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Film Review: Kevin Smith's Tusk

Year: 2014
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Genesis Rodriguez, Haley Joel Osment, Johnny Depp
Country of Origin: USA
Rating: R
Time: 102 mins

As someone who has only seen Clerks. (1994) and isn't a hardcore, wild, boob-flashing kind of fan gal of Kevin Smith, I had below zero expectations of Tusk in terms of story and execution. I went in absent-minded and when I came out, I had one of those rare bug-eyed "What the fuck did I just watch?!" moments that sparked a fury of bewilderment and excitement within me that could only be tamed by having a fervent and extensive dissection about its bizarre likeability with friends. Would I recommend it to other people? Not necessarily. Would I say it's downright horrible? Not necessarily. Despite my wavering opinion, one thing is clear: the film has been swimming its rounds in my mind and inducing word vomit references to it ever since. If my subconscious was book-marking Tusk for whatever reason, it was a sure sign that the film really did dig it's deep "tusks" in me. 

The story follows Wallace (Justin Long), an unlikeable, one-half of a beloved podcast duo alongside Teddy played by the almost unrecognizably plump but still baby-faced Haley Joel Osment called The Not-See Party. How adorable. Their time is spent discovering and mocking humiliating viral videos like the Internet celebrity, Kill Bill kid who accidentally cuts off his own limb while trying to expertly wield a samurai sword. Wallace decides to fly to Canada to interview the unfortunate Uma-Thurman wannabe only to find out that he axed himself completely. Upset that he's trekked his way up to The Great White North, he tries to find another "weirdo" to interview. Luckily inside a restroom stall, Wallace sees an hand written ad offering a room in his house for free and the guarantee of hearing a lifetime of interesting stories. With his interest and desperation piqued, Wallace arrives at the mansion of Howard Howe's (Michael Parks), a wheelchair-bound retired seaman stocked full of eccentric artifacts and bountiful tales of encountering Earnest Hemingway to being rescued by a Walrus he named Mr. Tusk after a shipwreck. After some engrossing exchange, Wallace blacks out from the drugs laced in the tea Howe has given him only to wake up the next morning, imprisoned to a wheelchair with his legs amputated. The nightmare is only about to get next level worst when Howard reveals that he will be turning Wallace into a walrus. A. REAL. LIFE. WALRUS!

You can imagine my horror when I realized what the actual premise entailed and although, I am always down for some body-horror with absurd logic to the extremes of The Human Centipede (2009), Tusk felt like a misguided, tone-deaf, bipolar child dealing with an identity crisis. It has a bit of everything stirring in the pot from horror to thriller to dark humor but never does it get the blended recipe fully right without other ingredients diminishing. But when it does get a genre right, it is absolutely appetizing for that sweet blissful moment. There are terse but fervent bubbles of lunacy that delivers its rightful punches but is halted by elongated and lethargic drags that seem to last forever as if you are running miles between two words in sentence.

But luckily, it is the life-saving performance of Parks who is an absolute hoot, embodying the perfectly petrifying host from hell with his delusional psychopathic mask plastered to his face that creates the uneasiest and queasiest coils in our blood. Long as Wallace is generally an unlikeable guy who is only tolerable shrieking his way through this film due to his preceding real-life "good guy" reputation. Is it also so wrong to assume that Smith decided to please fan boys around the world by injecting the hopeful notion that a guy like the cheating Wallace could ever land and deserve a woman who is so ungodly beautiful and sweet like the talented and unjusticely casted, Genesis Rodriguez as Wallace's wallowing girlfriend? I think not. And of course, Haley Joel Osment's booming cackle is not to be underestimated and really should be experienced and heard by everyone as it will only spread manic grins across our faces. The third act introduces the (naturally) disguised Johnny Depp as an alcoholic Quebec ex-cop, thirsty for Howe's blood, is such a poorly drawn Looney Tunes cartoon with a worse French accent than Pepe Le Pew that I can hear Quebec natives cringing.

It all goes back to its faulty screenplay that wants to be a pinch of a talky Quentin Tarantino piece with a dash of the grotesque shock-value of The Human Centipede which quite never reaches its extremes to push the factor due to its lackluster motive that feels like the film was just made for shits and giggles. It's no surprise of the laziness of its construction considering that the film was conceived based on a joke Kevin Smith made on his own podcast, SModcast. It is an admirable act to have pursued a project based on his fan's unrelenting enthusiasm to the production rather than creating the film for cinematic story-telling value. But if his intended goal was to amp up the WTF-factor to levels that dances along the lines of sheer terror and absurdity, I would say great job indeed! And despite my unwillingness to pick a Love it / Hate it side like I normally do, it speaks volumes when it becomes a film that hypnotically terrorizes my mind day in and day out. Thanks Kevin Smith. 

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