Title: Tusk (2014)
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Johnny Depp, Haley Joel Osment
Personally, I don’t regard Kevin Smith as a “great director”. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the guy is awesome, I love how much he loves comics, and I have enjoyed many of his Askewniverse movies like Dogma (1999) and Chasing Amy (1997). In other words, I don’t despise Kevin Smith’s films 100% because sometimes they are great, problem is that sometimes, they are terrible. I went through a Kevin Smith phase (like anyone who was a film buff during the 90’s) where I loved his films, but recently I re-watched Mallrats (1995) and realized that it was beyond painful to watch, mainly because of its unnatural dialog and situations, none of which come off as believable. The whole film sounds and looks so staged, the dialog feels as if the actors were reading it off the page, something I personally hate on any movie. This last bit has always been my main problem with Kevin Smith movies, the fake sounding dialog. It’s not the lack of vocabulary, it’s the over abundance of it. In real life, people don’t talk like they know every word in the dictionary, especially not college drop outs or pot heads. Still, when Smith is on all cylinders, he sometimes makes what I can call a “good film”. Strangely enough, it’s those films that deviate from his ‘Askewniverse’ that I find to be the best in his repertoire.
Anybody see Smith’s anti-religious horror flick, Red State (2011)? Wowzers, there’s a diamond in the rough. It stirred me like no other Smith film had. Again, Red State is a film outside of the ‘Askewniverse’ series of films and by this I mean that it’s a film that doesn’t feature Jay and Silent Bob. Another example of a good Kevin Smith film is the endearing, Jersey Girl (2004) a film that loss its audience because it featured Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck together on screen after they had released the beyond awful Gigli (2003). Gigli was a fiasco of a movie. A film so bad, that anything that Affleck and Lopez did after that was affected by it, and Jersey Girl was victim number one. A pity because Jersey Girl is actually one of Kevin Smith’s best films, truly touching if you ask me. Hopefully, more people will discover it as time passes. So here comes Tusk, yet another film in which Smith works outside of his comfort zone. Tusk is not the kind of film you’d expect from Smith, a director who commonly works the comedy genre. Here Smith attempts yet again to make a straight forward horror film, a freak out, a movie that will possibly make you very, very uncomfortable. Did he succeed?
The answer to that question my dear readers is a resounding “yes!” How uncomfortable will Tusk make you? Well, I screened this one for a couple of my friends at my house, all of them cringed during the whole film, many of them said they couldn’t believe what they were watching and I had one walk out. Literally, one person simply couldn’t take the ideas presented on Smith’s Tusk and spent the duration of the film smoking cigarettes in my balcony, so that right there let’s you see the kind of film we’re talking about here. 99% of my friends couldn’t take their eyes off of the film because of how out there it was! And 1% walked out! What’s so crazy about this movie anyway? Well, I’ll give you the back story behind the making of the film so you know what you’re getting yourself into. How this movie came about is Kevin Smith has this podcast called ‘Smodcast’ and during said show (go here to listen to it) the topic of discussion was this ad they found in the classifieds where this guy was offering free room and board to whoever would agree to dress up as a Walrus. They found the add so nuts, that they then made up a whole story about why this person would want somebody to dress up as a Walrus, and boom, the story for the movie was born. They then told their readers to type #Walrusyes if they wanted the film to be made or #Walrusno if they thought it was a bad idea. A huge amount of listeners thought it would be a phenomenal idea, fast forward a few months later, and Tusk was made.
Same as the premise of the hypothetical story made up during the podcast, the film is about this old man who puts up an ad in which he asks somebody to come and listen to his stories because he has a lot of them and he is lonely and wouldn’t mind some company. Justin Long’s character, a podcaster looking for crazy stories for his show decides that this is a good one, so he goes to the old man to listen to his stories. And that’s about as far as I want to go here because I don’t want to spoil this movie for anybody. Simply said, this movie just might freak you the hell out. It reminded me of various films; number one was Rob Reiner’s Misery (1990) because it’s that kind of story where an unsuspecting person falls into a trap, like a fly on a spider’s web. It’ll make you think twice before giving your confidence to someone you do not know. Secondly it reminded me of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977), because of the visual, the monster, the big reveal. And yes my friends, Tusk, in my book is a monster movie. Like a twisted version of Frankenstein mixed with Silence of the Lambs (1991) or something. It’s that crazy, it’s that eclectic. How much crazier can this movie get? Well, it stars Johnny Depp as this crazy, cross eyed, shot gun totting, French cop. Yeah, you read that right. Also, Johnny Depp’s daughter cameos as a convenience store clerk, in a scene with Kevin Smith’s daughter. Need more to convince you? Okay, Justin Long and Michael Sparks carry this movie on their shoulders and steal the show in the process.
Final words on Tusk is that out of all of Kevin Smith movies, this is the one that’s shocked me the most, it’s the one that stirred the biggest reaction in me and that my friends is a good thing in my book. It’s a slow burner, but trust me, it will get under your skin, it will freak you the hell out, so be prepared for that! Best thing about the whole thing? It was so well written, it has none of that fake sounding Kevin Smith dialog we are accustomed to hearing on his movies, so I’m glad he’s taken note of this and corrected it in his films. Tusk has an amazing story attached to it, who would think such an interesting story would spawn from a podcast right? Much less a fake ad! That’s right my friends, the ad that inspired this movie was a prank from one of Smith’s many fans. As you can see, the story behind this movie gets crazier the deeper you dig, yet the resulting film was amazingly effective. There are a lot of horror movies out there whose main purpose is to shock the hell out of you; I’m talking about films like Taxidermia (2006), The Human Centipede (2009) and its sequels; most recently I saw V/H/S 2 (2013) and damn, that was a real shocker as well! These are movies that take their ideas to such ludicrous heights that you won’t believe what’s transpiring before your eyes, this is the kind of film that Tusk is, and I’m astonished that Tusk came from Kevin Smith, but then again, he’d already showed us he had the ability to shock with Red State. Best part is that he is calling Tusk the first film in his ‘Canada Trilogy’, where all three films will be centered somehow around Canada. The following one is called Yoga Hosers (2015), a film about Yoga enthusiasts who team up with a man-hunter in order to fight ‘an ancient evil presence’ and that film will be followed by another called Moose Jaws (2016), which is described simply as “Jaws, but with a Moose”. In any case, I’m happy to see Smith playing with different themes and genres, whenever it happens, it’s fun and shocking for us as an audience. Of course, this isn’t stopping him from making Clerks III, a film that Kevin Smith is scripting as I type this. So anyhow, mark Tusk, as one of Kevin Smith’s good ones! Seriously? One of the craziest movies I’ve ever seen.
Rating: 4 out of 5