Eli Craig’s Tucker and Dale vs. Evil is a sometimes clever, but mostly rote, horror comedy that takes the “kids going out to the cabin in the woods and facing hillbilly homicidal maniacs” genre of horror and subverts the entire concept to sometimes funny but in the end, tiring results. On the film’s face, it’s a one note joke stretched out to feature-length and, unfortunately, that would be correct. While the film’s two amicable leads, Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, give great comedic performances and have a great easygoing chemistry to their back and forth, the rest of the film hangs on a clever concept that is quickly diminished as the film goes along.
There are no bigger names in classic horror than Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Most famous for their portrayals of Frankenstein’s Monster and Dracula, respectively, they also made a slew of movies together at the height of their star-power. The first one of these collaborations was Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat, a stodgy black and white horror film revolving around a Satanist architect who traps a couple of vacationing honeymooners in his stylishly modern castle. The art deco set design on the interiors of the castle are actually quite impressive and provide an interesting dichotomy between the classic exterior of the castle and the old fashioned story that unfurls through the film and the modernity that lies within.
I am generally not a big horror fan so my knowledge and experience with horror films is fairly small but I do try to see the important and vital ones when I can. This was my first exposure to Night of the Living Dead. In fact, this was my first exposure to any of George Romero’s films. Whatever the effect the film had on people in years previous, there have been enough zombie ephemera to suck away any shock the film might have once had. However, the film does still build a terrific sense of dread and really unsettled me in ways that I didn’t totally expect.
Right from the start, Night of the Living Dead is doing something different from not just horror films of the day but it is even unique to the horror films of today. Following a small group of survivors holed up in a farm house fending off a zombie horde, the lead hero of the story is an African American man played with a heroic dignity by Duane Jones. Immediately, while even barely trying, the film stands out but things only build from there. Interesting moments arise out of this casting decision and coupled with the harrowing ending of the film, it’s clear that Romero has things to say about race in America during this time and he has somehow fit that gracefully in to a zombie horror film.
The film wears its low budget roots on its sleeve, centering on that farmhouse for the majority of the film. The film builds terrific suspense with few tools and amateur actors at its center and the makeup effects are terrific and certainly unsettling. A remarkable film that deserves more of a write up than I’m giving it right now but that’s all the time I’ve got at the moment. Creepy and unsettling, Romero has crafted superb chills on a shoestring budget without relying on the cheap tricks that define today’s crop of horror flicks. With nary a jump scare in sight, Romero earns his scares and is able to say something smart and interesting all the while.