TUSK (2014)


Written, Directed & Edited By: Kevin Smith
Cinematography By: James Laxton 

Cast: Justin Long, Michael Parks, Haley Joel Osment, Genesis Rodriguez, Jennifer Schwalbach-Smith, Ralph Garman, Ashley Greene, Harley Quinn Smith, Lily-Rose Melody Depp

When podcaster Wallace Bryton goes missing in the backwoods of Manitoba while interviewing a mysterious seafarer named Howard Howe, his best friend Teddy and girlfriend Allison team with an ex-cop to look for him.

The idea for the movie came during the recording of SModcast 259 The Walrus and The Carpenter. In the episode, Smith with his longtime friend and producer Scott Mosier discussed an article featuring a Gumtree ad where a homeowner was offering a living situation free of charge, if the lodger agrees to dress as a walrus. The discussion went on from there, resulting in almost an hour of the episode being spent on reconstructing and telling a hypothetical story based on the ad.

I went into this film enthusiastically as I can admit. I am a fan of Kevin Smith for the most part especially his early career and while can’t say I enjoy each and every film he has made. I can say I look forward to each new project.

It’s just that it never seems to go forward or do anything new with the ideas and premises it sets up. So that in an exciting film that should feel shocking. At times it comes off more as bland. Especially when it has a premise that begs for it to go bat-shit crazy.

The film still shows that Kevin smith is in love with words and language especially his own. Though it introduces some really heartbreaking scenes and dialogue by Genesis Rodriguez that feels penetrating and dramatic. Though eels like it belongs in another film. I understand it sets up a certain depth for the romantic relationship between her and Justin Long. It just feels too dramatic. Though as this film needs some kind of depth, why not there.

This film was a disappointment overall for me. Though I still liked it. The film is a strange mixture that tonally at times goes in unexpected directions. Though usually falls a bit flat or seems to kind of approach being daring and different then backs away without a certain conviction. While assuring you that it did indeed go there.

In certain scenes where the film is supposed to be comedic. It doesn’t gel with the other scenes as the jokes come to a stand still as the film makes it seem like the humor is so over empowering that it seems to stop for audiences to laugh at the jokes that aren’t coming before continuing with the scene.

Also it seems like the film could have benefitted with mixing the scenes more as the film seems to show it’s hand early then becomes almost another film with the middle portion of the film devoted to a more comedic strange thriller. With a supporting role that seems like it will be a cameo before seeming to become a full supporting role and an introduction of a comedic goofy character a mixture of peter falk’s COLUMBO and Peter Sellers INSPECTOR CLOUSEAU only with cliché Canadian additives.

Wallace’s ringtone is from the Kevin Smith and Ralph Garman podcast “Hollywood Babylon.” The song is actually a fan-made song created using Garman’s impression of Al Pacino.

The film is full of ideas and gusto which I applaud. It feels alive with possibilities and I am happy to see Kevin Smith moving forward with his films and actually seeming to put in more effort and passion into his films. That i find exciting. That I felt a bit more impressed with RED STATE then this film, but it’s nice to see him headed in a direction that is more vast and unpredictable. Though having said that what bothered me about this film was that it seemed to try too hard for certain things that kept it from achieving it. It tries to create a creepy tone and while again it approaches that it seems to cop out. As it seems like it is trying to be that. Instead of actually just being it and just being naturally creepy and having a quirky rhythm it seems the filmmakers are saying “Hey look at what we are doing.”

it’s the same equivalent of a film being naturally campy and lasting in memory over the years as the film knows no better than to be what comes naturally. Versus when a film is intentionally campy and it comes off with too much effort and not as fondly remembered as the old saying goes. Don’t let them see you sweat.

The film is pretty trippy and strange by it’s own standards but it seems by definition and construction. It lets it seems show. Even the special effects while shocking aren’t exactly believable, but hey with a strange film like this. What you see is kind of what you might expect.

The film never has a overwhelming sense of dread that you would expect, nor does it have a horror’s sense of scares or doom. it’s never as shocking as it’s supposed to be nor as it thinks it is. The film might have been better served at letting some things be mysterious rather than just presented and explained away. It’s a body horror film that is thankfully light on the gore

Now, while i seem like I am being harsh I didn’t dislike the film totally. I just believe it’s hype hurt the film in my eyes as I expected so much and in the end it never achieved the image I had in my head, that is not the films fault. Of course the film plays more to Smith’s devoted audience as there are little Easter eggs and references and private jokes while also displaying Kevin Smith’s fascination and appreciation of Canada. I can applaud him for never forgetting the audience that continuously supports him. Though also makes it difficult a little for audiences outside of that hemisphere to relate. Though offers an open invitation for them to explore his cinematic world

Though I find it interesting that he made the protagonist so unlikeable, then makes him a victim then by the end reminds of us of his humanity. As he doesn’t seem to have one and then as it is stripped away he fights so hard to retain it.

Though in the early scenes of showing his podcast it’s hard not to notice as funny as him and his co-host are supposed to be they are really not. Then again that might show that some people have different senses of humor and what kind of audience he is supposed to have as ore of a shock jock. While also having it’s roots in Mr. Smiths real life podcasting empire.

The one element that goes above all else is Michael Parks. Giving a one of a kind all out crazy performance. That is more looney here than in Red State. Here he just goes so over the top showing he is not only game for anything thrown at him, but he will go along with whatever is thrown. He is also just so fun and goofy. As well as the supporting Cameo who creates a inspired comedic character, but also appears to be having fun and getting off on what he is doing. As it adds another goofy and out there character to his repertoire and doesn’t feel like he is sleepwalking through it for a big payday as he seems to do in his blockbuster films to a degree more or less. Almost a revitalization for all involved. I am just overjoyed the man is still making films and seems to have a renewed passion and interest in what he is doing and seems to be doing it with more skill and energy than ever before.

This is the first of a supposed Canadian Trilogy. As this is the beginning I hope they get better in quality as they go along. This is not a bad or shameful start. In fact though not his best. This is a film like RED STATE that I would ask his harshest critics to give a gander at and give him a chance to see if he still suffers from what they so easily are quick to criticize about his filmmaking. As this film at least shows a growth in him as a filmmaker. I am happy to see him be an adventurous filmmaker.


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