SXSW Interview: ‘Tucker & Dale vs. Evil’ Director Eli Craig

With his film Tucker & Dale vs. Evil playing the crowds at Austin, director Eli Craig is looking to become the American Edgar Wright. We recently had a chance to sit down with him to chat about his new movie, classic horror in general, and plans for the future.

The Flickcast: What are some of your classic horror influences?  I see some Texas Chainsaw in there.

Eli Craig: I really tried to put a lot of different films into this one; I like a lot of the older horror films going back to Sam Raimi and The Evil Dead and a lot of Peter Jackson’s older films—the old zombie slasher films. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a bit of Friday the 13th, Cabin Fever, and even threw in a little bit of Fargo.

And definitely Wrong Turn. This is basically the opposite of Wrong Turn. And then sprinkled on top is just a little bit of I Love You, Man.

TFC: Is there something about the splatter genre that attracts you?

EC: In regards to I Love You, Man?

TFC: It is pretty gory…

EC: But really, to me this isn’t so much of a splatter fest. I tried to pay a little bit of homage to those movies without spoofing them. While there is a fair amount of gore in the film, I tried to match it up with the humor, so you may find yourself accidentally laughing when the kid flies into the wood chipper—and then of course you go into therapy and wonder what’s wrong with you. That’s one of my goals.

When we were pitching this originally, we pushed it as the back-woods version of Shaun of the Dead, which flips the zombie genre around. I’d say modern-wise that’s what’d I’d compare it to.

TFC: How’d you get such fantastic leads?

EC: They wanted to do it. Tyler was in Reaper and I thought he was a very comically gifted guy and a deep character. I showed the producers and they liked him, too: “Yeah! Let’s hire the Canadian guy; we’re already up there…”

We went on a long search for the Tucker role, which we thought was more of a comic streamlined role that we thought a lot of comedians could play and came in and read; we were happy with him. We conferenced, and he had a good set of fans and a real solid actor.

TFC: What was it like working with an indie budget?

EC: It was hard—you have no room for error—come to the set with a plan because you don’t have a choice. There’s no way to make up shots. We never picked up a single shot.

We never went back. We planned to get some extra money and reshoot some scenes, but we never did, so each shot was from principal photography, which doesn’t sound that bad, but it was 25 under rough weather with rain, snow, hail lightning…

Every day I said “I wish we had two more hours.” But that’s part of indie filmmaking. And this was my first film, but I would have drawn the thing up as a comic book to get it out, if I could have sold it that way.

TFC: What are your plans for future projects?

EC: I look at comedy and action. Those appeal. I like combining horror and comedy, but there’s not many opportunities for it in the studio format. And it’s a struggle to get it made. It’s hard, because a lot of people don’t believe it until they see it happen.

There’s Zombieland, but that’s an anomaly. It comes out and makes a lot of money, and people are like “Yeah.”

The next will be more action or action comedy.

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