The Double Feature: Hot Fuzz and Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
I’m not much of a horror fan myself, but I find the combination of horror and comedy irresistible. That’s why this month’s double feature is about basking in the expert melding of the two genres demonstrated by two hilarious films that enthusiastically send-up horror tropes. We will be pairing the bona fide hit Hot Fuzz from cinematic dream team of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, a clever independent film that pokes fun at all the evil hillbillies Deliverance‘s success has wrought. Together they’ll make for an unforgettable double feature full of gore, silliness and bromance in the face of evil.
Hot Fuzz is first and foremost a loving satire of cop movies. Pegg co-write Hot Fuzz with Edgar Wright, and together they manage to tip their hat to dozens of action movies over the course of film. Pegg stars as the freakishly competent Officer Nicholas Angel, whose perfection is such a nuisance to his coworkers that they ship him off to the idyllic hamlet of Sandford. The town is said to be crime free, but it’s plagued by a series of suspicious deaths that Nicholas investigates with the help of his new partner, Danny (Nick Frost), a naive, but goodhearted police officer (and son of the chief).
The partnership between Nicholas and Danny is genuinely sweet. Danny forces Nicholas to be a little less stringent and no-nonsense, and in turn Nicholas gives Danny a much needed confidence boost. As always, the dynamic between Pegg and Frost is a pleasure to watch. They’re great friends and great comic foils for one another. The film is at its best when Nicholas is in full action hero mode and Danny comes along to pester him about whether or not he’s ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air or to become delighted by the prospect of a police chase.
Still, as sweet as they are together, Hot Fuzz has plenty of horror elements as well. The deaths plaguing the town aren’t just suspicious, they’re also creatively gruesome. I wouldn’t go so far as to say Hot Fuzz is scary, but it is atmospheric and capable of swapping genres without missing a beat.
Where Hot Fuzz parodies a whole slew of movies, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil focused more on a single target. It plays as rebuttal to Deliverance, the classic film that has been making city dwellers afraid to venture into Appalachian mountain towns for decades now. Hillbilly horror movies are a genre unto themselves these days, which makes the idea that a group of college kids would mistakenly believe they’ve wandered into a horror movie scenario out in the middle of the woods all the more plausible.
The kids run into Tucker (Alan Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) in a convenience store during a stop to pick up some essential camping supplies (beer) and immediately assume they’re ax-murdering hillbillies. In actuality they’re just two good ol’ boys who have just bought a vacation home in the woods. What follows is an increasingly hilarious and bloody series of misunderstandings. The kids are convinced Tucker and Dale are trying to kill them, while Tucker and Dale are left completely baffled as to why they keep being attacked by a bunch of crazed college students.
Like Hot Fuzz, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil has an undercurrent of sweetness running beneath all the silliness. A charming love story develops between Dale and one of the college students, Allison (Katrina Bowden). It shouldn’t be believable, but it is. You’ll be rooting for the duo throughout, but even more you’ll be rooting for the “hillbillies” to finally find a bit of redemption after being misunderstood for so long.
On a purely thematic level, these two films are soul mates. They’re smart, but never stodgy, and clever in the way they deploy familiar tropes and then subvert them. In both, the villain turns out to be someone who is seemingly innocuous; revealing a central thesis that you really never know what darkness lurks in the hearts of men and town councils.
The best reason for watching them together though is to witness the dual narratives of the films’ central bromances. Tucker and Dale’s dynamic shares plenty of similarities with Nicholas and Danny’s. Both movies allow us to see the lovable, bumbling sidekicks come into their own and become heroes in their own right. The end result is different for each of them: Danny’s goal is to gain respect as an officer of the law and independence from his father, while Dale needs to learn to stand up for himself and to go after the things he wants. Watching their journeys is rewarding not only because the characters are both such good guys, but also because their respective actors, Frost and Labine, never get enough time in the spotlight.
Are you going to plan your own night of horror/comedy goodness now? Let me know in the comments!
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