Tusk is not a movie to be taken too seriously. It’s pretty obvious that writer/director Kevin Smith isn’t, and that helps the film just escape being an absolute train wreck. Although I am tempted to slander this horror/comedy, it’s actually pretty fun once you let go of expectations and just enjoy it for what it is: ridiculously tongue-in-cheek, and occasionally unsettling.
Podcaster Wallace (Justin Long, who sports a disgusting mustache that almost every character seems to point out and make fun of) travels to Canada to interview a YouTube celebrity, but after showing up at his house in the middle of the guy’s funeral, Wallace finds himself stuck in Canada with no story for next week’s episode. In typical horror film fashion, he finds a handwritten flyer in a bar bathroom that advertises a man who has lived a very full life who wishes to share his stories with someone. So naturally Wallace makes a two-hour road trip to the mansion of the eloquent creepster Howard (played by Michael Parks looking as Walter White-esque as ever), and surprise, surprise! That tea he’s been served has drugs in it, and he’s soon at the complete mercy of Howard. Long plays a convincing dickhead who went from total nerd with a babe of a girlfriend (Genesis Rodriquez) to a podcast celebrity who cheats on his babe of a girlfriend. As you get to know his character better through flashbacks, you feel less and less bad for him as it becomes pretty clear he’s a total asshole and is never going to make it out of this guy’s house alive (or, I should say, as a normal human being). Parks was certainly well cast in this role, and delivers a much more nuanced performance than in Red State (2011), but after about halfway through the movie, his character starts to lose his initial intrigue.
Meanwhile Wallace’s girlfriend Ally and partner on the podcast show Teddy (played by Haley Joel Osment) try and track him down with the help of a PI from Québec (Johnny Depp with a slightly ridiculous French-Canadian accent). We learn that Ally and Teddy have been having an affair ever since Ally learned about Wallace’s countless discretions, which immediately raises the question of whether or not these two entirely planned Wallace’s demise—or at least one of them. Tusk is pretty unpredictable though. It transitions from an intriguing dark thriller you think you know all the answers to into an all-out blood fest very much in the same vein as Human Centipede (2009). Tusk may even go too far in this way, making it slightly derivative of something that’s not really worth imitating. It is impressive, though, that despite the grotesque visuals being so over-the-top that they’re laughable it’s also somehow simultaneously really unsettling to look at.
Is Tusk as funny as Kevin Smith’s past work? Not even close. But, at least it doesn’t take itself as seriously as Red State. As long as you go into this movie with no expectations other than to have fun (or if you just happen to be an avid Smith fan), you’ll probably enjoy this. However, if you’re looking for a serious horror film that doesn’t rely on super weird makeup effects and outrageous plot points, stay away.
Tusk opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.