Interview: Eli Craig, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

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Horror and comedy. They’re the film’s genre odd couple. You’d think they should butt heads constantly, and yet somehow when they’re put together it just works. In the case of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil it works very well, and that can be easily accredited to director and screenwriter of the film Eli Craig.

Flixist got a chance to sit down with the director and talk his ear off about a plethora of subjects mostly pertaining to the best way to fake impalement and how much blood is too much blood. OK, we actually asked him some “serious” questions as well. I mean it did take him 18 months to get his film distributed so his story is definitely a lesson in persistance and should be interesting to any budding filmmaker.

Tip one: It does not matter if your movie does better than Chronicles of Narnia in Russia.

Flixist (Matthew Razak): Tucker and Dale has been generating some impressive buzz thank to Vidoe on Demand and stellar reviews, but it took you a while to get to where it is now. What was it like having to fight so hard to get the movie out there and how did it finally come about?

Eli Craig: You know we’d screen it and from the audience response of non-stop laughter we’d think it was doing really well and would get picked up. Then we opened in Russia against Narnia and beat that major movie on a per screen average. It was performing so well I just wanted to get it out there. We’d keep on getting tested and tested by companies we were talking with and it took 18 months to finally have some one step in. Magnet stepped in and saved the day for us, but it was really heartbreaking for a long time.

Flixist:Why was the decision made to do a Video on Demand release before a theatrical one? Were you cool with that decision?

Eli Craig: I think it gets back to piracy. It was one of the most pirated films in the world and people would justify it by saying that they couldn’t see it anywhere else so they had to pirate it. So at the point we finally made the deal putting it up on VOD made sense just to actually make some money off the film instead of it getting stolen. If that hadn’t happened I would have been bummed about the early VOD release. This is a film to see in theaters. Comedy works in a group and you just laugh harder with other people. I’m happy it’s out there for people to see in any way possible, but sometimes [the early VOD release] is a let down because then people won’t get to see it in a theater.

We're not above posting this as often as possible.

Flixist: The comedy/horror genre it one people love a lot. Why do you think it works so well? What do you think makes Tucker and Dale stand out?

Eli Craig: There are a lot of horror/comedies where the comedy is supposed to be drevied from the blood and gore. Peter Jackson’s early stuff is like that, with that sort of over-the-top gore and camp that makes it funny. To me the humor has to come from elsewhere. It’s not funny because it’s gorey, it’s funny and gorey. I wasn’t going for a campy, gorey comedy, but a real comedic comedy with gore. That’s one of the great things about the genre. There’s so many types of horror/comedy out there that you never know what to expect from each film.

Though, no one ever asks me about the romantic comedy part of the movie. I mean that’s what it really is.

Flixist: Actually that was my next question. It’s right here on my piece of paper. What about the romantic comedy aspects of the movie?

Eli Craig: (laughs) I have trouble believing you, but the movie is a romantic comedy with a high body count. I mean, what is romance without blood and guts? To me it’s this sweet love story taking place in this horrific setting. There’s a lot of focus on the gags and horror stuff, but none of it would have really worked without the romance.

Flixist: So romantic comedies are an influence too, but I’m pretty sure I saw plenty of visual references to one of the greatest horror/comedy films ever: Evil Dead 2. Did that influence you?

Eli Craig: It was one of my favorite movies from college. I think that’s one of the first films I saw where you could feel how much fun everyone had making it and how much fun Sam Raimi had with film in general. I definitely took some influences from Evil Dead‘s cabin for the cabin in the movie and there are other parts where I wanted to reference back to the movie, but I didn’t want to steal directly because it’s its own film. It’s not a parody like a Zucker film.

You know that the screenplay for Airplane! was an actual serious movie called Zero Hour that they bought the rights too. Then they basically took the exact script and put in their jokes and that makes it the most perfect example of parody ever. It was actually a straight suspense film! I mean that’s genius, but I’ve gone off on a tangent. What I’m saying is that [Tucker and Dale] isn’t a spoof, but it does reference classics.

Flixist: One of the reasons the film works so well is that Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine work so well together. Did it take some time for them to get going like they do or were they awesome right off the bat?

Eli Craig: They created the relationship so quickly. They really got along and they didn’t have any ego about anything. It was just a love of acting. We had one day of rehearsal and during that day we tried to justify everything the characters would do and who they are. Alan was full of questions about his character. We created a whole back story for both Tucker and Dale and if something popped up we’d just work with it. The two of them were fantastic.

Flixist: There’s always a real horror story about some blood effect going wrong on a horror movie set. What’s yours?

Eli Craig: Actually, everything with the action went so smoothly. It was always the little things that caused problems. Like the wood chipper wouldn’t actually chip wood. The guys brought it in and it was just a fake wood chipper and they looked at us like we were crazy when we said we had to chip wood with it. But we were on a tight budget so we couldn’t get a real one. We couldn’t even afford for the truck to get messed up because it was our only truck. There’s a crash in the movie and we couldn’t afford to actually mess the truck up. The horror stuff just worked; we did it in the moment and had fun with it.

Flixist: So other than to have multiple trucks what did you take away from your first directing experience?

Eli Craig: There’s so many take aways. I think the biggest one was to keep believing. It’s so funny how much I believed in this film. It’s really satisfying to know I was right with it and all the hard work. It had zero advertising, zero studio budgeting, it was just put out there and yet it started getting this following and it stayed out there. It was kind of like raising a son and having him pull himself up by his own bootstraps one day. It really went from rags to riches.

Flixist: So what is next for you? Will you return to shorts or another feature?

Eli Craig: Shorts a road to nowhere. I mean they’re great it you’re trying to get noticed and do a feature, but I won’t be going back. I want to continue down this road of action/horror/comedy. The idea I’m working on now is an action/comedy, but sometimes it comes back to horror/comedy, but I’m trying to avoid that. That’s not a box I want to be stuck in because it was so tough to get (Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil) out there and I don’t want it to always be that difficult.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.