Inspired by a weed-fueled conversation during one of Kevin Smith’s umpteenth podcasts, Tusk creepily asks: is Man better than Walrus?
Stemming from a conversation opposite his good friend Scott Mosier, Smith is trying to solidify his comeback with a horror/comedy. Unfortunately, despite some well-done moments, Tusk suffers from lack of directorial discipline and naïve writing. It is nevertheless a firm brick to be placed on the road to respect for Kevin ‘Podcast’ Smith.
This being a Kevin Smith movie it is no surprise that dialogue is fast, relatable, extremely witty and overall, very tangible. He manages to really capture how real people talk and act whilst adding a layer of whimsy and comedy otherwise missing from modern screenplays. Not all lines are belly bursting like recent comedies try and fail to be. Instead he peppers character development with jokes and some that are so ridiculous you laugh at them, not with them.
And this is where the feature’s fault lies. Not with the performances of which Michael Parks, Justin Long and Genesis Rodriguez are standouts but with Smith’s lack of control and effervescent giddy writing hand.
Instead of indulging some caution to the wind, Smith goes all out. Scenes of extreme vulgarity and grotesque imagery are immediately followed by slapstick/Scary Movie-esque comedic characters and plot points. In truth the film does not feel like a horror comedy. It feels more like two separate scripts, one comedy and one horror that have accidently found themselves inside each other. We don’t feel the true horror because we don’t have time to process it. It isn’t left to fester and perplex. Instead you find it forgotten by misjudged cameos by the likes of Ralph Garman and a cross eyed almost cartoon-like Johnny Depp.
Not only is the film disjointed and pushed off its pivot by poor comedic timing, it also finds itself victim to Smith’s own hubris. On one hand I applaud Smith for choosing a podcaster rather than a journalist. He shows progressive thinking and writing. But to include sound snippets from his podcast as ringtones, quotes and indeed characters is simply too self-indulgent. It is actually worst for Kevin Smith fans, of which I am one, as they find their immersion interrupted by a sound clip from Smith’s Hollywood Babble-on podcast.
Nevertheless, Tusk was a brave attempt at something new and something different. Smith didn’t go full horror but he seems to be building towards that and he didn’t go full comedy because he’s venturing out of his comfort zone.
Tusk isn’t for everyone and I certainly don’t think it was for me. However, as a viewer entranced by monologist-esque scenes and disturbing performances, Michael Parks, Justin Long and Genesis Rodriguez saved me from hating Tusk.
Score – C-