★★ / ★★★★
Wallace (Justin Long), co-host of the podcast called the Not-See Party, goes to Canada to conduct an interview from The Kill Bill Kid, a teenager who accidentally cut his own leg with a samurai sword. To Wallace’s dismay, the kid turns out to be rather indisposed and so the podcaster must find a new subject quickly as to not waste a trip and over five hundred dollars worth of plane tickets. It appears to be Wallace’s lucky day, however, when he comes across a note atop a urinal, from a man who claims to have had all sorts of adventures throughout the years and so he has plenty of stories to share.
Written and directed by Kevin Smith, “Tusk” provides the audience an intriguing premise but it drops the ball almost completely during the second half, a most desperate attempt to turn the picture into a horror-comedy cult classic. I cannot believe I am about to write this but perhaps Smith ought to have utilized Tom Six’ “The Human Centipede (First Sequence)”—a gross-out, straight-faced horror picture with sprinkles of dark humor lodged between its connective tissues—as an example. Instead, what Smith created is an uneven piece of work tonally which is frustrating because it has the potential to genuinely entertain.
The human relationships in the film are one-dimensional at best. Wallace and Teddy (Haley Joel Osment), best friends and podcast co-hosts, are nicely acted by their performers but we learn nothing substantial about the characters’ lives and what they have been through to reach a supposedly close bond. Teddy is not used enough during the latter half when he learns, along with his best friend’s girlfriend (Genesis Rodriguez), that Wallace may be in serious trouble. Teddy is physically on screen but he neither does nor says anything worth of value. He might as well not have been there at all.
Less impressive is the girlfriend named Ally. The would-be twist in the story involving Ally complicates her motivations. I was confused about what she really wants. She often says one thing and does something else completely contradictory. Her role in the second half does not make sense at all. Smith should have made the character either more likable or with a clearer motivation even if she came across despicable. One might argue that she is the heart of the picture and not Wallace, formerly a humble guy before his podcast became a sensation.
The makeup is atrocious and so is the suit donned by a character. I suppose these, in combination, are supposed to incite horror or disgust, but I could not help but laugh at them. Perhaps it is Smith’s goal to make the images somewhat amusing but he does nothing to upend our expectations. It is a matter of ambition, I think. Wouldn’t it have been great if what we see is ridiculous but what happens after seeing the image is so horrifying or tension-filled that the movie becomes an experience, not just as a joke?
“Tusk” acts as though it has accomplished something fresh by simply fusing two genres. It falls very short because it fails to move beyond its conceit to create a story that is engaging, terrifying, or something we will not easily forget. It is most disappointing that a talented writer-director is simply going through the motions here.