Directed by Kevin Smith
It was 2011 when writer/director Kevin Smith released Red State, an underrated yet critically attacked horror film that most genre fans dismissed without giving it as much as a second glance. Three years later, Smith has re-emerged and premiered his second foray into the horror genre, Tusk, to the anxious Midnight Madness crowd at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Moments before Smith unleashed his wildly disturbing film on the audience, he told them that he had reached a point in his career where he didn’t give a fuck anymore. Was Smith able to successfully surprise his fans, or did his last statement foreshadow yet another directorial misstep? Read on to find out!
Tusk introduces viewers to Wallace (Long), a cocky, moustache-sporting podcaster who travels to Canada to interview and exploit the latest viral sensation: a teenage boy who had an unfortunate mishap with a sword. When his interview opportunity goes awry, Wallace takes a chance on travelling to Manitoba to visit an old man named Howard Howe (Parks) after reading a handwritten personal ad in a public washroom that promised the sharing of incredible anecdotes from his past.
Howard keeps his promise by telling Wallace of tales from the sea when he was a mariner–particularly a tale involving a walrus he named “Mr. Tusk” who had saved his life years ago. Unfortunately for Wallace, he slowly discovers how Howard’s obsession with “Mr. Tusk” has taken over the old man’s life and is about to change his own with irreversible consequences.
For a movie that essentially has a ludicrous premise that many will say mirrors the plot of The Human Centipede, Smith has helmed an original and brazen horror comedy that frequently works better than it should. With goosebump-inducing practical effects (courtesy of legendary F/X artist Robert Kurtzman), usage of shots that feel inspired from Quentin Tarantino’s previous films and solid performances from its cast, Tusk succeeds in making viewers laugh as much as they squirm in their seats, which is quite an accomplishment for a director who is most known for delivering dick and fart jokes for a huge chunk of his directorial career.
It is safe to say that veteran actor Michael Parks is now Smith’s “Christoph Waltz.” Even in the presence of an A-list actor in an uncredited role, Parks steals the movie with his enthusiastic and over-the-top performance and quips throughout the film. Justin Long should also be applauded and recognized for this physically demanding role. If you gasped and were disturbed by Long’s screaming and final reveal in Jeepers Creepers, just wait until you see the reveal involving Long’s character in Tusk that made this reviewer yell out loud.
Though there are many pleasant surprises to be seen in Tusk, there are also times that the “blubber” could have been easily trimmed from the film. The constant Canadian jokes feel like a compilation of bad Robin Scherbatsky jokes from “How I Met Your Mother,” and although the biggest draw to the movie is the abovementioned A-list actor (credited as “Guy Lapointe”), who plays a kooky Quebecois detective, the last act suffers from his extended presence due to the absurd and uneven tone that doesn’t quite work after the horror finally hits.
Kevin Smith has now definitely shown genre fans he has potential in the horror genre with this first entry in his “True North” trilogy. Those looking to satisfy their morbid curiosity will not be disappointed as Tusk will surely stay with them far after the end credits have rolled.