, of the crazy kills and guts. It’s still “vs. Evil” after all. But too often, sequels take the heart out of the original narrative, and not understanding the romantic truths of Tucker & Dale would ruin a writer’s chances of creating the integrity needed for a suitable sequel.

Integrity is what Tucker & Dale vs. Evil had in spades on its first outing. After three years of work, Eli Craig’s first feature film (after deeming himself a “failed actor”) appeared at Sundance on January 22nd, 2010, and a failed director he was not. Mainly due to the fact that he surrounded himself with experience people, including David Geddes (Dirty Work, 21 Jump Street, Halloween: Resurrection) as Director of Photography.

The movie got rave reviews. Neil Miller of FilmSchoolRejects.com called it a “pitch-perfect mix of both [horror and comedy]. It is a damn riot.” He also astutely pointed out that, “The only problems experienced…would be fixed by a distributor.” Unfortunately, a distributor wouldn’t pick up the wayward Tucker & Dale until June 8th of 2011.

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The road to distribution was a long one. The screenings were met with raucous enjoyment, and it even had a Russian release against Chronicles of Narnia and beat the box office of this major movie on a per theatre scale. Distribution companies would test and test and over the course of 18 months, Craig and writer/producer Morgan Jurgenson were becoming disheartened. Finally, Magnet stepped in.

But it was too late in some ways, as anticipation surrounding the film’s release had led to problems with piracy. Many excited horror fans who heard the buzz argued that the only way to see Tucker & Dale was pirated. So, Magnet and Craig made the decision to early release on VOD and quell “freebie” viewings by making it available right away.

Craig still attests that Tucker & Dale deserves to be seen in theatres, joining others in the sheer hilarious absurdity in glorious choruses of shared laughter, and it did get a limited release on September 30th, 2011. So, ten years later, that we’re celebrating Tucker & Dale bringing us together in one of the best cult-romantic-horror-comedies in the last decade.

And that’s what I mean about integrity. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil was a passion project, a work of love, commitment, and patience. It took the a trip around the backroads of West Virginia to get released. The sequel is taking much longer.

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But I stand by what I said: with the thoughtful approach of homage horror as incidental to the underlying rom-com, a proper writer could do wonders with a sequel. And I’m not saying it has to be a rom-com. Any form of dramatic comedy with a slapstick body count would serve the dynamic duo in proper exaltation. And a proper release!

We can only hope sometime in the next ten years we see the release of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil 2. Until then, all we can do is ruminate on the possibilities and, of course, rewatch the magic with all our friends.

And as a thought project: I would love to see Dale in the city as a “house husband” as Allie tries to make it as a psychiatrist. Their relationship is strained, so when Dale goes to visit his old pal, Tucker, we find out Tucker’s joined a spiritual society that turns out to be a cult, and it’s up to Dale and Allie to save him – and their marriage. With the rise of cult horror…it would be a fitting romp full of homage opportunities to Get Out, Midsommar, and Wrong Turn (2021), and of course, Wicker Man – because you can’t spoof cult horror without Wicker Man.

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