Tusk (2014) (R)

Kevin Smith is a curiosity and his newest movie is nothing less than the worst thing you've ever had to put yourself through for the sake of cinema. This isn't to say that it is the worst movie ever made, because that's certainly not true; nor does it even manage to compare with more recent monstrosities of the screen; but at least with "Tusk" we get validation that there is nothing quite some invincible as the uniqueness of the horror genre and the tenacity of an original mind.
This begs the question: Is "Tusk" horror? Is it comedy? Is it satire? Is it some sort of odd child, birthed from the combination of all of them?
The answer to these questions would firmly be: I have no freakin' clue. All I know is that there is a line that "Tusk" brings you to and then throws you over. If you're fine with that line—with the odd transformative and bizarre physical gore/comedy of the piece—then you'll love it. If you weren't expecting it, as I wasn't, you'll be blindsided by it and won't be able to recover.
"Tusk" begins with the line "based on actual events" which lends us to believe that there is some sort of credibility buried deep within the picture. Having finished the movie, I'm not so sure...well, scratch that, I'm positive that there is nothing remotely true within it.
The movie's plot begins with two podcasters at the peak of their game. Wallace (Justin Long) and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) search the internet for the bizarre and the comical. One video that brings them particular pleasure is of a young teenage boy showing off his samurai skills and accidentally cutting one of his legs off. They are so intent on this video that Wallace decides to travel up to Canada to interview the boy for the podcast, coming back to describe it to Teddy...this is the whole premise of the podcast. Teddy is scared of flying so Wallace will scour the U.S. for bizarre stories and then come back to share with Teddy. The podcast is cheekily named "Not-See Party" for this reason.
Hugely successful, these two make their living off stories like the Kill Bill Kid so Wallace is quite eager to get up to Canada for the intervew. Unfortunately, when he gets there, the poor boy has killed himself and now Wallace is up the creek with no paddle, so to speak.
Ah, but fortune smiles down on a few. While using the bathroom in a bar in the middle of nowhere, Wallace finds an ad for a man seeking a roommate who will pull his share of chores. Not interested in room and board, Wallace is more interested in the stories that this curious character seems to have accumulated.
So he goes out to the middle of the middle of nowhere in the freezing temperature to meet with this mysterious man, named Howard Howe (Michael Parks). Upon first arrival, we see Howard (not Mr. Howe) in a wheelchair. This is the only new technological device in a world of antiquated art. Then Howard starts to speak. He has so many stories, so many idioms. From his lips comes prose and poetry quoted from source after source. It is like listening to a talking library and Wallace (as well as the audience) is transfixed by this.
Yet if you have seen the trailer, you know what is coming and if you didn't...SPOILERS!
Wallace finds himself getting drowsier and soon passes out on the ground, right after hearing about Howard's bizarre fascination with the walrus, "God's noblest creature". Howard even has a large walrus baculum—that is, a penile bone—on the mantle.
These should have all been clues. These should have been the tips that sent me spiraling out, instead I was left waiting for the movie to make its next move and that move did not agree with me.
Wallace is left at the mercy of Howard, who seems to embody hysteria. The ranges of emotions that both Michael Parks and Justin Long have to cover are spectacular and they both do a sensational job. The movie makes a premise that could have been laughable genuinely frightening. Howard's obsession with walruses begins to show as he tells Justin that he has made a walrus suit out of flesh in a "Silence of the Lambs" fashion and now is planning on caging Wallace for the rest of his life.
There should have been so many signs, so many clues for me that this was going to be more than just a horror movie.
The result of the blend of genres which, I'll admit, isn't immediately obvious, is just pure oddity.
Kevin Smith seems to try to throw everything and that damn kitchen sink at his viewer...we are expected to just sit and listen and watch and be okay with this.
I have never come across a movie so intent on disturbing, so intent on amusing, and failing so miserably at both. Even Cronenberg movies would blanch at some of the stunts that this one pulls.
This isn't your mother's movie, nor is it your father's...in fact, I can't think of anyone besides the avid Kevin Smith fan who would appreciate this movie.
Wallace's girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriquez) and Teddy become determined to find him after he has been missing for a few days; but they may not be able to get to him in time.
"Tusk" is a giant misstep. It's a confusing, obliterating, and unclear work that expect you to tag along for its running time. It features strong performances, great ideas, and unfulfilled purposes...it's a crying shame.
Still, this movie seems to be one of the ballsiest in recent memory...if that's worth anything.

Score: ★½

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