Dr. Blackwell's BLOG

Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Review: Kevin Smith’s TUSK

Filed under: Film and Entertainment — Dr. Christopher Blackwell @ 01:23


Oh how I wish I could tell you the new horror (I say that lightly since technically, this could be comedy) film TUSK, directed by none other than Kevin Smith (Chasing Amy) himself, was good. I wish I could tell you that it lived-up to the incredibly high expectations I had for it since I kept hearing such positive buzz about it prior to the film’s release. I wish I could tell you that it left a positive impression on me and made me erase my memory of the time back in 1998 when Smith refused to sign a movie poster for me when he came to talk at UCF. But unfortunately, I can tell you none of these. What I can tell you is that TUSK is hands-down one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. It is a failure of a motion picture of epic proportions. To be fair, there are a few bright spots here and there. Let’s get those out of the way first–Michael Parks, who plays the insane villain Howard Howe, is excellent. His acting is on-point and comes off effectively well. The scenes he is featured in are great. I absolutely adored his crazy character, all the way up until the final climactic scene put the final nail in the film’s stupidity (well maybe not the final nail, I’ll save that distinction for the actual final scene of the movie). Johnny Depp performs his role as an offbeat inspector quite well too; unfortunately, his character provides a great contribution to the reason why the movie fails. Justin Long is also good in the scenes where he’s “human.” But the movie’s ultimate schizophrenic “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” makes him a significant contributor to its demise. So, now that we’ve gotten the good out of the way, let’s talk about the bad. And there’s plenty of that to go around;  but the failure of the movie ultimately falls into the lap of director Smith who also takes the blame for the movie’s totally incompetent script.

The story in a nutshell centers around a guy who is taken hostage by a loon who wants to turn him into a walrus. Strange concept for a movie, right? But hold on–this has somewhat been done effectively in the past with recent body mutilation-creature films The Human Centipede and The Human Centipede II. The over-the top craziness of those films made them fun and enjoyable; but due to a constant need to inject the incessant scenes that I suppose are designed to remind us just how hipster and cool Smith and his characters are,  TUSK is unable to duplicate. A great case in point is a scene where the main character (Wallace) asks convenient store attendants for directions. His communication with them, their interactions with him, and his decision to use a complete stranger’s back to write said directions down add such an unbelievable tone that what is intended to be funny comes off as unbelievable and stupid. Depp’s over-the-top inspector is written to be essentially borderline mentally-retarded rather than eccentric; and his scenes, which are intended to be comedic, mostly come off as way too long, monotonous, and just plain silly. An unnecessary subplot regarding duplicitous relationships, completely inconsistent scoring (folksy rock music is immediately replaced by the familiar foreboding strings, for example) lack of any real gore, and poor special effect costuming help seal the deal on TUSK as really just plain bad. Smith can do horror. His Red State was disturbing and surreal.

But his attempts in TUSK fail. The film could’ve been greatly improved by focusing on the suspense and horrific aspects of the plot. Although the story of TUSK is not a plausible one, the terror we all fear of being kidnapped against our wills, having significant psychological and physical pain inflicted on us, and having our bodies mutilated by a psychopath hellbent on his insane convictions, is a palpable one. Any ichthyologist will tell you that the story line of Steven Speilberg’s masterpiece JAWS is implausible. But that didn’t stop millions (myself included) of developing a major phobia that caused them to spend the rest of their lives avoiding the ocean. Imagine if Speilberg ruined JAWS by injecting ridiculous “humor” that only a diehard fan of his work would appreciate and decided to dilute the terrifying elements of the story with quirky, inappropriate, and completely unrealistic (try writing directions down on my back and see what color your eye is after your attempt) scenes? No need to imagine. If you want to see a film ruined by its masters self-insertion and pandering, look no further than TUSK. TUSK released nationally on Friday from A24 and Demarest Films and is rated R for adult language, violence, gore, and an extended scene of sexuality. Watch the trailer for the film below:

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