January 9, 2015 Tusk (Movie Review)
After a failed attempt at Horror/Action with 2011’s Red State, Kevin Smith decided to go the Horror/Comedy route with Tusk, released theatrically on September 19, 2014. Naming Tusk as the first movie in his “True North Trilogy,” Smith got the idea for the film during the recording of one of his own podcasts when he and longtime friend/Producer Scott Mosier discussed a Gumtree ad that offered free room and board to anyone willing to dress as a walrus. The ad was fake, but the movie idea stuck, and Tusk was born. Smith even hired the ad’s writer on as a Producer in the film. Tusk stars Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers 2001, Live Free or Die Hard 2007), Tim Burton fave Johnny Depp, Michael Parks (played Earl McGraw in both the Kill Bill franchise and two Grindhouse segments, Planet Terror 2007 and Death Proof 2007), Haley Joel Osment (Sixth Sense 1999, AI: Artificial Intelligence 2001) and Genesis Rodriguez (Identity Thief 2013, Man on a Ledge 2012). The film also features Depp’s and Smith’s daughter, Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith, as clerks, and Smith’s wife, Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, as the Gimli Slider waitress. Both written and directed by Smith, the Tusk crew also includes special effects by Beki Ingram (John Dies At the End 2012, The Spirit 2008) and music by Christopher Drake (Batman: Gotham Knight 2008, Green Lantern: Emerald Nights 2011), and was distributed by A24 Films. Having premiered during Midnight Madness at the Toronto Film Festival on September 6, 2014, Tusk was named the first runner up for the Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award.
Wallace Bryton (Long) is searching for strange stories and interviews for his podcasts when he becomes the target of crazed old man, Howard Howe (Parks). Howe, a sea-loving, story-telling, sadistic fellow, drugs Wallace and uses the younger man to fulfill his guilt-ridden desire to restore a favored marine mammal to life. Will Wallace’s girlfriend, Ally (Rodriguez) and his best friend, Teddy (Osment) arrive in time to save him? Will waffling, equivocating ex-police officer Guy LaPointe (Depp) ever find the maniac Howe, known as “The First Wife”?
If audiences have experienced previous Kevin Smith films (Chasing Amy 1997, Dogma 1999, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back 2001) they probably already have a pre-formed opinion of his writing and directing. While his films typically drip with sarcasm and dry humor, Smith also has a notion for excessive dialogue, and Tusk proves to be no exclusion. The storyline of Tusk is one which allows the director to really get under the skin of the audience, yet the plot in this film is often overshadowed greatly by the wordy, bumbling dialogue. The thought of being surgically altered by a madman, though, is a familiar one for horror fanatics. Tusk is basically a family-friendly version of The Human Centipede. Most viewers will agree that this Box Office bomb makes you feel uncomfortable at times (based on the story AND the awkward exchange of words), but it definitely does not possess the same gross-out factor. Audiences may find that to be either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on their opinions of Human Centipede-esque Horror.
Kevin Smith threw out all the usual characteristics of traditional horror films with this film. While it may not scare the pants off viewers, it is enough to make them squirm, even if out of sheer awkwardness. Erring more on the side of comedy than horror throughout most of the movie, Smith adds enough quirkiness to keep viewers intrigued, even throughout the painfully dull banter scenes. Released on Blu-Ray and DVD on December 30, 2014, Tusk would be difficult to appreciate if viewers do not have a working knowledge of Kevin Smith films. Even those who do appreciate his style may find it to be over-reaching and under-producing in scares and laughs alike. Viewers can only hope that the next film in Smith’s “True North Trilogy,” Yoga Hosers (2015) (starring the same cast), will make a better impression. CrypticRock gives Tusk 2.5 out of 5 stars.