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Other // R // September 19, 2014
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]
The horror genre is constantly evolving, as different filmmakers continue to experiment with it. However, they aren't all necessarily supposed to incite fear in its audience, as some are simply created for the shock value. Even so, these films serve their purpose in the entertainment field. Writer/director Kevin Smith is largely known for his comedic work, with features such as Clerks. While his newest motion picture has dark comedy throughout its duration, it can primarily be labeled as a horror film. Tusk is a truly odd piece of filmmaking that will even weird out the most open-minded moviegoer around. Even so, it has its target audience that is sure to love Smith's storytelling. However, I am not one of them.
Podcaster Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is finally starting to hit the big leagues with his "Not See Party" show. He decides to follow a story to Canada only to be disappointed by the results. He decides to continue searching for a story, until he comes upon one in the backwoods of Manitoba. While Wallace interviews a mysterious old man named Howard Howe (Michael Parks), he goes missing. It's up to his best friend, Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), and girlfriend, Allison (Genesis Rodriguez), to find him.
Tusk opens with an insanely outdated Internet video in order to secure some easy "laughs." However, the next twenty minutes or so are actually quite decent. Once Wallace arrives in Canada, he's tasked with the job of finding a story interesting enough to make fun of on his podcast. Once he meets Howard Howe, he begins to hear extraordinary stories from his past. However, Wallace soon discovers that something is amiss, but it's already too late. The sheer idea of being trapped where nobody can find you with a psychopath is quite terrifying. Smith intertwines this with the exact sense of humor that audiences will be expecting from him. There are a few lines that manage to get a couple chuckles out of us, but once Wallace is in captivity, the laughs become more uncommon, as Smith tries to focus more on the horror elements. However, it becomes so incredibly ridiculous, that the horror gets lost amongst the chaos. Once Howard's intentions are revealed, it's incredibly difficult to take any of it seriously. It's so incredibly strange, that it leads us to believe that this could make an enthralling film. We're forced to witness a series of diagrams that truly create a haunting image in our minds. This is surely the most effective scene in the entire picture.
Everything from this point forward goes downhill extremely quickly. Kevin Smith keeps the big reveal hidden for a short period of time, but he still shows it far too quickly. By this point, the audience has created a terrifying image in their heads, only to be thwarted by Smith's laughable reveal. From here on out, the entire feature feels like a big ridiculous joke. Some Smith fans might believe that to be a good thing, but it certainly isn't a compliment when the film happens to repeat the same joke throughout its running time. It expects us to laugh at it every single time, when it wasn't even effective the first time. For example, we're constantly reminded that Wallace's podcast is called the "Not See Party." Get it? "Not See Party" sounds like "Nazi Party." Now imagine being told that joke repeatedly for over an hour and a half. Smith clearly didn't have any clear direction in which to take this, and it's very clear. Three-fourths of the film feels tacked on in order to make it a complete feature.
Just when you think that the film might begin to recover, Guy Lapointe is revealed. With the entrance of this character comes what feels like an eternity of incredibly flat disposition. This is when the film drags its feet and refuses to move on, as we're forced to hear about his brutally uninteresting flashbacks. Just when you think the scene is about to come to an end, it keeps going. The remainder of the feature from here on out is absolutely excruciating. The story has nowhere else to go, so writer/director Kevin Smith tacks an ending on. Oddly enough, Tusk suddenly tries to become sentimental within the final few minutes, which feel completely artificial to the remainder of the running time. Once the credits start rolling, you'll wonder what made you interested in watching it to begin with.
Fortunately, the cast and crew clearly understand what this is. The performances absolutely reflect the fact that none of them took the project very seriously. Justin Long is highly entertaining in the role of Wallace Bryton. The character is such a raunchy and inconsiderate personality, that he manages to keep our attention when he's on screen. Long captures the intended tone of the picture. Michael Parks is wonderfully twisted as Howard Howe. This representation is what makes this antagonist truly menacing, as he becomes more crazy by the minute. A certain big name is attached to the feature, which will surely take some viewers by surprise. However, it feels as if the actor's only purpose here is to remind us all that he enjoys doing strange small roles, such as this one. Regardless, the cast still has a clear understanding for the type of film that this is.
Writer/director Kevin Smith utilizes the visuals in order to incite reactions. Some of these moments prove to be insanely effective, and are clearly the strongest element that the picture has to offer. Smith has incorporated some genius song choices within specific scenes that are entirely meant to allow our minds to go crazy. It's just a shame that he didn't allow this magic to last for very long. Once he displays the big reveal, Tusk loses a large amount of its impact. Even with this major flaw, Smith manages to intrigue audiences with his visual style that works through the majority of the film's running time.
This is a motion picture that would have worked much better as a twenty minute short film. It simply isn't able to remain captivating with the running time of a full-length feature. Whether you look at this as a horror film or a comedy, it fails on both levels. It's a tonal mess that runs all over the place. Between the repetitive jokes and the disappointing use of "shock value," Kevin Smith has clearly lost his way, yet this film will most likely thrive with a cult following. At least he manages to create some sense of feeling during his film. Even so, Tusk is an excruciating exercise without any bite. Skip it.