‘There’s too many movies that are anti-hillbilly, and I needed to stick up for the uneducated poor bumpkin in the woods,’ director Eli Craig told me recently in a phone interview about his new movie, ‘Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil.’ Craig, who also co-wrote the film with Morgan Jurgenson, spoke to me about the film itself, why people often fear the woods and his bias against frat boys.
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Craig’s newest film tells the story of two hillbillies (played by Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) mistaken for serial killers by a group of college students. The film begins when the duo encounter the students visiting the woods for a weekend getaway. The group is immediately suspicious of Tucker and Dale, who look like country bumpkins and act like awkward teenagers. When Allison (Katrina Bowden), one of the college students, injures herself in a nearby lake it’s up to Tucker and Dale to rescue her. However, her paranoid friends believe she’s been kidnapped by those horrible hillbillies.
When I asked Craig why he created a comedy that openly mocks horror films, he said he “wanted to make a movie that I wanted to see and that hasn’t been done yet … it’s a bit of a Judd Apatow sensibility meets Harold Ramis and then meets Eli Roth” or Sam Raimi.
One of the most interesting concepts the film explores is the students’ fear of the woods. A former “mountaineering guy” and an Outward Bound instructor himself, Craig spoke to me about such a fear.
“When I was instructing kids at Outward Bound,” says Craig, the son of Oscar-winner Sally Field, “I would be amazed the further out we would go from the road head, the more frightened they would get that there’s some slasher axe-wielding maniac in the woods.”
“The woods have become a dark and defensive place to a lot of kids that are just used to the city,” he adds, saying the film was his way of letting people know “you shouldn’t be afraid of the woods. You should be afraid of the college kids.”
As opposed to the likeable title characters in “Tucker and Dale,” the students are presented as overconfident, preppy and annoying. Chad (Jesse Moss), the leader of the students, would likely be welcomed into the fraternity of his choice.
“I am a bit anti-frat boy, I have to admit,” Craig says, adding that he feels that many fraternity members follow a monolithic mentality. He particularly criticized the hazing process that some fraternities use and how these organizations sometimes stamp out the individuality of their students.
Craig, who previously rejected “acting as being kind of fake,” now embraces his new role as a writer/director, and audiences may feel the same about his line of work. If viewers are looking for a fun and hilarious time at the theater, “Tucker and Dale vs Evil” is a perfect choice.