I’ll admit it: when I first heard about Tusk, all I could think was, “Jesus, that sounds fucking weird.” I was right – it was very weird. However, it was also a good time. Which made me wonder why more people haven’t seen it. So, in the grand tradition of persuasion, I’m putting together a little list of reasons why you should give this movie a shot. If you don’t like it, then get off my lawn.
#1 – It’s an original idea.
In a world of remakes and adaptations, original ideas are becoming more and more rare. Studios are looking for a way to make a buck on something that has had proven success. This is how we get a theatre filled with adaptations of young adult novels (more on that another day) and ’80s hits getting a fresh coat of sickly beige paint. More often than not, I hear people bemoan, “Why can’t they think of something new? I don’t need another remake!” You want something new that isn’t a half-assed remake of a really awesome ’70s horror movie/T.V. Show/miniseries? Tired of having to slug through Shailene Woodley alternating between her two facial expressions (if you need help, I’ll give you this one: disbelief and “I smell dog shit”)? Then give a movie about a man being turned into a walrus a shot. Can’t say it’s been done before.
#2 – It’s a technical step above Smith’s other movies.
I’m a sucker for lighting and good camera work. The lighting and sets in this movie are really good for the mood: it’s rich and bright at the beginning, then progresses to a sepia tone in Howe’ house before transitioning into an overcast captivity and metamorphosis. In terms of direction, it knows when to show us something, when to get blurry and when to sit back and let us watch like we’re spying on the characters. Smith uses this to create a tone that fills the audience with a sense of foreboding, which can be difficult to do for modern audiences. We’re left not knowing what we’re going to see because we’re accustomed to seeing the worst from other filmmakers. That’s the sign of a maturing filmmaker. As a longtime fan of Smith, it’s nice to see him growing rather than just sticking with the formats of his other films.
|Seriously, check out the colors in this.|
#3 – It still retains the fun factor of a Kevin Smith movie.
Kevin Smith knows how to write dialogue. The man has a talent for writing a joke and listening to the way that people talk. He loves to make puns, something of which I’m a sucker for as well. The Eh To Zed – the name of the Canadian convenience store in the film – had me giggling because it’s so simple that I’m surprised others haven’t thought to make the joke before. Some are more inappropriate than others, and that makes them all the more fun. The Not-See Party is so wrong you can’t help but laugh. And come on, the explanation of Howe’s nickname of “The First Wife”? Having been someone’s first wife, even I laughed at that. Tusk knows how to make a joke, even if the jokes make us mildly uncomfortable from time to time.
#4 – Speaking of fun, check out the cast.
There’s a reason why Smith keeps using the same actors in his movies: you can tell, even in a horror movie, that everyone has a ton of fun working together and really loves what they’re doing. It shows in the performances that are turned in. Michael Parks is batshit wonderful as the villian. Justin Long can go from sarcastic to emotionally scarred to absolutely terrified in this movie. Haley Joel Osment, fresh off of The Spoils of Babylon (which, if you haven’t watched, you should, if only to watch Osment chew scenery with bravado), is equal parts Jiminy Cricket and willing participant. Together, Osment and Long had me believe that they were good friends because they interacted as friends do: they don’t always agree with each other, but they’re there when shit gets real. Johnny Depp was a weak point for me, but I’ll excuse it because he looks like he had a blast. Even Harley Quinn Smith and Lily-Rose Depp looked like they were having fun. (Side note: I can’t wait to see the ladies in Yoga Hosers.) Really, that’s enjoyable to watch, and at the end of the day, watching a cast that really liked what they were doing enough to sign on for the other parts of the trilogy makes you want to keep watching.
|Yeah, this just looks like fun.|
#5 – The movie does pack some depth.
Smith wrote this movie after goofing around on a podcast, and there’s silliness galore in the movie. What’s rather unexpected is the way that he fleshes out his characters. Wallace, a vicious podcaster that makes his living shredding moments of stupidity and humiliating other people, has to fight for his humanity in the face of a terrible transformation. The smooth explanation of Howe as to why he hates humans so much is delivered in a weary, even fashion that demonstrates how living with horrors can warp you if left unchecked. Even if it gets obvious at times (cough cough Alley’s speeches cough cough), it does have moments of love and care crafted in there. Smith liked these characters enough to give them motive and feeling; crappy movies don’t even attempt this. Someone who’s willing to present a multi-dimensional character obviously cared enough about that character.
So, that’s it. Five reasons to watch Tusk. It might be weird, it might be completely unplausible, but it demonstrates the growth of a filmmaker and the power of a different idea. Give it a shot – what have you got to lose?