Last week I offered up one of the kookiest films I’d seen in quite a while. This time around, I turned away from the never-ending content flow from Netflix and turned my attention to what’s available on Amazon Prime hoping for tamer fare. After all, and sadly, not everyone subscribes to Netflix. Upon the recommendation of my sister, I queued up Kevin Smith’s podcast/classified ad inspired horror comedy Tusk. Yeah, so much for tame.
Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) is one half of the podcast known as The Not-See Party (See what they did there?). He and his partner, Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment), crack vicious, callous jokes at the expense of others for fun and ratings. Teddy isn’t one for traveling and despite his girlfriend Ally’s (Genesis Rodriguez) request to join him, Wallace heads to Manitoba solo to interview the latest viral sensation, the Kill Bill Kid. He arrives in Manitoba to find his subject unavailable, but finds replacement story via an interesting ad posted in a local bar bathroom. Howard Howe (Michael Parks) needs a live-in caregiver and will trade room, board and stories of his exciting life at sea for the help. Wallace sees Howard as a podcast gold mine and indeed, the intriguing man has Wallace captivated right from the start. Wallace doesn’t realize how much so until it’s too late.
Tusk is a surprisingly popular film, at least here on Man, I Love Films. Resident horror writer Robert Gannon posted a review of Tusk at the start of 2015 and now here I am reminding you stargazers to watch it if you haven’t already. I’m not saying everyone needs to rush out and queue up Tusk tonight. In fact, I do not recommend Tusk lightly. It is not for everyone, but those who seek it out will not be disappointed.
I’d heard a little about the wacky origins of Tusk and pretty much dismissed it. I assumed it was little more than a spoof of The Human Centipede, and by most accounts not a good one. Having now seen Tusk, I can never forget the mind-bottling things I’ve seen. Which is good because I’d hate to do so.
Like Robert, Tusk‘s similarities to Misery are unmistakable. It’s also most definitely making fun of the weirdness that is The Human Centipede. For me, I noted hints of Texas Chainsaw Massacre; the 70’s original mind you. The latter scenes of Massacre wherein Marilyn Burns’s Sally is tied to a chair as the cannibalistic family hoots and hollers as they relish her blood-curdling screams. By the by, if for no other reason, Tusk should be watched for Parks’ entertaining and troubling performance. Thanks to the brilliant, unhinged performance by Michael Parks, I was reminded of that hopelessness. It’s when our main character loses all hope in returning to their prior innocence. Howard is unequivocally insane and as we all know, the only way to fight fire is with fire.
That’s the conundrum of Smith’s Tusk. I expected little more than a few crass jokes and grotesque imagery, then I go and discover there’s far more to it than blubber and blubbering. (I also didn’t expect a bumbling, disheveled Quebecois to be Johnny Depp either, so Smith surprised me on two fronts!) I’m not sure if the film’s unevenness in tone is due more to my expectations or the storytelling. Nevertheless Tusk is the kind of horror film that’s worth diving into a second time. With Tusk being the first in Smith’s True North trilogy, I’ve got a feeling I’ll be revisiting the story before too long.