Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil (2010)

Scary Movie, eat your bloody heart out – Tucker and Dale are here to show you how horror movie spoofs should really be done. Hacking apart slasher conventions with palpable (and palpitating) glee, Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil is a loving tribute made by slasher fans for slasher fans.

When a group of pretty college kids go on a trip to the woods (no, really, stay with it), they’re creeped out by a pair of sinister-looking hillbillies. Except Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) are just regular Joes with their own everyday problems – which are only worsened when said college kids keep stumbling upon ingenious ways of accidentally offing themselves. Naturally, Tucker and Dale are the prime suspects.

As gory as a dinner party massacre and as sharp as Freddy’s fingerblades, it’s hard to believe that Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil is director Eli Craig’s first time behind the camera. It’s to his credit, then, that the film’s punchline plot retains much of its power to thrill throughout. Shot like a straight-faced horror, Tucker And Dale brings both the splatter and the giggles as wrong-place-wrong-time hilarity piles up in a big squelchy heap.

Much hinges on the pairing of Tudyk and Labine as the titular misunderstoods, and both knock it out of the park in roles that could have been little more than conduits for post-modern cleverness. Together, they give lived-in, endearing performances that stop the blood-splattered good times from ever tripping into lousy Scary Movie pastiche.

The only place that T&D stumbles is in its final stretch, when it attempts to bring things home by mixing in an out-there twist with a chivalrous endeavor on Dale’s part to save final girl Allison (Katrina Bowden, pitch perfect) from the clutches of a real-life serial killer. It’s here, during a Bondian confrontation that feels like part of another spoof, that T&D loses its initial innocent charm.

Still, a movie that features Tudyk doing a laugh-out-loud impression of Leatherface is easy to love, and T&D is just that – an instant horror favourite that has a brain in its skull and a tongue in its cheek. About as much fun as you can have watching college co-eds get variously impaled, diced and set on fire. 4/5

Troll Hunter (2011)

With its big hairy feet planted firmly in two worlds, horror-comedy Troll Hunter strives for both titters and trembles. It’s Norway’s belated answer to The Blair Witch Project, as well as any number of CGI monster movies – a down-and-dirty mock doc shot entirely from the perspective of a hapless crew of student filmmakers. They’re following huntsman Hans (Otto Jespersen), who’s spent his life covertly tracking and killing trolls in western Norway.

As the title suggests, Hans is the star (Jespersen blends John Wayne bravado with Jeff Bridges charisma), but the real pin-ups are the trolls themselves. Stomping, mountainous hell-beasts, they’re part Dahlian nightmare, part something else, divided into different species (Darwin would have a heart attack) and suitably savage in nature.

Less savage is Hunter’s wit. The dry humour works in places (a troll can sniff out a Christian at 10 paces), and writer/director André Øvredal has fun playing around with fairytale mythology. Sadly, the arid nudge-winks only truly come into their own in Hunter’s third act, early jokes either getting lost in translation or simply not hitting their mark.

More successful are Hunter’s shaky-cam action scenes. Thought Blair Witch’s careering camera was difficult to stomach? Hunter pushes the boundaries of topsy-turvy framing to the max – and though Øvredal had a budget that barely scraped the two million pound mark, his film doesn’t scrimp on the thrills. Forest chases, cave stakeouts and one heck of a frosty finale all ensure that Hunter is no troll when it comes to set-pieces.

Last year, newbie director Gareth Edwards took guerrilla filmmaking to new highs with the made-for-peanuts Monsters. Troll Hunter takes the same equation – innocent nobodies minus big production values plus big beasties – and delivers something entirely different. Monsters turned out to be a love story. Troll Hunter turns out to be about hunting trolls; and not much else besides.

Anticipation: The memory of 1986 snorefest Troll is still fresh… 3

Enjoyment: Shaky cam with subtitles might prove too much for some, but the trolls are a towering achievement. 4

In Retrospect: Fun, funny and fearless. Hunt it out if you’re after something different. 3

Via Little White Lies