Kevin Smith is one of the defining voices of my generation. That isn't always a good thing, mind you- I often think he's a vacuous, fearful, and somewhat arrogant little prick but Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, and Dogma are some of the best comedy films I've ever seen and the guy mostly cracks me up. There are some clear misses in his repertoire, though- Cop Out was awful. His decision to step away from The Green Hornet was cowardly. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was fan service masturbatory back slapping. Red State was political pandering. And, largely, he tells the same story over and over again- even with a different plot the story's theme often remains the same... accepting responsibility for yourself and being a goddamn grownup.
So I wasn't ga-ga over seeing "Tusk" but the Human Centipede-like story was intriguing enough to stir my curiosity. I mean, body alteration horror is not always my bag but I know it'll at least bring me a few laughs. So I took myself to the theater for a matinee show and plopped myself down in an empty theater to catch this one before it made it's exit. Now that I've given you some back story regarding my thoughts on Kevin Smith as a film maker allow me to tell you about the film.
"Tusk" is about a foulmouthed podcaster/comedian (Justin Long) whose career is taking off when he adapts the vicious personality of an unfettered douchebag hipster. He makes fun of people on the internet... that's his life. His fiancee (Genesis Rodriguez) doesn't like the "new" version of him, his partner (Haley Joel Osmont) is riding those coattails to the top, and even he may not be very fond of the new him. But when his latest attempt to interview one of his recent targets goes awry, he comes across a posted ad where an old seaman will rent a room in return for nothing more than a willing ear to his life's adventures. And so Wallace sets out to meet Howard Howe(Michael Parks)- and things become twisted from here on out.
The general premise here is that Howard wants to turn Wallace into a human-Walrus hybrid. He drugs him, cuts off his leg, explains his plan, and then starts in on the process while the fiancee and partner set out to track down Wallace with the help of the mysterious "Guy Lapointe". And all of this sounds like a ridiculous premise for a film- it's absurd, it's comedic, and how in the hell could this ridiculous idea even start to give me the shivers? Because the spectacle is one thing- we've seen it in the Human Centipede and various other "shock body horror" films... but Kevin Smith has something to say here and he makes this movie very much about the characters. And this is where the film breaks with the comedy and the absurd because it is very much about the physical and psychological transformation of Wallace and the people in his life.
Justin Long may never win an award for his performance- but it's intense. He's a douche bag, he's a monster before the film begins, and what he becomes is a horror. What happens is a horror. And the film belongs to him and Parks. I can't spoil the film for you, my dear faceless reader- but the end tore me apart in a place I can't even begin to fathom. I'm wrecked. I left the theater and I was stunned- I managed to get to my car where I suddenly broke down crying as the end replayed over and over again in my skull. And I cannot recommend this film- because it horrified me and tore me apart.
Kevin Smith has something to say here and it isn't comfortable and it's more than a little autobiographical in regards to how he may see himself at times. This is a guy filled with regrets and fears and maybe more than a little of what brought him to the theater just crawling around in his soul and wanting to be something more. I don't know how to rate this film... so I"m going to be as honest as I can and look at myself in a way I often don't: As an artist and an appreciator of Art, even if it's ugly and horrifying.
5 out of 5.