When podcaster Wallace Bryton goes missing in the backwoods of Manitoba while interviewing a mysterious seafarer named Howard Howe, his best friend Teddy and girlfriend Allison team with an ex-cop to look for him.
Director Kevin Smith’s latest film “Tusk” comes to screens in October, born out of an episode of his popular podcast SMODCAST alongside long-time friend and colleague Scott Mosier, Tusk continues a new and different direction for the filmmaker that began in 2011 with the film Red State.
Despite being the product of a director in the process of reinventing himself, the Kevin Smith style continues to shine through here, with more than its fair share of lengthy but skilfully written dialogue, Smith has developed Tusk into a tight script that translates into just over 100 minutes with entertaining characters, some disturbing events but not without its comedic moments.
The opening act of the film starts off relatively light and quite familiar, Tusk is very self-referential of Smith’s career path in recent years, with the viewaskew series of film (Clerks 3 aside) slowly drifting further into the past. Wasting little time however Tusk quickly moves towards its more disturbing aspects which are quite skilfully constructed utilising a combination of onscreen horror and the audience’s own imagination to deliver some truly effective stomach turning moments.
Effectively balancing its tension, Tusk switches its focus on a few different characters, carefully managing the various sub-plots working their way to a common end point. Smith also manages to shine a light on some of the less appealing aspects of the virtual world he’s tapped into to further his own storytelling aspirations through his podcast network, taking some familiar real world events and encouraging his audience to think them through a little more clearly in tangible real life terms.
Tusk reaches a point where its structure shifts somewhat significantly, dropping back its pacing as it shifts gears into a character arc within an arc almost, and the film gets a little messy as a result. Some of the foreboding tone and sense of urgency is lost as this side step dwells just a bit too long and structurally isn’t positioned in the best place given the film’s sequence of events.
The script is heavily dependent on its actors to make Tusk work, particularly Michael Parks who doesn’t disappoint. Park’s gives a chilling and mesmerising performance and is able to capitalise on Smith’s dialogue very effectively. While Parks is certainly the highlight of the cast, Justin Long, Haley Joel Osment and Genesis Rodriguez are all good in their respective roles. Long has some of the more diverse material to work with (and that’s putting it lightly), and he manages to evoke both the audiences revulsion and sympathy at the same time.
Despite being horrific, bizarre, and disturbing at the same time, where Tusk does surprise is the sadness it’s able to tap into, like its director, despite being a little extreme at times (Kinky Kelly and the Sexy Stud for example), Tusk definitely has heart, its ending resonates and encourages the audience to reflect on its underlying themes as much as what happens at face value.
For fans of Smith, there are plenty of references/easter eggs to be found within, from cameos by some family and friends to theme music from at least one of his popular podcasts. Tusk may not be one to watch over and over, but it’s one that every Kevin Smith fan should catch, after all, at this stage it looks to be part one of Smith’s Canadian trilogy, which is continuing with the already in production Yoga Hosers.
I’m giving Tusk 7 out of 10 stars, it’s in very limited release from Thursday October 16 2014, I’d suggest seeing it as early as possible following release.