Review: Tusk (TIFF 2014) + Video Review!
REVIEW: After a bit of a rough patch Kevin Smith is back with TUSK, a film which is maybe the best thing he's done in a decade, and strikingly different from anything he's ever tried before. It seems going microbudget – with the premise cribbed from a crazy story on his own wildly popular “Smodcast” – suited Smith just fine. Free from an obligation to investors, studios, or stars, Smith has made an absolutely macabre horror comedy that makes THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE seem almost mild in comparison.
In all honesty, I didn't know Smith had it in him. Just a few years ago he seemed hellbent on retirement, but it seems he's finally rediscovered his voice. While the premise, which almost plays like a spoof of BOXING HELENA, is utterly bizarre, it's so outside the box that I can't say I've ever quite seen anything like it – which is saying something considering some of the wild flicks I've checked out for the site over the years.
While he dipped his toe into horror with RED STATE – to mixed results – TUSK has a certain “anything goes” approach that's liberating in that you really never know what's coming next. Justin Long plays the wildly successful host of a podcast called the “Not-See Party” (with a poster in the background announcing the “aw-shitz” tour) and perhaps in a take down of his anonymous internet critics, he's a total prick. Long has a pretty rough part, with him spending a good chunk of the movie freakishly decked out as a walrus. He's great, making a believably charismatic and funny host early on, while also generating a certain measure of audience sympathy as TUSK takes its freakish turn.
Haley Joel Osment, who recently aced a comedic part on IFC's THE SPOILS OF BABYLON, once again shows a flair for comedy as Long's sidekick, who eventually emerges as one of the defacto leads, alongside the incredibly appealing Genesis Rodriguez as Long's long-suffering girlfriend. But, it has to be said that Michael Parks absolutely owns the film, with him playing his seafarer old salt as a truly horrific horror villain. He effortlessly glides back and forth from being absolutely hilarious as he chews scenery to being the stuff nightmares as he tries to turn Long into an approximation of his old walrus pal, Mr. Tusk. It's an amazing part and a wild performance.
Now, if you've followed the production or read about Smith's follow-up, YOGA HOSERS, you'll know there's another big role, that of “the manhunter from Montreal” Guy LaPointe. I'm not sure if he's still a “surprise” but for the benefit of those who don't know who plays the part I won't reveal it here other than to say he's a major star. This star is very funny, with a Quebec accent that's probably more Inspector Clouseau than Guy Lafleur, but suits the off-the-wall vibe of the film to a tee.
Overall, TUSK is a major return to form for Smith, and an exciting new chapter in a career that now feels totally reinvigorated. Some of the set pieces, including a sequence set to Fleetwood Mac's “Tusk” show some real flair. While his hardcore fans will certainly love it, this may also really cross over to genre fans and aficionados of the macabre. One thing's for sure – you'll never look at a walrus' crotch the same way again.
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