Monday, October 13, 2014

Tusk (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director Kevin Smith can usually be counted on for some pointed comic situations full of quirky characters chock full of barbs about the way a youngish crowd communicates, feels, and expresses itself.

"Clerks" was his debut smash: a small film about the funny and lackadaisical events at a convenience store.

Smith also directed "Dogma" an outrageous look at Christianity in all its forms.

Smith has done other notable films. The best of them being often quasi-autobiographical with a wild whimsy, often going on tangents. His films have energy at its core. A color and a spirit.

Smith is understandably inspired by comics. His characters of Jay and Silent Bob are in our cinematic consciousness and for good reason. They are fun to watch and probably in some circles, beloved.

His latest film "Tusk" a horror type story started as a joke on a real podcast. It involves an eccentric older gentleman who lives in an old house, Howard Howe (Michael Parks) and his obsession with a walrus.

Wallace (Justin Long) is an insulting creep who makes horrid fun of people on the net. After being let down by the suicide of an internet curiosity, he spies a bathroom note telling of Howard Howe's adventures.

Wallace is intrigued.

Suffice to say, the mocking sarcastic dude with one bad mustache is held captive in the old house by a psychotic man.

Undoubtably influenced by EC Comics' Weird Tales and films like "Creepshow", it quickly becomes evident that this passive aggressive and unsavory man is a crazed surgeon. Mr. Howe drugs Wallace and gets his tools out, but aside from that nothing much happens at all.

Justin Long has a few snide and biting remarks that carry a few chuckles but he is neither a nice person nor much of an antihero to care for.

He is a mere shmuck.

As for Michael Parks, he is simply sadistic. There is little of Smith's comedy here, and the action runs thin with an "Island of Dr. Moreau" type story. If you want to see this kind of film, try John Frankenheimer's 1996 film.

The acting is unconvincing even by drive in standards as Genesis Rodriguez weeps and tells Wallace's friend Teddy (Haley Joel Osment) how good she feels with his friendship. There are shots of her in closeup boo-hooing, tears flowing.

Then we have a silly cross eyed Johnny Depp as a homicide cop who bumbles and mumbles in French about bowel movements and farting.

The human-walrus scenes are ludicrous and  too overly campy to give any fun scares, whether in pathos or glee.The 1980s era David Cronenberg would certainly squirm away, embarrassed.

All the Grand Guignol business runs static: a stale Frankenstein tale stuffed in raspberries. All anemic kool aid here with no octane in this punch. "Tusk" has no verve or motion. I suggest that Kevin Smith go back to his storyboard with some stronger THC of Terror and puff away.

You know you're in trouble when the best thing you can say about a film  is a well placed Fleetwood Mac song.

Write Ian at

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