I never quite knew what to make of the idea of Kevin Smith venturing into the horror landscape. This is the guy that brought us "Clerks," "Dogma," "Mallrats," "Chasing Amy," "Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back" and to lesser degrees, "Cop Out" and "Zak and Miri Make A Porno." The idea of this overall funny-man suddenly casting over to his dark side seemed odd. His first horror film; "Red State" is a bit of a mess, but an interesting mess. While it was ultimately uneven, there was a gleam of hope for Smith, a hope that could be of use if he ever returned to the horror genre.
I wouldn't classify "Tusk" as a horror movie. I think "Red State" is more of a full-fledged horror movie. Its tone, its atmosphere, its style...there is nothing about it where I felt Smith was clowning around. "Tusk" feels more like a "horror-comedy." There is much brighter cinematography in "Tusk," there are fair share of scenes where you are going to bust a gut laughing. The premise of "Tusk" is so ridiculously silly that you won't believe the fact that you can get into your car and pay to see this movie in a theater. Yet, despite its crazy premise, there are moments in the film that you won't be able to figure out if you should laugh or throw-up. It seems with his second attempt, Kevin Smith has found somewhat good footing with "Tusk."
Justin Long plays Wallace Bryton who runs a famous podcast called The NotSeeParty (say that ten times fast, and you'll get the joke.) with his best friend Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment.). The podcast is dedicated to ridiculing the weird and the strange people that inhabit our world. Long has always done a good job portraying an asshole, and as "Tusk" opens, he really builds his character just right. Bryton goes around the country meeting these people then reporting back to Teddy, Teddy doesn't go on the trips because he is afraid to fly (hence the title of their blog). Bryton travels to Canada to meet The Kill Bill Kid (a parody of The Star Wars Kid), and learns that he has killed himself. Down on his luck, he sits in a bar looking for a plane ticket home when he sees an invitation in a bathroom. A man named Howard Howe (Michael Parks) has decided to tell the stories of his life in vivid detail to whomever comes to his house to rent a room, they just must work around the house since Howe is elderly. Bryton just wants the stories, and is successfully able to talk Howe out of renting him a room. Very soon, Bryton is drugged and it turns out Howe has very ugly plans for him.
This is where the movie begins to get really deranged, even when the film is funny, it is still so deranged that I can't believe Smith made the movie. Comedy and horror walks on a tightrope of disturbing, and it is weird how both genres seem cut from the same cloth. If you have read about "Tusk" online, then you already know Howe's plans for Bryton. If you haven't, I'd wait to see the movie, you'll be glad you did. I like that Smith didn't try to make something serious or genuine, "Tusk" is exactly what it is, and what Smith does, he does well. You will definitely see what Howe is transformed Bryton into, and even though it is a tremendously funny sequence, I couldn't help but feel disturbed by what I was seeing. The make-up effects are top-notch, and make what you are seeing incredibly effective.
There is also a plot where Teddy, along with Bryton's girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) go to Cananda looking for Bryton. This puts them on the path to meet Guy LaPointe, a private detective that has been investigating Howe for years. I don't want to list the actor who plays Guy La Pointe, because it is just too awesome to put into words. Don't look up who Guy LaPointe is, just let the film play for you, because once he reveals himself, it is uncannily glorious. He's an actor I have felt has become overblown and overrated, but when he connects with a piece of material, he is a God. Guy LaPointe is a marvelously weird creation from an actor who specializes in the world. Once I and the rest of audience finally figured out who was playing Guy LaPointe, we couldn't help but laugh until we cried. This is this actor with his A-Game on, without the daunting oversell from Hollywood markets. I love his chemistry with Osment and especially Rodriguez, who gives a performance that is better than it needed to be.
If I could describe Kevin Smith's new film with one word it would be "shocking." Yet, if it is true, I hope Smith continues with this slew of horror films. I hope he keeps challenging the balance between funny and scary. "Tusk" is huge fun, and if you like concepts for films that give "fucked up" a brand-new meaning, then "Tusk" is definitely for you.
FINAL GRADE: B