Has Eli Craig Reinvented The Horror Comedy?September 29, 2011

Has Eli Craig Reinvented The Horror Comedy?

Magnolia Pictures

On Demand Weekly's VOD Spotlight highlights stories from the On Demand industry. Chris Claro interviews director Eli Craig about TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures). Read our review of the film here.

 

HAS ELI CRAIG REINVENTED THE HORROR COMEDY?
On Demand Weekly talks to Eli Craig, the twisted mind behind TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL

 

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL, directed and co-written by Eli Craig, is a comedy that twists the conventions of the college-kids-vs.-killer-hillbilly films on their bloody ear. As Craig tells it, the genesis of the film was a conversation with co-scripter Morgan Jurgenson.

 


Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk / TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures)

“Morgan and I spent a lot of time in cabins as kids,” Craig says. “I was from L.A. and my dad had a cabin in Oregon and Morgan grew up in a remote area off the grid in the hills. He was the first person to say ‘why are these films always from this angle?’ What if the college kids were killing themselves accidentally?”

 


Katrina Bowden / TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures)


Craig and Jorgenson dug into the clichés and tropes that have gone into everything from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE to WRONG TURN and used them as a takeoff point. “We sort of deconstructed the genre and asked ‘what if everything that happened to Leatherface was just a big misunderstanding?’ Maybe he was just a really nice guy who had an ugly face.”

From there, it was a matter of contriving all the expected death scenes from a comic standpoint. “We came up with stuff that was really funny to us,” Craig says, “like the kid falling into the wood chipper accidentally. And the idea of Tucker running for his life from a swarm of bees as he was wielding the chainsaw.”

 


Eli Craig / TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures)


Casting the title roles was a challenge for Craig.

“I had to find a guy that from a certain perspective, was seen as big and scary,” he said. “A character that was formidable. He needed to be a big guy and also have a heart of gold that would shine through, even when he’s covered in blood.” Bigger stars were out, Craig said, because audience expectations and baggage would take away from their characterizations.

Craig discovered Tyler Labine in a broad comic role on the now-canceled series REAPER. “He just stole his scenes. Then I watched Tyler on another series called INVASION where he was a lot more subtle and I thought ‘this guy can do it.’” Craig had found his Dale. Tracking down a Tucker would be more stressful.

 


Tyler Labine / TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures)

Alan Tudyk, currently co-starring in the ABC series SUBURGATORY, was a last-minute replacement for an actor who had to drop out of the film. Craig was already on location in Canada and had to set up a casting session in L.A. “It was the Friday before we were to start shooting and Alan came in and said he liked the script,” Craig recalls. “I had seen his work on Joss Whedon’s FIREFLY and his hilarious performance in DEATH AT A FUNERAL and

I called him and told him to

fly his ass up to Canada.”


Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk / TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (Magnolia Pictures)

 

After an intensive 25-day shooting schedule in which every extraneous element needed to be eliminated, Craig is appreciative that a small indie film such as TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL will find an audience on VOD. “It’s a really intriguing and groundbreaking model,” he says. “It helps generate word of mouth and it’s especially good for films like ours, which don’t have the backing to compete with big studio advertising. It gives us a way to compete on a different level.”

TUCKER & DALE VS. EVIL is now in theaters and currently on VOD.

 

- Chris Claro

Chris
Chris Claro is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. He is a former Director of Promotion for Sundance Channel and now works as a writer, producer, and media educator. He is a regular contributor to dvdverdict.com and contributor to the Eyes and Ears section of huffingtonpost.com


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