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Quick, just how many times you have heard setups like this before? Bunch of college kids are going into a forest in West Virginia to party and generally have a good time. On Memorial Day weekend, of course. On their way to the place they encounter some weird hillbillies at the gas station. Soon things escalate and they find themselves locked in a bloody combat involving the rural against the urban. But the twist is, that in this picture the kids are not the oppressed protagonists. Here, it's the hillbillies.
Meet Tucker and Dale. They are two best friends who have taken a little vacation to fix a cabin in the woods which Tucker has bought. On their way there, they ran into the aforementioned college kids at the gas station. They inadvertently give the wrong first impression and the kids are convinced that they are typical creepy backwood hicks like the ones in movies. Later on our two heroes meet the kids again when they are fishing. They accidentally scare the female lead of this film, Allison, when she's about to go for a swim and she almost drowns. They save her, but again they give the wrong impression about themselves and the college kids think they have actually kidnapped her. Several accidents and more misunderstandings later, the planned vacation goes to south big time for our duo as they have to put their best against... EVIL.
Be careful around woodchippers, all of you:
- Abuse Mistake: The college kids and the police take for granted that Dale is doing terrible things to Allison.
- Aggressive Categorism: With his paranoia and prejudice against "hillbillies", Chad makes an example of the scary and not at all amusing kind.
- Ax Crazy: Chad gradually descents into this, ultimately becoming a nutjob with a hard-on for hillbilly murder.
- An Axe to Grind: Chad's Weapon of Choice at first.
- Bare Your Midriff: Allison, who doesn't even button her fly all the way up to expose more midriff.
- Batter Up: Subverted. Dale finds a baseball bat and suggests using it as a weapon, but discovers it's hollow and made of plastic.
- Between My Legs: The shot of Tucker and Dale holding the woodchippered guy by the legs and the sheriff in the background.
- Big Damn Heroes: Attempted several times throughout the course of the movie. However, except for Dale rescuing Allison, this only succeeds in escalating a nonexistent situation to a deadly one.
- Black and White Insanity: Chad keep insisting on a black and white narrative with himself as the good guy and the hillbillies as the villains.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted by Jason, who deliberately avoids danger of any kind until Allison's tea summit, by which point most of the white students are dead.
- Blood-Splattered Innocents
- Bloody Hilarious
- Both Sides Have a Point: Allison is really trying for this one, in her attempts to mediate.
- Butt Monkey: Tucker, who accumulates all of the nonfatal injuries throughout the film. Dale comes through without a scratch.
- California Doubling: Alberta for West Virginia.
- Cassandra Truth: Tucker and Dale immediately understand that no one is going to believe what really happened at the cabin.
- Chainsaw Good: Tucker accidentally cuts through a hornet's nest with a chainsaw and accidentally charges through the co-eds while swinging the chainsaw wildly at the swarming hornets. Later Dale has a chainsaw-versus-pipe fight with Chad.
- Chekhov's Gun:
- Chamomile tea. Good thing the lumber mill happened to have some laying around.
- The poorly fixed column in the cabin.
- Chekhov's Skill:
- Dale's thing for being able to remember any bit of trivia.
- Inverted by Chad's axe. Chad practices throwing it several times, but it's Dale who actually throws and hits something with it. He's shocked.
- Child by Rape: Chad believes his father was one of the victims of the Memorial Day massacre. He was actually the perpetrator, a serial killer and rapist who attacked Chad's mother and her friends in the past.
- Cobweb Jungle: Tucker's cabin when he and Dale enter it. They proclaim proudly that it's just a little dusty.
- Completely Missing the Point: Tucker and Dale find newspaper clippings of all the cabin owner's victims. All Tucker notices is the free hot dog coupon.
- Conveyor Belt of Doom: Chad ties Allison to a log at the abandoned saw mill and when the climactic duel starts, he starts the machinery there, putting Allison in this position.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: And accidental ones at that.
- Damsel in Distress: When Tucker and Dale pick up Allison from the lake, the other college kids think she's in this position. She is put into this role for real in the climax.
- Deadly Dodging: Tucker dodges Mitch's tackle, sending Mitch into the wood chipper. Later he dodges Jason's weed whacker, so it goes right into Naomi's face.
- Did Not Do the Research: When a college kid can't get the sheriff's handgun to fire, Dale helpfully explains that the safety is on, and the kid instantly blows his head off after disengaging it. Revolvers don't actually have safeties, so there's no reason why the gun wouldn't fire initially.
- Disney Villain Death: Chad.
- Distracted by the Sexy: When Dale is digging a hole for the outhouse, Allison asks him what he is doing. Distracted by her figure, Dale struggles for a while to understand what she's saying.
- Does This Remind You of Anything??
It's true, Chad... You're half hillbilly.
- Dogged Nice Guy: Dale.
- Don't Go in The Woods: Deadly accidents and misunderstandings happen there.
- Entitled to Have You: Chad has this for Allison who he believes he is entitled to because they are both 'special' and proceeds to go more crazy when she falls for Dale, a hillbilly, whom he sees as inferior
- Fan Service: Allison undressing for a swim.
- Final Girl: Allison, thanks to her friends.
- Fingore: When the college kids catch Tucker, Chad severs two of his fingers.
Dale: "His bowling fingers!"
- Flipping the Bird: "Press pass this!"
- Freudian Excuse: Chad's hatred for hillbillies comes from the fact that they attacked his parents 20 years ago.
- Gentle Giant: Dale. He doesn't even like fishing.
- Gosh Hornet: While sawing a tree, Tucker accidentally strikes a hornets nest. Hilarity Ensues. And one fatality.
- Groin Attack: Narrowly averted when Dale launches the trap set by the college kids.
- Half the Man He Used To Be: Mitch, when he attempts to attack Tucker and ends up in the woodchipper.
- Hidden Depths: Dale is a trivia genius and much more bold than his timid personality would suggest.
- Hillbilly Horrors: A parody of the genre.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: All of the co-eds are killed by their own or each other's hand.
- Hollywood Darkness
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: It's Memorial Day! Just like it was 20 years ago...
- How We Got Here: The very first scene of the film.
- Idiot Savant: Dale has a remarkable memory, but little education.
- I Just Shot Marvin in the Face: One of the college kids is aiming for Tucker and Dale with a gun, but can't get it to fire. Dale, panicking, gives him a bit of useful, albeit situationally mistimed advice to switch the safety off. The kid frantically struggles with it and ends up shooting himself in the face.
- Improbable Aiming Skills: Dale manages to sever the rope tying Allison by throwing an axe. He is visibly surprised at the result. It is also worth pointing out that he failed to cut it with a chain saw moments earlier.
- I Owe You My Life: Allison stays with Tucker and Dale for the time as a way to pay them back for saving her life.
- If I Can't Have You: Chad would rather kill Allison then let her fall in love with a hillbilly.
- Improvised Weapon: Jason with a string trimmer. It does not end well for Naomi.
- Jerkass: Chad.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Chad goes from frat boy on a camping trip to Ax Crazy awfully quick.
- Knight Templar: Chad.
- Like Father, Like Son: Chad becomes a psycho-killer as well, though its ambiguous as to whether he was genetically predisposed to violence or if his hatred for hillbillies made him go crazy.
- Lock and Load Montage: Dale gets one at the saw mill when he is going to rescue Allison.
Dale: You want a killer hillbilly? I'll give you a killer hillbilly.
- Machete Mayhem: When Dale goes to rescue Tucker, he arms himself with a machete.
- Man On Fire: Chad accidentally sets Jason on fire. Despite Dale and Tucker's attempts at advice, Chloe just makes it worse by dousing him with the first liquid she could grab, which happened to be flammable.
- Men Are the Expendable Gender: The first six people to die are men. Granted, as this is a deconstruction of typical horror movies, they're putting themselves in danger rather than being hunted down, so it's somewhat understandable that the women would be safe until the gender ratio started evening out.
- Mistaken for Gay: Tucker drops a beer into his lap as he's being pulled over. Dale tries to clean it up, but gets his sleeve caught. As the sheriff approaches, Dale pulls himself away from Tucker's crotch and rips his shirt off. The disgusted sheriff tells them that they can expect unimaginable pain where they're headed (hell) which goes right over the hillbillies' heads.
- Mistaken for Murderer: Tucker and Dale being mistaken for killer hillbillies is the premise of the film.
- Misunderstood Loner with a Heart of Gold: The hillbillies, especially Dale.
- Murder by Cremation: Happens to the father of one of the college kids.
- My Car Hates Me: When trying to escape from Chad at his Ax Craziest, Dale struggles to get the car started.
- Nail'Em: When Chad threatens to shoot Dale's dog Jangers, Tucker hands him a nail gun for distraction while he goes for the rescue. In typical movie fashion, it works like a gun.
- Name and Name: Mixed with Versus Title.
- Nice Guy: Tucker and especially Dale are so well-meaning and friendly you can't help but feel bad for them as their vacation falls apart.
- Not with the Safety On, You Won't: One of the co-eds tries to shoot at the hillbillies, but the safety is on. Dale tells him what's wrong. Oddly, the gun is a revolver and would not have a safety in real life.
- Only Sane Man: Jason initially acts as this for the first half of the movie.
- Perspective Flip:
- A Hillbilly Horrors film from the hillbillies' point of view.
- The DVD likewise contains a 15-minute bonus feature called Tucker and Dale ARE Evil, which retells the story from the college kids' point of view while removing the hints that Chad is a psychopath.
- Police Are Useless: The local sheriff is kind of an idiot. He mistakes Tucker and Dale for gay lovers and later follows them inside the murder cabin. Even the airheaded teens can't believe he's so stupid.
- Politically-Incorrect Villain: Chad when it comes to hillbillies.
- Poor Communication Kills: Discussed by Allison, who explains that she's studying psychology because she feels so many of the world's problems are the result of this. She tries to sit the main characters down to talk their way through their conflict.
- Psycho Party Member: Chad.
- Rescue Romance: Develops between Dale and Allison after her near-drowning. Turns into a serious relationship when Dale later rescues Allison from Chad.
- Shrinking Violet: Dale.
- Shovel Strike: Dale accidentally knocks Allison out with a shovel when they are attacked by Todd.
- Sinister Scythe: When Dale tries to talk to the college girls at gas station, he grabs the nearest thing to look casual. Too bad that it's a scythe, and his nervous laughter isn't helping matters.
- Skinny Dipping: Invoked as the college kids claim they are going to do as they go for a swim. However, they verbally change their minds along the way and eventually bathe in their underwear.
- Slashed Throat: Shown in the flashback sequence.
- Southern-Fried Genius: Dale, sort of. He didn't finish grade school, but apparently has a very good mind for trivia.
- Stockholm Syndrome: When Allison tries to explain to Chad and Naomi what happened, Naomi erroneously deduces that she is going through this.
- Tap on the Head: Allison is knocked out twice in a short span and spends several hours unconscious each time. She doesn't seem to suffer any ill affects.
- Television Geography: The movie takes place in the backwoods of West Virginia, but the foliage in the area looks nothing like West Virginia's. West Virginia forests are mostly broadleaf deciduous trees, packed rather densely, but the forest in the movie was coniferous and thin... not unlike the forests in Alberta, Canada.
- This Is for Emphasis, Bitch: Chad adds this few times.
- Too Dumb to Live: The co-eds, who all die due to their own idiot actions.
- Trailers Always Spoil: Quite a few death scenes are spoiled by the trailer. Especially the first three, which are the most abrupt and unexpected.
- Two-Faced: Left side of Chad's face is badly burnt when he is caught inside an explosion. Also Naomi, moments before the explosion.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Dale is a fat, dirty hillbilly, while Allison is a beautiful college student. They get together.
- Unwilling Suspension: Tucker when he is caught by the college kids.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Chad is asthmatic and allergic to Chamomile Tea.
- What an Idiot!: Dale is such a passive nice guy that he advises taking the safety off to a kid who wants to shoot him.
- Window Pain: Dale breaks a window to start a firefight with the college kids.
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Chad is the one who convinces others that they are in a "us against them" situation against crazy backwoods hillbillies. It's all just a misunderstanding.
- Yandere: Chad, for Allison. Exacerbated by the fact that she sympathizes with and eventually falls for a hillbilly.
- You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Tucker gives Dale this speech to convince him to not only save Allison, but to pursue a relationship with her as well.
- You Are What You Hate: Hillbilly hater Chad is the Child By Rape of a psycho hillbilly murderer. The reveal drives him even further into insanity.