CINEMA RELEASE: TUSK
Release date: 9th October 2014
Director: Kevin Smith
Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez
Classification: MA15+ (Strong Horror Themes, Violence and Disturbing Images)
Review by Peter Gray
After dipping his toe in the horror genre with ‘Red State’, writer/director Kevin Smith has opted for all-out terror with his latest effort ‘Tusk’, a wannabe macabre horror/comedy that seems intent on evoking the same reaction as ‘The Human Centipede’. Free from any obligation from studios, investors or actors, Smith had free reign with this project, and the idea he has to work with is indeed disturbing and perfect fodder for an effective horror film; then he had to go and blow it by actually making it.
Born from a story that was broadcast on his own popular podcast, ‘Tusk’ centres around Wallace (Justin Long), the host of a podcast show entitled “The Not-See Party” (pronounced like Nazi, a joke that naturally gets its mileage ridden to the point of a burnout) whose inexplicable popularity stems from his get rich-quick advertising skills and penchant for staking out the weird and wonderful. His latest off-kilter find is that of a YouTube post from a young boy whose attempt to re-enact a sequence from the Quentin Tarantino feature ‘Kill Bill’ has resulted in him severing his own leg. This is right up Wallace’s alley so he jets off to Canada (enter the first of many Canadian accent jokes) to interview him – intending of course to humiliate the poor boy on his show – only to learn his subject has committed suicide. Not upset at the loss of this young man’s life but because he’s out of material for his show, Wallace’s sorrow drowning at a local bar leads him to a potential story when he notes a letter in the men’s bathroom which details the dying wish of Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a wheel-chair bound eccentric geriatric who has anecdotes from sharing time with Ernest Hemingway to his extraordinary tales of survival during the war.
Given that Howe lives in an isolated mansion, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when he reveals himself as peculiarly sinister, and when he rambles on (and I do mean ramble!) about his affection for a walrus that acted as his companion during his time deserted on a rocky island, you know the situation is about to turn dire. By this point Smith has subjected us to two too many monologues, as well as insisting on maintaining Wallace’s prick attitude (which seems far too easy for Long to play), so when it’s finally revealed that Howard wants to make a human walrus, suffice to say patience is wearing thin. The idea of turning a human being into a walrus garners either a response of laughter or disgust, and it’s unfortunate that Smith doesn’t seem sure on what route he wants to travel, which in turn makes ‘Tusk’ neither truly funny or terrifying. Admittedly the sight of Wallace transformed into the creature, affectionately known as ‘Mr Tusk’, is unpleasant and, under the direction of a far more skilled filmmaker, could be genuinely chilling but just as unsure as he is with the material, Smith seems afraid to take his concept too seriously and ‘Tusk’ dwindles to a sideshow joke act.
The introduction of French-Canadian detective Guy LaPointe in the third act truly seals the film’s desperate deal – this is this movie’s Jar Jar Binks – and though the famous actor portraying this character has had his identity kept secret from all promotional material (and even though I don’t owe it to the film to keep it a mystery, I will) it isn’t hard to figure out who it is, and sadly it does nothing more than add another nail to his cinematic coffin. What’s even worse is that Smith deviates from the already deteriorating production to spend 10 minutes on a backstory for this piss-poor Inspector Clouseau creation that adds nothing to the film and does little more than confirm Smith should’ve stayed retired as he “promised”.
I’ve seen some truly terrible films this year but ‘Tusk’ takes the cake. It’s a real shame too as this premise held so much promise within a genre that is in desperate need of a shake-up. I’m sure there’ll be a group of Smith fans who will lap up everything the man does, and horror fiends might be drawn in out of morbid curiosity, and if you can survive Long’s incessant dickhead behaviour the more power to you, but ‘Tusk’ is by far the worst thing I have viewed this year.
My rating: 1/5