Saturday, 31 January 2015

Horrors of 2014: Tusk (2014)

Tusk (2014)
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Justin Long, Michael Parks, and Haley Joel Osment
Running Time: 102 min

  I think Kevin Smith can be a really brilliant story teller and I've seen his one man shows and I've dug most of his films, so I'm looking forward to seeing what he does in more of a horror vein.  I like the concept of this film because it's dark and there are so few walrus type films available. Maybe Smith has opened a door to a whole new world of terror.

  Podcast superstar, Wallace Bryant and his co-host Teddy Craft discover a video of kid accidentally hacking off his leg with a samurai sword.  The video has gone viral and Wallace has landed an interview with the "Kill Bill Kid" for the next episode of their podcast.  However, the "Kill Bill Kid" lives in Canada, so Bryant packs up his bags and flies up there alone, even though his girlfriend, Ally begs him to take her along.  Sorry doll, this is a one pod caster man job.
  When Wallace arrives, he heads over to the "Kill Bill Kid"'s house only to discover that all this hoopla and internet stardom has driven him to kill himself.  Disappointed that he can't get the story, he calls Teddy to give him the heads up and tells him that he'll try and find another Canadian weirdo to interview for the show.  Conveniently while Wallace is pissing, he comes across an ad for a room for rent but in the ad, it mentions that home owner, Howard Howe has led a fascinating life with many strange and exotic stories that he is willing to share.  Bingo! Thank you bulletin board above the pisser!
  Wallace stops at a convenience store for a bug gulp and to get directions, the teen girls working there give him the directions and diss him for being an American.  Wallace jumps in his car, calls Teddy to give him the good news and drives over to home of Howard Howe.  When Wallace arrives, Howard offers him some tea and jumps into some fantastic stories about him and Hemingway and the second world war.  Gripped by the stories and gulping down the delicious tea, Wallace is mesmerized by a piece of memorabilia on the wall.  Howard tells him that it is the bones from a walrus penis and starts to tell him the story about how on one of his adventures, he became stranded on an island and his only friend he had was a walrus named Mr. Tusk.  Unfortunately, the drugs in the tea start kicking in and Wallace passes out during this harrowing tale.
  When Wallace wakes up, he is missing a leg and is strapped to a wheelchair.  Howard explains to him that he loved that walrus, Mr. Tusk and that he is going to use Wallace to recreate him.  Basically, he is going to turn Wallace into a Walrus.  Luckily, Howard is distracted momentarily and Wallace is able to send a message to his Ally and Teddy but before they can respond Howard takes the phone away from Wallace.  Can Wallace escape this deranged walrus lover and avoid getting tusked or is this the fate of the poor young pod caster, to turn into a spectacular story that his listeners would love?

   There are elements in this film that are really enjoyable and hit there marks.  Surprisingly, Justin Long (Accepted, Going the Distance) is great as this smarmy podcast douchebag guy and there are some moments that you actually feel sympathy for the character here, mostly when he does get turned in a walrus.  Nobody should be turned into a walrus, not even Justin Long.  Also, Michael Parks (Red State, Argo) is brilliant in this as Howard Howe.  He is spot on throughout the film and plays the character perfect.  He makes the character smart and sophisticated, then demented and unhinged but with the same kind of gentle charm.  For no other reason, besides seeing Justin Long get turned into a walrus, watch this for Michael Parks performance, it is fantastic.
  The horror and drama aspects in this are really great.  Smith can turn up the tension and there are some disturbing scenes that you wouldn't expect from such a funny guy.  After seeing this film, I think Kevin Smith has a serious dark side.  Watching the transformation scenes reminded me a lot of "Boxing Helena" and the only thing that would have made it better would have been if Smith took more time with the surgeries and made it a little slower.

  What I thought didn't hit the mark was some of the comedy aspects of the film.  Smith uses some really tired cliches aboot Canada and Canadians and they just fall flat.  Yes, we are polite and we say eh, and aboot, and maple syrup is delicious but it's just sad that someone who is so witty and funny can't think up something better and is forced to be so trite.  There is some darker humour with Long & Parks but it's more insane weird funny then the regular humorous prattle between characters that you expect for a film with the description comedy.
  Also,  Johnny Depp's character, Guy Lapointe was terrible and boring.  Johnny Depp (Mortdecai, Transcendence) plays yet another eccentric character that jabbers endlessly in the hopes that something the character says is funny or relevant.  His character is a french hunter that has been searching for Howard Howe for a long time and ends up trying to help Teddy and Ally find Wallace before it's too late.  This character takes up too much screen time and wastes it.  Depp doesn't even take the time to learn how to pronounce french words properly for his french character. Tres Tres terrible.

  I think this film had the potential to be an awesome, weird ass horror movie and could have been a classic in the same vein as Browing's "Freaks" but right in the middle, the film veers into this nonsensical Depp character film that we've seen dozens of times.  I, understand that this is a movie about someone being turned into a walrus but honestly, this is one of Justin Long's best performances in a while and Michael Parks kills it in this and it's such a shame that it gets wasted with the other nonsense.  This isn't a great movie but for Kevin Smith, it's good enough.  So if you finally want to see what Justin Long looks like as a Walrus and love seeing Johnny Depp as the same character as ever other movie he's in, then this is the fish for you. 

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