Written/directed by Kevin Smith
In one of the biggest cinematic mistakes of my life (second only to passing on “Gravity” to see “Carrie” last October), today I decided I would wait to see early Oscar-favorite “Boyhood” on DVD and instead see writer/director Kevin Smith’s newest horror-comedy “Tusk” on the big screen. If you’re hearing something, it’s me slapping myself. Just try to ignore it.
In the opening credits to “Tusk,” the always-reassuring tag “Based on actual events” flashes on the screen. I come to find out that the “actual event” was just an hour-long podcast conversation Kevin Smith had where he and a friend hypothesized what might happen if a creepy Canadian man offered up a room in his middle-of-nowhere mansion, free of charge. The result? When Wallace (Justin Long), a Los Angeles podcaster, has a big story in Canada that turns out to be a bust, he scrambles to find an interesting story in Manitoba. What he finds is a handicapped man, Howard Howe (Michael Parks), who just wants to share his incredible life story. But instead, things go terribly wrong…in a “Saw” meets “Human Centipede” sort of way. When Wallace doesn’t return, his coworker Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) and girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez) team up to search for him based on the thin clues they have of his possible where-aboots.
It turns out that Justin Long excels at tragic terror more than he does at comedy, at least this time around. When Wallace is in the height of his peril, Long begins to shine. Before that, he spends most of his screen time laughing at his own sophomoric jokes. I wasn’t laughing along. Haley Joel Osment, in his first major screen role in over a decade, is now regrettably baby-faced, overweight, shaggy, and lousy at acting – but at overacting, he’s a pro. Osment’s Teddy is a ridiculously predictable and stale character, and Smith doesn’t seem to care. Quentin Tarantino regular Michael Parks is the only saving grace in this scrap heap of a movie. He gives it his f*cked-up all.
It’s hard to describe just how vile and messed up “Tusk” is. It took my appetite a few hours to return to normal. I actually had to put dinner on hold. “Tusk” is at times really, really gross. At times, it’s so slow and pointless it’s like pulling teeth. Could it turn into a cult classic? It’s certainly the stuff filthy cult classics are made of. Will I be seeing the rest of this apparent “True North” trilogy? Definitely not.