Justin Long, Michael Parks
September 19, 2014
1 hour 42 minutes
Being a man who has willingly said that he’s against the Hollywood system, writer/director/podcaster Kevin Smith uses his talents and fan base to tell some intriguing, funny, and sometimes extremely bizarre stories. It was only three years ago when Smith went to the Sundance Film Festival to showcase his film “Red State” and to announce at the industry meeting for it to all of the studio representatives that he was going to self-distribute the movie. That’s the type of guy he is: someone who is willing to flip off the Hollywood studios of the world and preserve his artistic vision, regardless of the backlash and critical responses. Teaming up the notorious filmmaker with the up and coming distribution studio A24 is something of a match made in indie heaven, if you ask me. Alas, that’s what we have here with Smith’s latest writing and directorial effort “Tusk.”
Less like “Chasing Amy” and more like a breed of “Red State” and “The Human Centipede,” “Tusk” tells the tale of how a self-centered podcaster travels to Canada so he can interview a man who claims to have many “amazing stories” to tell. What the podcaster, Wallace, gets from this mysterious man, is something he never would have bargained for, and something that changes his life in the most gruesome and horrific ways possibly ever put on screen. Combining shocking horror elements and his typical brand of comedy, Smith has created a movie that not only is his most twisted project to date, but also a film that will stick with you long after walking out of the movie theater. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing depends on the person watching. For me at least, that is most definitely a good thing.
What really elevated this film, for me at least, was how messed up and insanely original the script was. Smith puts his podcasting job into the life of our protagonist, and takes a story that he told on his podcast one time and just went all out with it. Just when you think the film is at its highest level of craziness, he surprises you again with something even more absurd and downright messed up. In fact, I didn't know what to think of this movie when I walked out of it originally because of that. It took me a couple of days to realize that, as grotesque and creepy this movie is, I actually had the desire to see it again. If the film had be categorized in one sole genre, then I don't think it would have had the same impact on me as it did here. In a way, the horror and the comedy in Smith's script, and even in his direction, nearly perfectly mesh together to make this crazy crazy film. I applaud him for actually going out of the box and making something that is just so weird that most mainstream audiences would walk out about halfway through when the big reveal of Justin Long's character happens. Not to mention, the film doesn't rely on jump scares to creep people out, plus the design of the creature was made with no CGI and was all a giant practical effect, which is something rare to come by in this day and age.
It's nice to see Justin Long as something that isn't a straightforward comedic role, but ultimately it's actually his character that brought the film down for me. I don't mind characters who are unlikable, but when we have to sympathize with them for nearly an entire movie, then that combination has to be well blended and make sense. Here, we as an audience aren't exactly given the ability to sympathize with him, and that's mainly due to the fact that we're shown a series of flashbacks during the film that show how much of a jerk he is as a person. Putting that next to scenes of a mad man torturing him physically and mentally gives off a sense of confusion, as if Smith was trying to make us sympathize with him but didn't give us the extra couple of scenes that might have allowed us to do just that. Justin Long is really good in the role, it's just that the character was written as an unlikable jerk for the sake of being an unlikable jerk.
While Justin Long was quite good in the film, as were Genesis Rodriguez and Haley Joel Osment, the true standouts of the film came from Michael Parks and the "surprise" A-list star in the film. In case you don't know who that is and don't want to know who he is, then don't read the paragraph following this one. Michael Parks is an absolute maniac in this movie. He is funny at parts, haunting at others, and overall is just downright mesmerizing. There are many layers to his character, which add to how mysterious and insane he really is. I won't go spoiling anything else about him, as this is one of those performances that you just have to let sink in once your in the theater.
Well, I'll just let this right out: Johnny Depp is the best character in "Tusk." Yep, Captain Jack Sparrow himself is in this low-budget Kevin Smith flick, and he hides under some makeup, a mustache, and a heavy Canadian accent. Depp plays a detective from Quebec named Guy Lapointe who has been tracking Michael Parks' character for a very long time. Not only is this character hilarious, but he's also just captivating to watch. I will say that the flashback scene with him was pretty long for a movie like this, but it sort of added for me to how absurd and strange this character was, if that makes any sense. Overall, I am happy that Depp can step out of the big-budgeted Hollywood flicks to star in unique and clever films like this and simply have fun and lose himself in this role. And the fact that Depp as this character is going to be in Smith's next film "Yoga Hosers" makes me so much more excited to see what else can be done with this crazy detective.
*END OF SPOILERS*
In case you haven't guessed yet or you haven't seen how poorly this has been doing at the box office, "Tusk" is not a movie for everyone. It's too strange and bizarre for horror fans, and it's too dark and absurd for comedy fans. Basically, this is a movie for those who like either A.) weird and original films, B.) Kevin Smith's film catalog, or C.) all of the above. Me personally, I'm in category C on this one, and this movie all around was a blast for me. The acting is solid, the story is unique and inventive, and the design of the creature is absolutely incredible. If this movie is still playing around you, and you have the time to see it, I'd highly recommend checking it out on the big screen. And if you can't make it to the theater to see this, then it's definitely work checking out on DVD/Blu-Ray when it comes out. The film would most likely elevate especially if friends were with you to experience this 102 minute ride into Kevin Smith's whacked-out/brilliant mind. Despite my problems with this film in the writing department, "Tusk" is a horror comedy that I enjoyed a whole lot and cannot wait to revisit in the future.
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