It’s an extreme rarity to find a horror film that fuses blood, guts and comedy with the seeming ease and precision you’ll find in Eli Craig’s staggeringly fantastic, surprise gem, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. It’s even more mind boggling when you discover that the masterminds behind the picture are every bit as down-to-earth and likeable as the characters they portray on film. But, such is the case with Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine and Eli Craig, or as you may know them, Tucker, Dale, and the genius director who assembled this bold comedy horror hybrid.
*Read HorrorBid's full review of TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL by following this link: viewtopic.php?f=255&t=16604&p=82429#p82429
Getting the chance to speak with the T&DVE crew made for quite the unique experience for me, despite having conducted well over 250 interviews in my time. You see, given the scheduling slots of this specific trio of interviews, I would have typically passed on investigative duties. The window of opportunity was a Saturday, fairly early morning, and I was in Lake Tahoe, in a moderately (to be generous) sized timeshare with about 15 other 30-somethings, celebrating a weekend long (well, I packed up early… I’m getting old!) bachelor party for a good friend of mine who’s on the cusp of relinquishing his freedom (marriage isn’t really that bad, in fact it can be great - I just like to cast doubts in the minds of young love birds). In other words, I spent half the weekend smack-dab in the middle of the exact kind of environment in which the word work is an acknowledged taboo.
But sometimes you get an opportunity that calls to you, and no matter how inconvenient it may be, you answer that call. In my case, this obviously wasn’t the prime weekend to interview the crew from Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, but I loved this flick so fucking much, there wasn’t a chance in Hell I was going to pass on this offer; the movie, and the performances themselves are just too damn awesome for such disregard.
So, juggling a hint of lingering drunkenness, with the pains of an oncoming hangover, I happily waited for my telephone call. And when it came, I gathered my senses (to the greatest extent possible) took hold of my phone, and hit the record button.
Note: I opted to conduct this interview in what is certainly atypical fashion (at least for me personally); rather than crafting a series of different questions for each man, I posed the exact same set of questions to each of the three, as I honestly found myself extremely curious to hear three differing opinions on the same topics, because i find the personalities of each individual very enthralling. Perhaps that’s an indicator of just how much I enjoyed this flick: Rather than eying a broader scope, I really wanted to know what each man thought in regards to the exact same particular elements of this kick ass flick. The year’s most ambitious genre offering and I’ve got tunnel vision: go figure.
Horrorbid/Matt Molgaard: Let’s pretend you live in a bubble and you’ve somehow never heard of Tucker & Dale vs. Evil; how would you describe the movie?
Tyler Labine: There’re so many approaches here. I would say it’s a comedy before it’s a horror first of all. Which I don’t want to disappoint any of the horror fans, there’s plenty of gore there, but it’s a funny fucking movie, that’s how I’d describe it. It’s surprisingly funny. It’ll grab you by the boo boo.
Alan Tudyk: I can’t describe it. It’s a coming of age film about a young boy who is in love with his older sister’s best friend. His body is going through all sorts of changes, and so is his heart. That’s how I’d describe it.
Eli Craig: It is the hillbilly, horror comedy version of the Paul Haggis film, Crash. [laughs] It is a film that sticks up for the humanity of rural redneck folks, and pits collar popping, college fraternity boys against them in a battle of life and death. It’s a film that works very well on a level of surprise. I actually encourage people to just blindly see it. If you don’t know anything about it all the better, just jump on in and go see it, because the most fun I ever have with people is when they have no friggin idea what the movie is about and are surprised every step of the way.
HB: Tell me about the shoot itself. Any unforeseen challenges arise?
TL: So many, man… We shot in Calgary, in June of 2010. Right out of the gates, in June, it decided to hail. I’m talking about giant, golf ball sized precipitation. And that was challenge number one, because on day two I had to jump into that stupid lake where we rescue Katrina Bowden, and it had frozen over. It was such a small lake that it froze in a matter of two days, and it had just thawed out the day before, and I had to jump into a recently thawed lake on day two of shooting, so that was challenging. I got mild hypothermia: also a challenge. There was lots of things.
We shot the whole movie in 24 days (I think), which is insane because it’s a pretty ambitious movie. A couple things had to be cut out because we just didn’t have time to shoot them. The movie itself, throughout the whole shooting process, the whole thing was a challenge. It was very, sort of run-and-gun and pretty guerilla. We had to make a lot of executive decisions on the day while we were actually already there with cameras up and everything. It was a real challenge to make the movie period, but it turned out pretty well I think so…
AT: The biggest challenge we had was time. It was a very short shoot, so there wasn’t a lot of room for investigation while we’re shooting scenes. We had to know what we were doing when we got there, and if things were not working in our favor, weather wise or our location, we had to make due. But I think that informed the movie a lot, because we had to think on our feet and sometimes, that meant improv, sometimes that meant just quickly coming up with a solution that is now what’s in the movie. We only did two takes, most of the scenes that you see in the movie, we’ve done them twice. That meant that we had to do a lot of our work before we got to the set, and that also informed the movie. We just had to really be prepared. There weren’t many moments where like, ‘I don’t know what my character’s doing here.’ We would always come in with ideas, and I think that added to options on the day of scenes.
EC: I can start in pre-production; how long is this interview? [laughs] Put it this way: I had worked for about three years to get the financing. Once we got the financing I got a call from the producer saying, you have three weeks to shoot the film in Alberta. Three weeks to get there, set up the shoot and then start shooting. They fly me into Edmonton and I land, and there’s no trees in Edmonton. Edmonton is full of prairie. I call the producers and I say ‘have you read the script?! It takes place in a forest! There’s no trees!’ So anyway, we began to search for trees. We ended up in Calgary. Then a couple days before going to camera I hear they’re shutting down production because all the money didn’t come through, and it’s over. Three days before we’re about to start shooting I have to start pulling pages out of the script, and I cut back from 30 days to 25. Anyway, we survived. Then throughout the shoot there was thunderstorms; there were downpours of hail and rain. It was basically like Satan was against us, but we pulled it off.
HB: I want to talk about the supporting cast, who’ve kind of fallen into the background a bit. Obviously, Tucker and Dale are the kind of characters that steal the show, but there’s some good support, especially from Jesse Moss and Katrina Bowden. How did you think the rest of the cast performed, and what was it like working with them?
TL: I thought they performed really well. All of them were super good; they did exactly what they were supposed to do. They were supposed to be these cliché college kids that you kind of hate, and that’s exactly what they do. And working with them was… infrequent.
Alan and I were basically shooting a different movie. We didn’t actually have a lot of interaction with the college kids until the end, where we’re all meeting up at the cabin. I think we only shot with them four or five days the whole shoot. It was like they actually were a bunch of college kids in Calgary. They were all hanging out and drinking at night, doing their thing and Alan and I were off shooting every night. We didn’t see each other that much, which is a bummer because I know most of those actors from Vancouver, because I’m a Vancouver boy myself. We definitely had different experiences making this movie.
AT: They did a great job. I think they’re the perfect college kid actors. Jesse is so brilliant at moronic righteousness. He has those lines like, ‘you bitches don’t know what you’re talking about. Ya’ll are just a bunch of assholes’… he’s such a jackass, and he’s completely committed to that person, to that moronic college kid archetype. And, Chelan, she’s hysterical in the movie.
I’m trying to figure out a way to talk about that scene where they’re in the police cruiser and they’re locked in the back, and they’re watching the whole thing unfold between us and the cop. Basically the voice of… what the audience is usually is saying when you’re watching these horror movies, ‘get him! Do it! What are you doing? You can’t let him get away!’ And you can completely see their point of view, and they do such a good job of heightening the tension. When you see the police officer stagger out of the house with an extreme headache, and then they’re screaming; Chelan especially, with that scream that she has. I think that they do a great job. But you’re right they kind of all become one, but they all do a really good job.
EC: I think they performed excellently. The fun part about this shoot was that everybody was kind of… game for whatever. All the cast were just so excited to be there. They believed in the project and they all had a similar interpretation of the script. We weren’t really going for a Scary Movie type thing; we were kind of keeping the characters grounded. But the college kids had to play the stereotypes. And it was important that they all know about the genre, so I had them watch films like, Wrong Turn and Hills Have Eyes and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Cabin Fever and then some really awful films as well, you know House of Wax and things like that, where there’s just a ton of college kids. So I had them kind of study the behavior, and they all really brought it and brought out the hilarity of the stereotypes. Jesse Moss I think did a great job of playing that villain. Jesse Moss basically thinks he’s like Batman, you know, he thinks he’s Burt Reynolds in Deliverance; only he’s just on the wrong side of the perception of what’s right.
HB: The onscreen chemistry in this flick is unique in the sense that it’s almost abnormally realistic, between Tucker and Dale. What was it like on set? Was shooting this picture as easy, or maybe I should say natural as it seems.
TL: Alan showed up really late in the game. We actually had another actor locked into that part of Tucker, until about a week before production. Alan kind of came in and saved the day. I met him two days before we started shooting. I don’t know man, it’s one of those things, I don’t know if its luck, or serendipity or whatever you want to call it, but we met each other and just hit it off right away.
The crazy thing about those characters is, the movie really hinged on that. It was like ‘I better get along with this guy’, you know? Alan’s just such a fantastic guy, but on top of that he’s an amazing actor, and I think I found myself really wanting to show off for him [laughs]. I was a fan of his going into it. He didn’t know who I was, but that’s another story. I went into it sort of being like, I’m gonna act the shit out of this movie to just show off for Alan Tudyk. And it became very obvious to me that I didn’t have to. I didn’t have to work really hard with this guy because it was all sort of just there. Once we met each other I feel like I really found the character of Dale. We’re still good friends to this day: it’s a real testament to the fact that the onscreen chemistry that you see was sort of actually happening at the time. Alan and I were just getting to know each other and kind of like, learning about each other on camera, which I think makes it fun to watch.
AT: We had a great time. I remember when we were shooting it I kept saying to people back home and to Tyler, ‘you know this is really easy working with you, we have such a good chemistry’. We were aware of it when we were working.
We approved the bloopers real that they’re going to put on the DVD, and you get to see how we were playing and reacting with one another. Even on the first and second days of working together, we were laughing around and joking back and forth. It was really fun to watch. [I] immediately got done watching it and looked at Eli and Tyler and said, ‘we’ve got to do this again.’ We had a really good time while the cameras were rolling and when they stopped.
EC: They spent a lot of time in the wardrobe tent together, so I don’t know what they were doing to make themselves seem so close. But seriously, it was not an easy shoot by any means. I think one of the things that might have brought the camaraderie was the difficulties. We were down in the woods, there was mosquito’s down there; we were sitting in the mud. About a mile away we had the trailers where people would come and do hair and make-up and everything. By the time that Alan and Tyler would get to set, there wasn’t any time in the day to go back up to the trailer. So, everybody would just kind of sit down in the mud, you know we were lucky if we could afford a chair for them, and we’d all kind of be together in a way, while we were shooting the film. So there wasn’t that separation of the cast to the director, or the cast members amongst themselves: Maybe that kind of shows up as a sort of camaraderie in the film.
HB: So if you had the chance to work together again, you’d jump on it?
TL: Oh fuck yeah. In fact, I look for reasons; everything I do I’m like ‘is there any room for like, an Alan Tudyk in this?’ I don’t think he does the same for me [laughs], but I would work with Alan again in a heartbeat.
AT: Yes absolutely!
HB: There’s a real obvious kind of vintage, grindhouse, 70’s-80’s feel to the film. Like a lot of the eventual classic flicks of that time and style, there’s a mold intentionally followed in the film: there are plenty of cliché characters and predictable ideas, but you can see that it’s all played for fun and the movie is obviously really self-aware. Given the thick comedy in this one, would you consider it more a tribute type of film, or a friendly poke at the old run-of-the-mill clichés?
TL: I don’t even know if it’s a friendly poke. It was more of a deconstruction I think, of those cliché characters and storylines. I don’t necessarily think it was because Eli loves those movies. I think he just, was able to find a real comedy niche that hadn’t been tapped into yet. I know he definitely is a fan of the classic horror movies, but he’s definitely a comedy writer. He was just mining well-worn territory for unfound gold. And that’s what I think this movie was.
It was like he just had a whole backlog of readymade… things that were right for parody. But he didn’t want to just parody them, he wanted to make a genre bending film, and that’s what he did. It’s hard to put this movie into any category, except for it just… being funny, I think.
AT: Can it be both? I think it pays tribute to all of those old clichés in cabin in the woods movies that have come and gone over the years. It spoofs them but at the same time it pays tribute to them. It does it in a really entertaining way.
EC: I was trying to make fun of it more than emulate it. Basically I was trying to make two films, or a film that appealed to two different types of people. And one was, I did want to satisfy the horrorfiles, people who really followed horror and understood the nuances of it. But I also wanted to make a film that people would enjoy if they’d never seen a horror film. So, I gave a lot of nods I think, and I’m not even as educated as a lot of people but you only have to watch about 10 of these films before you get all these cliché’s that happen. And once I got down to watching Hills Have Eyes 2 and House of Wax, I was like ‘I’m pretty sure what these stereotypes are.’ And then I wanted to make a tribute a little bit to those throwback, old time Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi films; Evil Dead especially. I even constructed the cabin to kind of look like the Evil Dead cabin. I wanted to give a real nod of respect to those films.
HB: A lot of successful filmmakers and actors have told me they knew that they had something special while they were shooting certain films. Did you get that kind of feeling while you were shooting this movie?
TL: No. [laughs] I wish I could say ‘Ah man, Alan and I would ride home and night and be like, we’re really doin it aren’t we buddy?’ But it was not that at all. It was a lot of confusion, it was pretty run-and-gun, get it in one take. Get in and get out. And Alan and I would regularly, be driving home at the end of a 14, 15 hour day going over it in the van ride home. Like, okay, what did we miss, did we get that? We were just constantly worried like, what did we just shoot? What are we getting here?
At the end of the movie, we were like, well that’s never gonna see the light of day. That’s not going anywhere. Nice to meet you, made a good friendship out of it. You know what I mean? But then we saw the cut, a really, really rough cut, and we were like ‘oh, holy shit. Eli, we owe you an apology, you really knew what you were doing.’
And there were a lot of things that we argued with him about on set, that he was really adamant about. And we were kind of like, well, fuck whatever, it’s his movie, let him do it. And those things stayed in the movie, and they were the things that really, really make the movie work.
It was a battle making the movie, and finishing it. But the end result was just, very obviously worth it in every way shape and form.
AT: No. I enjoyed the rapport that I had with Eli and with Tyler. I really thought the script was special, but the speed with which we shot it… at the end of the day, Tyler and I would share a van back to the hotel and we’d go through what we had shot during the day, and we couldn’t recall because we had done so much. We’d be like ‘What did we do? We did that one scene in the woods. Did that work? I don’t know.’ We ended the whole thing with ‘I don’t know’. I remember calling back home to my girlfriend and just being like ‘I don’t know what we’re doing. I think it’s good.’ Some days I’m like ’This is really funny’; some days I’m just confused, and then when we saw it all put together we got really excited.
But while we were shooting it, our experience was almost mirrored by Tucker and Dale’s experience. As the movie goes on they get degraded over time; they’re bloodier and more worn down, I lose my fingers. We sort of went through that same kind of progression. [laughs] The accumulative effect was confusion and fatigue. It worked for the movie, but during it, we had no idea.
EC: Well I had it all the time. I had it three years before, I had it during and I had it after, but I had to keep myself in check because I think that feeling might be delusional as well. I never really wanted to admit it could be a cult hit. I kept feeling that way. There were a few moments in shooting, where I literally had a tingle right up my spine, and I thought to myself, people are gonna say this film is fucking awesome! Then I’d go home and I’d say that to my wife and she’d say ‘oh shut up and just do your work’. And that’s the important thing really, just shut up and do the work, because whatever it is, is what it is. It’s really just trying to stay in the moment and keep working and not get caught up in what you think something’s going to be.
HB: With the market being flooded with all these remakes and found footage flicks, how important do you think this film is? This is a movie that is good enough that it has the potential to sway trends right now.
TL: I agree, and the funny thing is, we’ve been behind this movie for like two years now. Thank God for Magnet releasing. They’re doing a cool thing right now, and they are swaying trends right now as a releasing distribution company for sure. And I just feel like the need for new material and new comedy is so ravenous out there that that’s why this response has been so good. This is really an original idea and it’s genre bending and people are just eating it up. It’s the result of the fact that there’s just not that many original ideas anymore with the reboots and revamps and remakes: everything’s a ‘re’ you know, it’s like: let’s get some new shit out there.
HB: The reception has obviously been incredible. How does it feel to know that the work you put into this movie is being acknowledged and so highly praised?
TL: IT feels really, really good. I wish I had a cooler answer than that, but it just feels really good to be in a movie that’s critically and, just by the public’s stance; everyone seems too really, really like it. It’s vindicating because, as an actor, odds are, you’re going to make a lot of shit in your career, you know? A lot of things that get made are shit, and this movie isn’t. It’s a proud moment for any actor I think when you realize that you’re in a movie that might actually be good, and that people are responding to.
The longevity I think of this movie is really going to prove to be something else. I can imagine doing the 20 year Tucker & Dale reunion screening, and it still having some sort of cultural relevance. I think it’s that kind of movie. People really can’t get enough of it.
EC: It feels good, and it feels intimidating because now I’ve got to do it again! [laughs]
HB: At this point, it really doesn’t seem like there’s any reason you need to try and sell this movie: it’s kind of doing that on it’s own. But for the sake of my personal curiosity, what would you tell someone who asks you why they should see Tucker & Dale Vs. Evil?
TL: The only thing I can think of when people ask me that question is: do you like watching good movies? Then go watch this movie. There’s no real pitch for this movie that makes any sense when you try and spell it out. It’s just, if you like watching good movies that are entertaining and funny, just watch this movie.